Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Very Mysterious

Very mysterious!  Everything appears a bit different!
Okay, mystery solved:  I confess.  I changed the blog's background and template. And, I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for those meddling kids.  (See what happens when I write with Scooby Doo playing in the background!)    

Soooo, how do you like the new look? 

With summer around the corner, old schedules and routines have seen better days.  My once quiet Tuesday mornings set aside for posting are no longer quiet.  But, never fear, the blog will go on.  There'll still be amusing anecdotes of my family life, random interesting facts, updates on my adventures in self-publishing and, as in this week's post,  featured authors.

In this month's edition of "Help a Writer Sister (pronouced  sis-tah) Out", I present you with a mystery.  Who is Patricia Rockwell?  Hmm.  Very mysterious.   

Interviewer:  Patricia Rockwell, can you tell us about your two cozy mysteries—SOUNDS OF MURDER and FM FOR MURDER? 
Answer:  Yes, these are the first two books in my Pamela Barnes acoustic mystery series.  Pamela is a Psychology professor and acoustics expert and she is drawn into the investigation of various murders that have a “sound” component because of her knowledge and expertise in this field. 
Interviewer:   Sound?  That’s a rather strange hook for a mystery.
Answer:  Yes.  In many cozy mysteries, the amateur sleuth often has an occupation or hobby that allows the character to use their knowledge to solve a crime.  As far as I know, no other cozy mystery author has an amateur sleuth who uses acoustics to solve crimes.  Actually, one critic told me that I’d never find more than a few plot lines where sound could be a viable clue to a murder, but I’m writing my fourth Pamela Barnes’ book at the moment and I’m still imagining more plots with sound.
Interviewer:  Patricia, not only do you write cozy mysteries but you also publish cozy mysteries with your company Cozy Cat Press.  Why this fascination with cozy mysteries?
Answer:   I’ve always loved reading mysteries ever since I was a child and read every Nancy Drew I could get.  I guess I’ve always loved what are called cozy mysteries.  However, it wasn’t until the last few years when I retired from my career as a college professor and started writing, that I actually realized that the specific type of mystery I like to read—and write—had a name—cozy mystery.  I just know that I have always preferred mysteries where the emphasis is on the detecting and the solving of a puzzle—not on the main character getting out of jeopardy.  In truth, whenever I read mysteries of the thriller variety, when I come to segments that involve chase scenes or fights or a character trying to avoid some sort of catastrophe—I skip ahead to what I consider the more interesting parts of the book.  I guess that’s why I like Agatha Christie,  Sherlock Holmes, and the array of wonderful cozy mystery writers today who focus on the “figuring things out” aspect of mysteries. 
Interviewer:  So, does that mean that none of your characters ever meets an untimely end?
Answer:  Oh, no!  Murders occur in my books.  They just happen to characters whom the reader doesn’t care about much—or at least I hope they don’t care about them.  
Interviewer:  Would you say, then, that in cozy mysteries that character is more important than plot?
Answer:  No, I wouldn’t say that.  I’d say they are both equally important. 
Interviewer:   You say you are retired from a career as a teacher.  I bet you have incorporated some of your job experiences in your books, haven’t you?
Answer:  Absolutely!  My main character Pamela Barnes works at a small university in the south just as I did.  The other characters in my books all are based on various scholarly types  who I encountered during my many years in academia.  And, even though, no murder ever occurred where I worked, many of the sub-plots are drawn from my real life experiences with students, administrators, and colleagues.

Patricia Rockwell is a featured author in this weeks “E”ndependent Publishers $2.99 Ebook Club enewsletter. http://www.doubleedgepress.com/Endependent-Publishers-Coalition.html  
Book Cover Link(s):
Book sales page(s):
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/41345

Jinkies! Another mystery solved!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mad as a Hatter

This past Saturday felt a little mad (as in bonkers).  Remember?  The world was supposed to end? Hello, still here!   While the clock trudged forward to the end of time, I was filling my tea cup with a spirited mimosa at a Mad Hatter Tea Party themed bridal shower.  As I was conspiring along with some wonderfully talented bridemaids and relatives of the bride to pull off such a fabulous event, I began to wonder about a few things: "Isn't the world supposed to end in 2012 (wink,wink)?" and "What is a Mad Hatter?" 

The King from Alice in Wonderland: "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
I tried to look up how many end of the world predictions there have been throughout time or even in my own lifetime.  The answer seems to be too many to count.  However, this past failed prediction landed on a Saturday.  Now, I know it was supported by some sort of religious organization, but it was the drinking establishments that prospered.  Any reason to drink, right?  And while we're at it, crank up Britney Spears "Till the world ends".  So what about all this 2012 hype?  Well, it was easier to look up the Mayans and learn that December 21, 2012 marks the end of a 5,125 year cycle in the Mesamerican Long Count Calendar.  It's no surprise that Mayan historians do not equate the end of the world with the end of the calendar cycle.  I mean, imagine creating a 5,000 year plus calendar.  Sounds exhausting right?  They had to give it a rest sometime.

The Cat: "We're all mad here."
So, what is a mad hatter?  Lewis Carroll based Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter character on a common phrase of his time (mid 1800's), "Mad as a Hatter".  As hat makers in this time period would go through the prosess of curing the felt, they would be exposed to toxic levels of mercury vapors.  The mercury poisoning eventually lead to symptoms of muscular tremors, distorted vision, confused speech and hallucinations. 

With my questions answered, I leave you with this quote:
The Mad Hatter: "Have I gone mad?"
Alice Kingsley: "I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers.  But I'll tell you a secret.  All the best people are." 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Fish Tale

Around these parts, once all of the plastic eggs have been hunted and collected, it's time to mark our calendars for the next annual event: the Trout Rodeo.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with such a thing, allow me to interrupt your visions of studly cowboys saddled onto leaping fish.  No, you won't find any tight blue jeans at this rodeo ... more like baggy attire on middle-aged fathers.  Before I loose you, I'll set the scene:  Picture a small tranquil pond set on the side of a misty hill surrounded by verdant foliage.  Families with children large and small draped in rain gear encircle the pond where, as advertised, trout abound.  These speckled fish have been purchased and placed here after living the good life on a farm.  (I have been told that the trout were not grown in rows nor raised in an underwater pasture.)  On this day, only the youngest of anglers will try their hand at catching them.  The adults, supposedly, are to assist the children.

We have been lured here, like all the other rodeo participants, by a flyer stating one magical word, "prizes".  At precisely 8 a.m. a horn sounds and the fishing begins!  We excitedly watch our bobbers, one in the likeness of Snoopy, floating a mere ten to fifteen feet from the shore.  Our Barbie and Spiderman rods ready to burst into action.

A bite!  Oh, the fish got off.  Another bobber dips below the surface! Oh, missed again.  The pond ripples with activity.  Prizes begin to be given away as the first three fish have been caught.  We still have a chance for the largest fish prize.  An hour passses with big fish being caught left and right ... just not by us.  A small girl in long pigtails amples by us to the judges table, her arms weighed down by an astounding five trout!

What are we doing wrong?  What do these people know that we don't?  Quick, change the hook, switch the bait, cast in a different direction!  (I must say that these ploys ring familiar to my own trials in the rodeo of publishing.) 

We have become as miserable as the damp, dreary weather.  My oldest son maons, "Boring."  My twin son suggests by his actions that we should take to netting the fish instead.  My daughter has the bright idea of singing to the fish.  One hour and forty minutes have passed.  "This was supposed to be fun," I declare.   Why am I always saying this phrase lately?

Lost in thought and moaning and netting and singing, no one notices that the Snoopy bobber has gone missing beaneath the water.  The Spiderman rod jerks off its stick propped in the mud where we had abandoned it. 


My oldest son grabs the rod.  We hold our collective breath as he reels.  A fight of epic proportions ensues (or something like that).  Finally, the trout makes contact with dry land.  Score one for us!  Ha little girl in pigtails with her five puny fish.  With our luck now changed, a second bobber ducks under the water and a second trout is caught by my twin son.  And, get this, our winning streak continues as immediately following, my twin son's name is announced as the raffle winner!

Shocked and amazed, I think there must be some kind of lesson here.  Some wise declaration that I could pronounce here on this post.  Is it patience? Or possibly perserverance? Hmm.  On the way home I ask my favorite question, "Did you guys have fun?"  Three yes's make the soggy morning of lows and highs all worth while. 

And the raffle prize, you might wonder, is a battery operated fishing game.  Here's the best part:  It doesn't take an hour and forty minutes to catch these plastic fellows!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Time to Fail

It's that time of year again, baseball season.  My oldest son has graduated from batting off a "T" to hitting a pitched ball.  Taking this next step forward raises the stakes tremendously.  No longer is he very nearly guaranteed a hit each time he steps up to the plate.  This year, strike outs abound for my son and his teammates.  Now, I'm not saying that his team lacks talent.  My son and the rest of the players on his team show as much potential in varying degrees as any other team in this age group.  And yet, the fact remains that striking out has taken some of the fun out of the game. 

"You haven't struck out everytime," I told him on the way to a game when he wasn't feeling up to the challenge.  "You got a hit in last week's game.  You're still learning.  It takes time and practice to improve.  Each time you get up to the plate is a fresh new chance.  Forget about the last at bat.  In fact, if you swing and miss once, you still have two more tries.  The more times you try, the more you learn what works and doesn't work, the better you'll get.  And, at the end of the season, I'm just proud you got out there and tried you're best each time."    His response:  "Can I get candy from the snack stand?"

Oh, how I seemed to know it all, so wise, so positive from the driver's seat of my mini van.  Where was all that wisdom and positive thinking the next day when I checked my less than stellar sales report on the Kindle Direct Publishing site?  "I feel defeated.  What's the use?  I don't have the time to promote my work properly. I'm just wasting my time trying to be an author.  What was I thinking?  Blah, blah, blah."  I shut down my computer and left to go fold laundry (something I do with great success several times a week).  In the jumble of clothes, I came across my son's uniform and remembered my inspired little pep talk.

I subscribe to regular e-newletters from Writer's Digest.  One of their featured bloggers is Jane Friedman.  Her posts are always very informative and thought provoking about the world of publishing.  In a recent post, she spoke of success.  In her opinion, success depends less on talent and more on determination.  Ms. Friedman explained how she allows for a "time to fail".  In essence, failure is inevitable when trying anything new.  Failure leads to learning.  Conversely, learning from failure and being determined to try again in the face of multiple failures leads to success. http://janefriedman.com/2011/02/15/boring-elements-of-success/

If that's not inspiring enough, check out this list I found of 50 Famously Successful People who Falied at First.  Here's the link:    http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Mother of all Posts

As this Sunday marks Mother's Day on the calendar, I am dedicating this post to mothers everywhere.

If there's one thing that applies to all mothers in general, it's the dreaded "Mom Guilt".  If you work, you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your children.  If you stay at home, you feel guilty about not contributing financially. Plus, forget about doing something just for yourself.  That's a one way ticket on a guilt trip. In fact, I'd venture that the mother robin that flies away from her nest (above) every time I open my front door feels guilty. 

And, it doesn't stop there.  As I mom, I try to do what I think is best for my children.  I have a background in education.  I have achieved the impossible task of having twenty children at a time listen and learn from me.  But, those twenty children weren't related to me.  Inevitably, my own children know exactly how to undermine all of those best of intentions.  Oh, the mom guilt!

Well, this Mother's Day, may all you moms out there have a guilt-free day.  From my quick Google search, I learned what I already knew but it bears repeating: "Happy moms make happy kids".  Sure they're hanging on your leg as you dash out for a little "me-time", but do it anyway.  Yes, they're crying at the door as you pull away, but they'll be so happy to make you feel guilty when you come back home!

Whether you're a mother or a daughter/son, be sure to leave a "guilty" comment ... because admitting your guilt is the first step to recovery ;)

Here's mine:  (from a daughter's perspective)  In my haste to self-publish on Kindle, I forgot one very important page.  I omitted this page because of my hang-ups that an e-book isn't a real book, but that's a whole different post.  Anyway, the page missing is the dedication page and here's what it should say:

For my mother, Thanks Ma!