Sunday, December 27, 2009

Coffee, Tea or What?

I seldom sit at my computer or writing desk with a cup of something by my side. Iced tea, iced coffee or the hot versions of either. As I write, my daughter is preparing some chai tea for me in the new tea pot my friend bought me for Christmas. I love hot tea in evening or afternoon when the weather is cold outside. Does any thing beat curling up with a new book in one hand and a hot mug of a favorite brew in the other.

All the big chain bookstores do booming business in their coffee shops with over priced and over fattening drinks. But we buy them anyway. Coffee and books seem to go together.

I've never conducted a poll of my fellow writers but I'd bet many of them have their favorite mug filled with their steaming caffeine of choice on the corner of their desk. How many of them received gifts of new coffee mugs or flavored tea bags for Christmas? How many of them found a gift card to Starbucks in their stocking like I did?

The end of the year, a time for setting goals for the new year, brings cold weather to our part of the world. As I plot my next novel, outline my promotion plans and listen to my new ipod, I'm sipping on my delicious chai tea. Later this evening when I delve into my C.J. Sanson mystery, Sovereign, I change my drink of choice to wine.

How about you? Do you love a particular hot drink or other beverage while writing or reading? Does it change with the seasons?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Today's booksigning postponed

Old Man Winter's surprise appearance forced the postponement of today's booksigning, which was to have been held at The Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg. Until yesterday, forecasts seemed to call for only a dusting. As you can see in the photo from my deck, already about three inches have fallen, and it's only 7:30 a.m. The brunt of the storm is supposed to hit later this afternoon.
So look for more news on the rescheduled event in a few months. After the thaw.
Meanwhile, I'll be serving hot chocolate on the deck, if you want to brave the storm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Signing Sunday at 1 pm - A Happy Ending

Several months ago, a good friend and colleague chided me - gently, but with good reason - about letting my published books wither on the vine. Published in 1999 (Acting Assertively) and 2004 (Diverse Divorce) in the educational market, these books continue to pay small royalties and are sold primarily through the publisher's catalog. I did the press releases and post cards when they first came out, but for quite some time now, I've been content to sit back and let them sell - or not.

Fortunately, the wake-up call from my friend arose from opportune circumstances, not something catastrophic, like the threat of my book going out of print. My friend, who works at Borders, made it her personal quest to get my books into our local store.

Thanks to her nudge and persistence, along with the efforts of Cindy, the manager of my local Borders, my books are now in the store. And on Sunday, as part of their twice yearly event for educators, I'll be doing a book signing at 1:00.

If you live in the York area, stop by and say hi. If you'd like to buy a book, I'll be happy to sell you one, but I'll also be happy if you simply stop by to chat. And if Ann is working, I might even ask her to take a bow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Practice Your Pitch

The Fourth Wednesday Writers Group meets at the Camp Hill Barnes and Noble from 6 - 9 pm on (that's right) the Fourth Wednesday of every month. Normally we spend our time critiquing each others writing and helping one another improve our products.

However, with the upcoming conferences (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Conference in March. and Pennwriters in May) we'll spend our meetings in February and March helping writers perfect their pitch. Mike Silvestri will lead the discussion in February on how to effectively pitch your novel to an agent or editor. Then in March, we'll give each writer a chance to practice what they've learned. You normally get about five minutes to pitch your novel so you need to make every second count. This is a great opportunity to get ready to meet that agent or editor.

It is recommended you have a completed novel so you're ready to send it in. So come on, what are you waiting for. Mike is experienced and ready to share that experience.

Questions should be addressed to Mike or to myself, Don Helin.

Good luck and get ready to come out pitching.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best reads of 2009

by Cate Masters

The end of the year means lists! Here are but a few:

The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2009. Sometimes the review itself is a great read, such as the one for Follow Me: A heroine bent on reinvention is at the center of this densely stitched crazy quilt of a novel, which spans six decades and a wealth of genres while evoking a quintessential American mythology. How do you get a reviewer like that? I know, I know: write a great story. Two of my favorite authors apparently have - Alice Munro and Barbara Kingsolver, both on the list.

Publishers Weekly posted several lists.

USA Today listed the bestsellers, which doesn't necessarily mean a best read, to me. There's viral marketing, and then there's great writing.

The Guardian UK published a list of what kept them turning pages and a "What not to miss" list.

Amazon solely recognized that hey, 2009 isn't over yet! Its subhead's a disclaimer stating "so far." Which begs the question: do publishers avoid releases after say, October, knowing that the listmakers won't include those books in the "best" categories?

And if you're taking a vacation in a balmy clime, you might want to check out NPR's best beach reads for the year.

If you're the kind of person who cross-checks lists thoroughly, check out Large Hearted Boy's amazing compilation of lists.

My TBR list always grows after reading these. As an author, of course I'd love to be listed, but more than that, I hope my writing touches readers' hearts and minds, and makes them want to read more.

Sadly, I'm not on any of the above lists. But then, they're all for print. When I Googled "2009 best ebooks," the mishmash of results contained nothing related to the search. Maybe it's time for such a list. Not the individual "bestsellers" on each publisher's site. A comprehensive list encompassing all epublishers and genres, just like the print versions. It would be a leap toward respectability and recognition of the validity of ebooks. They're not going away anytime soon. It's misleading for only those print books also published as ebooks to be listed, given the rising sales of ebooks. So I'm putting out the challenge: let's have a "best ebook reads" list next year!

Cate Masters writes fantasy/dark fantasy, historical, contemporary and speculative fiction, described by reviewers as “so compelling I I did not want to put it down,” “such romantic tales that really touch your soul,” “filled with action scenes which made it a riveting story,” and “the author weaves a great tale with a creative way of using words that makes the story refreshing to read.” Visit Cate online at, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Giving Thanks

Since we're in the middle of the holiday trifecta (TG, Xmas, and NYE), I want to take a moment to give thanks for all that I have received this year.

I'm thankful for my family, my wife, Jenny, and our son, Logan. I never thought life could be so rewarding, but every day is better than the last.

I'm thankful for our extended family; our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. So many have volunteered their time and energy to help us as new parents. It's marvelous to witness how Logan has brought our entire family closer together.

I'm thankful for Lou Anders and Pyr Books for giving me an opportunity to share my writing with the world. One of my main New Years wishes is to make them very glad they chose me. I'm also grateful to all the other publishers who have taken on the book, and to all those who jump on the Shadow-Train in the coming year.

I'm thankful to my agent, Eddie Schneider, and his (professional) partner, Joshua Bilmes, at JABberwocky for taking in a poor wretch like me. Likewise, I aim to prove myself a wise investment of their time and talents.

I'm thankful for our friends, for their love and support. They make our lives richer.

I hope all of you have a safe and merry holiday season, and a wonderful new year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Attracting Crowds to Your Booksigning

Published authors soon discover that their dreams--fans snatching multiple copies of their books from the shelves, begging for autographs--rarely match reality. Often a book disappears into the vast ocean of books, making barely a ripple. Sure, you sell a stack of copies to your relatives and best friends. Maybe the local library or bookstore sets up a signing, where you sit amongst copies of your newly minted book and wait...and wait... and wait...

So where are those hordes of fans? The adoring public? A few people gaze at you and your sign. Several wander over, mostly to tell you about their dreams of being a writer. Your mom arrives, dragging a few friends in tow. You manage to sell, um, three copies? Count yourself lucky. Those are average first-time booksigning sales unless you're an exceptionally good salesperson who buttonholes people and convinces them to buy.

Unfortunately, most authors prefer keyboards to conversation, so high-powered salespersonship is beyond their powers. They shrink as people approach the table and pray they won't have to come up with an opening gambit. So if you're a shrinking violet, how can you ensure that you have plenty of visitors to your signing (besides having your mom strong-arm her friends)? Try the old safety-in-numbers trick. The more authors, the more mothers to marshal friends to the table. The larger variety, too, will encourage more browsers. Who knows? Maybe one of those visitors (or more) may pick up your book. It's worth a try.

Oh, and a little chocolate always helps. If it doesn't attract the customers you'd hoped for, you can use it as comfort food.

The Susquehanna Writers are taking their own advice and banding together to brave the world of booksignings. You can meet many of us at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, PA, on December 19, 2009.

If you want to know where and when to show up, here are the additional details:

3-5 pm, December 19, 2009

1302 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 236-2665

Get autographed copies of romances, mysteries, self-help, thrillers, history, YAs, and more. And the Midtown Scholar offers the largest array of rare and used books between New York and Chicago. They have more than ONE MILLION secondhand and out-of-print books in all fields.You’ll find something to please everyone on your holiday gift list.

So bring Mom, Dad, Sis, Bro, and even crazy Uncle Albert. We promise you a delicious holiday treat (if we don't eat it all first). A good incentive to show up early before all the the best stuff is gone.