Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Nightmare Returns

            It was worse than I remembered. I mean, the last time this happened was six years ago; still, it came back with a new vengeance. I woke up shaking and dripping in sweat telling myself “It was only a dream, just a dream, not a premonition.” But what if it was?

            The circumstances surrounding the night terror were certainly different than they were the last time but the dream itself had all of the same elements. So let me backtrack….

            Before I retired and moved out west, I was a middle school principal. And every year on the night before opening day of school in September, I had the same god-awful nightmare. It was the stuff that would make the most resilient warrior cringe. 

            I would arrive to the school to find that I was the only adult in the building. Close to 900 screaming, out of control teens and pre-teens were running all over the place. There wasn’t a single teacher, secretary, custodian, nurse or librarian in sight. Just me. 

            The auditorium was over-flowing with kids and the hallways looked like a battleground in some sci-fi movie. I tried using the PA system to direct students to their classes but it wouldn’t work. The last thing I remembered before waking up was yelling, “Can I have your attention, please?” (Yeah, like that was going to work).

            There’s a word for it – anxiety. And guess what? It just returned. You see, I’ve got a terrific book launch and signing coming up this next weekend at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Goodyear, AZ. It’s taken me years to get this far. And frankly, I’ve been a wreck worrying that no one will show up. So it’s little wonder that my newest nightmare went like this:

            I arrive at the store to find piles and piles of my novel, Light Riders and the Missouri Mud Murder.  The manager tells me that unless I sell all of the books, I will never be able to return to that store or any retail establishment for that matter. And then, the pile of books keeps growing until the whole place begins to look like an Amazon fulfillment center!

            And that’s not the worst of it. Turns out, no one enters the store. Absolutely no one! I get up, look at the parking lot for the mall and it’s totally empty. Not a single soul is in sight. I check the calendar and the time. Meanwhile, the pile of books keeps growing and I wake up yelling, “Where is everyone?”

            Yep, a new variation of “The Nightmare” has returned. This time with a different twist and I think to myself, “Why couldn’t those 900 kids show up here?”

            So…if you’re in the Goodyear, AZ area on Saturday, November 23, 2013 between 1- 4:00 p.m., please stop by the Barnes & Noble store in the Palm Valley Pavillions West on Litchfield Road and McDowell. You’ll help me get a good night’s sleep.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Favorite Elements of Suspense

Unlike the hated elements of suspense that seem to pop up at random in my daily life (Including but not limited to: the electric bill in the summer, some bizarre mix-up with my health insurance, a notification from Lifelock that someone may be stealing parts of my identity, and the on-going “hunt” to find the car keys), I absolutely enjoy well-crafted literary techniques that compel me to turn the pages of whatever I’m reading at the time.

Since I plan to conduct two workshops this week on those welcome elements of suspense, I thought I’d take a moment and list some of my favorites for you to consider. Here goes:

Foreshadowing – No one can top William Shakespeare’s Romeo when he just happens to mention a dream that he had in which the Capulet’s party led to his death. And then what does he do?  He crashes the party! And what about Mercutio’s final words, “A plague on both your houses!” Talk about curses….

 The Ticking Clock – This is my personal favorite. It seems to appear in most of my novels. Maybe that’s because my life runs like one.

            “If we don’t get moving, we’ll miss our connection to Pittsburgh. You can buy a bagel later!”

            “What? The bill for the water company is still sitting here waiting for a stamp? This is Arizona. They’ll shut off our supply in a minute!”

            I absolutely loved this element in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.  And if you’re a movie buff, don’t miss out on the 1950 film noir, “DOA.” 

Cliffhanger EndingsThe Da Vinci Code is top on my list. My fingers couldn’t move fast enough for that one. It was the only time when I wished I had a Kindle.

Shift the Point of View – I’m still reeling over Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on this one. Best use of POV that I’ve seen in a long time, not to mention red herrings, inner thoughts and a litany of other devices that make me marvel. Amazing writing but so disturbing that readers will need intense therapy after they’re done. I immediately had to find a Janet Evanovich novel just so I could sleep at night. Kind of like eating hot chilies and then needing a Rolaids.  

Intense Action – Can anyone possible beat Suzanne Collins for the myriad of tortures that face Katniss in The Hunger Games?  Forest fires, burns, getting forced up a tree, tracker jackers          (wasps on steroids) and a whole lot more…. The protagonist can’t catch her breath and neither can the reader. Superb! 

 And don’t forget the remarkable team of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston. The Pendergast novels will keep even the most sophisticated suspense readers at the edge of their seats. 

Withholding Information – Agatha Christie launched her career with this one. Find out for yourself with her second novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – The classic coming of age murder mystery, Boys Life by Robert McCammon does this and a whole lot more. It is by far, one of my top ten best books of all time! 

So if you need to take time away from your daily elements of suspense, check out the ones that won’t give you heart failure. Or…you can just wait for your mail to arrive and take your chances like I do.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

If I Spin Any Faster, I'll Fall Down!

Each month I can’t wait to get my hands on the latest issue from the Independent Book Publishers Association. It’s loaded with advice and details about every aspect of indie writing and publishing. Trouble is, I torture myself with a brand new “To Do” list before I’ve even finished reading the first article. This month was no different. As they addressed social media, I tried to keep up. Good thing they were thoughtful enough to leave me with the following checklist. With any luck, I might be able to complete it by Thanksgiving. By then, the next magazine issue should arrive and I can plague myself with something else that I haven’t done.

Here goes: 

 Are you tweeting enough? (Don’t know. I thought my Facebook posts turn into Tweets but I could be wrong).

Do your tweets stand out? (Compared to what?)

Are you posting enough? (I must be. I post more than I cook, clean, shop and breathe. My webpage designer said I had better post or else I just wasted a boatload of money for her services).

Do your posts reach a wide audience? (Maybe, if my nieces and nephews all get married and have lots of kids. Same goes for my friends and neighbors!) 

Have you added any new boards to Pinterest? (Ha! Good one! I can’t even figure out how I created a board to begin with. It just sort of happened and I can’t seem to do it again!) 

What about pins? (I have no clue what I’m pinning. It looks worse than the collages I had to make in Junior High). 

When was the last time you uploaded a pin? (Uploaded or tried to upload? My success rate for this is worse than my ability to keep plants alive).  

And what about Instagram and 12 other social media sites that you never heard of? (There’s a reason I haven’t heard of them. It’s called “keeping my sanity.”)

And why didn’t you hear about them? (I was too busy posting on Facebook!) 

Have you endorsed anyone lately on LinkedIn? (Gosh, you mean there are still people out there that I haven’t endorsed?)

Are you linking to your Goodreads friends? (If you mean am I making them feel guilty because they haven’t read the book titles I’ve suggested, then Yes!)

Are you adding more of your own titles to ManicReader? (I didn’t know anyone read my first one!)
When can we expect another YouTube video? (When someone other than my cousin Larry decides to watch the first one!)

Why haven’t you responded to any of the “MeetUp” requests? (Duh, do you really think I trust who these people say they are?)

And this is just part of the list. I gave up and started to read the next article, “Does Your Website Have Enough Tentacles?” YIKKEES!  Better save that one for next time!