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Posts Tagged ‘Wednesday Special Spotlight’

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The New Year

May the coming year find you healthy, happy, and reading many books.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The Christmas Gift

Wishing you the best of the season and may we always remember the reason we celebrate.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

How to Write a Christmas Play by C.D. Hersh . We also share our Christmas novella Kissing Santa.

If you’re like us, you love a great Christmas story. In fact, last year we devoured Christmas movies well into springtime. This summer, Catherine started bugging Donald to look on Roku and Sling for new holiday movies. Being the nice guy that he is, Donald agreed. We already have several queued up for watching. So when we were approached to write a post about “How to Write a Christmas Play”, we thought about it for a bit and said, “Sure. We’ve done that.”

There are a lot of things we could say about how to write a Christmas play, or any play for that matter. The basics of writing a good book are the same as writing a play. You need a good story, good characters, and good conflict. There are some differences, however. We could talk about the nuts and bolts of playwriting, such as:

    • Formatting.
    • Making the last moment of the play a satisfying ending.
    • Always keeping the action moving forward since time shifts and short scenes that hop around don’t work well for plays.
    • Proper scene structure.
    • How a play script usually has little dialogue or action tags or setting description.
    • And so on.

However, since these elements are things that you can learn from a book, we decided to take a different approach and focus on the five lessons we found to be most important in play writing by walking you through one of our most successful Christmas plays.

Catherine has always loved Christmas, but an interest in writing Christmas stories, particularly Christmas themed plays, started in the 1990s when we were in our church’s drama group. The church leadership decided to put on an outdoor re-creation of Bethlehem set on the night of Jesus’s birth. They would build a representation of Bethlehem in the church parking lot. The village would have several historically researched shops, a synagogue, a house, an inn, animals, and the stable where Jesus was born. Originally the leadership wanted a walk-through diorama where the town’s characters interacted with each other, but not with the people visiting the event. Our drama leader knew Catherine was a freelance writer and that we were interested in writing plays, so she urged us to create a script for Back to Bethlehem, which was the name of the event.

Lesson 1: Accept the challenge
We had never done a play before, but had acted in plenty in the church drama ministry.
So when we were asked, we accepted the challenge. We dug into playwriting
books and brushed up on the nuts and bolts of playwriting.

Lesson 2: Start early
In early spring of the year the event was to be hosted, we threw ourselves into the job and read and reread the Christmas story from the Bible. We learned it’s never too early to think about Christmas when planning a Christmas story. If you’re out of the Christmas season when you need inspiration, put on the Christmas music. Put up your tree in June. Don your Santa hat and beard. Go Christmas shopping and wrap the gifts. Do whatever it takes to get into the Christmas spirit.

Lesson 3: Look for the unexpected. Find the twist. The new in the old.
Religiously, Christmas is about Jesus’s birth. Secularly, Christmas is about Santa, gift giving, charity, family gatherings, food, joy, and cheer. If you’re planning a Christmas story, play, or book, you need to figure out how to make a well-known story unique and fresh. Since most people visiting Bethlehem would know the biblical story of the virgin birth, our challenge was to create a new tale, yet keep the age-old tale intact for the hundreds of people who would travel back to Bethlehem on a mulch-strewn tar parking lot.

To make an old story new, we suggested the visitors to Bethlehem follow several characters through the town as they looked for Mary, Joseph, and a baby born in a stable. One character, Myriaden, went from shop to shop looking for Mary interacting with all the townspeople, asking if they had seen a young pregnant woman, telling them how she’d traveled with her from Nazareth. And in case some of the newcomers to the town missed Myriaden, a group of rowdy shepherds who saw the heavenly host also came through the town looking for the baby born in a stable. Another set of characters, the Roman soldiers, told a different part of the story—the part of the suppression of the Jews and their disbelief in the shepherds’ tale of angels singing in the sky.

Mary, the shepherds, and the Roman soldiers told the stories of the Bible in an unexpected way, as Christmas plays depicting Jesus’s birth normally center around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The interesting thing about the Back to Bethlehem drama was that it became an interactive play. While our characters, both those “leading” the visitors and those in the shops, had set lines to say, they ended up interacting with the visitors to Bethlehem who wanted to know more about the town, the time and the story. So, we developed a set of improvisational lines for the characters to use. They always kept in character as they had spur-of-the-moment conversations with the visitors. Visitors were immersed in the drama, and that was very unexpected and very delightful for them.

It’s highly unlikely that your Christmas drama will be as improvisational as Back to Bethlehem was, but the example certainly shows the twist in this story. We broke the fourth wall of the stage and completely immersed the audience in the drama.

Lesson 4: Watch your Dialogue
As with books, dialogue is important and should sound natural no matter your genre. Plays, unlike books, are composed completely of dialogue. You have a few moments to capture your audience. They can’t go back and hit rewind or flip the page back if they think they missed something You don’t have the luxury of internal thoughts, or rambling commentaries (unless you’re Shakespeare). Plays don’t have exposition and, just like books, shouldn’t have author intrusion. If you can’t write without a lot of narrative, exposition, or description, you have a book, not a play.

Here’s an example of the importance of dialogue.
Because we were writing for a historical period in which we did not know how the people sounded, in English, we chose to use a more formal language, with no contractions or slang. It was just different enough that it gave a unique flavor to the actors’ speech. When they were interacting with the visitors, they also did not recognize modern day terms or items the visitors might say or show to them. Once when Catherine was talking to a visitor, he used the word technology while admiring her earrings.

Catherine said, “I do not understand this word, sir.”

“Where did get your earrings?” he asked.

“The goldsmith hammered them out for me,” she replied.

“If they’re made of gold, then you’d better hold on to them,” he said.

“As you wish, sir,” Catherine replied. Then she reached up and grasped both of her earrings, bowed, and walked away.

Peals of laughter followed her as she exited. In Bethlehem, Catherine would not have known the slang “Hold on to them.” So, she reacted literally. We’re fairly certain those visitors remembered their visit to Bethlehem for a long time. And that’s what you want your audience to do, too.

Lesson 5: Create a dramatic ending
The town of Bethlehem was noisy and crowded. Roman soldiers bellowed at the local beggar, harassed the shop keepers, and insulted the shepherds looking for a baby in a manger. Shop keepers shouted at passersby to come buy their wares. The women at the well gossiped loudly. The priest in the synagogue taught his young charges, quoting the scriptures in Hebrew. The guests at the inn complained at the crowded conditions. But when visitors passed through the small hallway into the stable, the whole atmosphere changed. Mary and Joseph spoke softly and calmly to all who approached them. Myriaden, who had found Mary, whispered and admired the baby. The shepherds bowed down and worshipped him. Even the visitors who came to see the town spoke in hushed tones as they gazed on Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Although you heard the sounds of the busy town, everyone in the stable was quiet and reserved, even the children. Coming from the hustle and bustle of the crowded town into the quiet stable was a magical moment. Even today, nearly twenty years later, when we meet people who visited our Bethlehem they comment on how much it touched them. As writers, isn’t that what we want to do with our stories—touch people?

We’ve written several Christmas plays—Back to Bethlehem, which ran for 5 years at our former church and was sold to two other churches; a Christmas musical that has not been yet published, and four Christmas puppet plays that have been performed at our current church. We also wrote a Christmas novella Kissing Santa, which is part of the Christmas Collection Sizzle in the Snow, published by Soul Mate Publishing.

If you want to write a Christmas play, we suggest you read a lot of plays. Study the craft of playwriting, and apply the five lessons we’ve talked about. Remember, they translate to your manuscripts whether you’re writing plays, stories, or books.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Playwriting Year!

While you’re thinking about your next Christmas play or story, take a peek at this excerpt from C.D. Hersh’s Christmas novella Kissing Santa.

When Sam S. Klaus, a professional Santa, has a fling with a beautiful elfette at a Santa Conference, he wants to make her Mrs. Klaus, but his intended disappears before Santa can pop the question.

EXCERPT
Anna Noel studied the trim backside of the Santa standing in front of her. He appeared younger than most of the Santas at the Santa Claus conference she’d chosen to attend this year. A lot more attractive than any Santa she’d ever met. For the briefest of moments she let her mind wander, lingering on Christmas wish number nine—make love to Santa. A heated flush climbed her chest as she envisioned the scene, and she flapped the jacket of her green elf costume to cool down.

Her gaze traveled over his hips, chest, and to the beginnings of a snow white beard. Then to his shock of silver hair underneath the white-trimmed, red Santa hat.

Yep. Definitely a Santa she wanted to know. Too bad she wouldn’t be the elf to his mall Santa. They could get to know each other and more.

The conference registrar drew her out of her Christmas fantasy with a loud, “Miss? Are you with this Santa?”

“What? No. I don’t have a Santa. I’m here alone.”

Sexy Santa turned and held out his hand. “Me, too. I’m Sam S. Klaus.”

A smile curled her lips as she took his hand. “As in Sam Santa Claus?” His warm palm sent tingles through her fingers as he gently squeezed them.

A lopsided grin slanted his cheek upward, and he flashed a brilliant smile. “You have the same warped sense of humor as my parents.” He gave her a mock bow. “Sam S., for Santa, Klaus, with a K.”

“That’s your real name?” He let go of her hand. She fought to keep from grabbing it back. A real Santa Klaus? How great was that?

“The same, and you are?”

“An—” She stopped, suddenly unwilling to reveal her name. A rollercoaster of emotions raced through her, suggesting she might hit number nine with this Santa. If she did, and it didn’t go well, she wouldn’t want Sam Klaus to know her real identity. “An elf, who needs a Santa,” she said. “How about we team up? I’ll be your personal elfette, and you can be my Santa.”

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Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

The first four books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available on Amazon. They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. Also a novella, Can’t Stop The Music, with twelve other authors from various genres with a book coming out each month in 2017.

They look forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

Find all our book here Amazon Author Page.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Gina Briganti who is sharing one of her favorite breakfasts.

This spiced apple oatmeal is perfect for busy people who want fast, delicious food without lots of shopping, chopping, and prep. That’s exactly why I love this recipe.

Plus, you can share it. I’ve given jars dressed up with a bow as gifts. I know friends who have made jars ahead and brought them on road trips and camping because they travel well. You can get the kids in on this, too, by having them put their mix into a jar. They can customize how much apple they add and what kind or get fancy and add a mix of different freeze-dried fruits.

Make sure you buy freeze-dried fruit that does not have sugar added to it. Freeze drying brings out the sugars and the fruit is sweet all by itself.

As more of us move to zero or low-waste lifestyles jars are making a comeback. Whether you’re a new fan of reusable jars or a pro, I hope you enjoy this quick and lovely meal. It’s gluten-free, there’s no added sugar, and it is packed with flavor. As written, this recipe serves one, but it is easy to increase for more people.

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Spiced Apple Oatmeal
½ cup quick oats
¼ freeze-dried apple slices broken into pieces
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1½ cups hot water

Mix all ingredients into a bowl. Stir and then cover.

Wait 5 – 7 minutes. It’s ready!

To give this delicious cereal as a gift, mix the dry ingredients together. Spoon mixture into a glass jar. Write out the cooking directions on a card and attach to the jar with a ribbon.

Keep It Simple: Permission to Illuminate Your Life Easily, Effortlessly, & Joyfully is a workbook I wrote to share the tools my clients and I have used for over a decade in my holistic health practice.

Tasty nutrition is one of the keys I highlight that will help you live a life that feels like a dream.

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Gina Briganti is an RWA member who writes fantasy and sci-fi romance in north Texas.

She also writes holistic health non-fiction because real life can be magic, too. Her credentials in holistic health include certification as a Reiki Master Practitioner and teacher, certification as a nutrition consultant, and a degree in holistic nutrition.

When she’s not writing, eating delicious healthy food, reading (follow her on Goodreads to see the massive variety she finds appealing) or making videos, she is spending time with family and friends. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, for exclusives and announcements that are shared only in her newsletter.

Stay connected on Facebook, Gina’s Amazon Author Page, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The multi-talented Carol Browne who brings us an exciting dessert rich with flavour and low in calories plus her latest book.

Image by Chris Tweten from Pixabay

Chocolate Mousse
1 ripe avocado
1 large ripe banana
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. cold water

Put ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.

Spoon mixture into 4 small dishes or glasses.

Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

You can add your sprinkles of choice on top, e.g. coconut or chopped nuts or whatever teases your taste buds.

It’s perfect for guests or just a treat for yourself. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

How about a little from my latest psychological fiction while you’re waiting for your mousse to chill?

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

EXCERPT
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt… keep stirring… is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Eris Field talking about hoarding.

Image by Deedee86 from Pixabay

Hoarding is a clinical disorder that affects 5% of the population. It tends to start when the person is 12 to 13 years old, often after a loss—death of a loved one, parents’ divorce, or losing cherished possessions in a fire, flood, or hurricane. It has a genetic component. That is it tends to run in families. It also has a neurobiological basis. It has been found that there are abnormalities of certain brain structures (areas of the brain). These brain structures are involved in decision making, attention, organization, and regulation of emotions. Their impairment of functioning is evidenced in emotional responses, thinking, and behaviors that are different from people who do not have a hoarding disorder.

In addition to their compulsive hoarding disorder, 25% of people will have co-existing illnesses such as depression and anxiety. In addition, people with hoarding disorder often experience problems with planning ahead, making decisions, and having an unrealistic desire for everything to be perfect.

Symptoms of hoarding include:
• Experiencing severe anxiety over the thought of discarding possessions because the saved items give them a sense of security
• Buying or saving things that are unnecessary, worthless, or useless
• Accumulating huge amounts of objects that have little or no value such as old magazines, telephone books, clothing, shoes, hats, bottles, boxes, and empty food containers
• Having numerous animals such as cats that they cannot care for
• Inability to organize space for items—hoarded items take over space needed for activities of normal living

The effects of hoarding can be severe and often affect family relationships, work, health, and everyday life activities such as cooking, shopping, sports, and having friends, children or grandchildren visit.

Hoarding disorder often results in:
• Crowded, dangerous (risk of fires or falls), and unsanitary living conditions including the presence of vermin and mold that may endanger the person’s health
• Loss of a cooking space, eating area, and living room, bedroom, halls, closets, basement, garage, porches, and yard due to accumulations of hoarded items
• Loneliness
• Family conflicts and isolation from loved ones
• Inability to perform work as expected
• Financial problems related to compulsive purchasing of unneeded objects or the care of an accumulation of a large number of pets
• Legal problems such as threats of eviction.

What you can do to help:
• Encourage them to seek professional help
• Suggest self-help groups such as Clutterers Anonymous
• After treatment, help them with their belongings if they ask for help. Remember that many feel great anxiety if anyone touches their things
• Remember that hoarding is an illness like other illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease,
• Don’t remove things without their permission
• Don’t expect perfection or constancy

My novel, The Gift of Love, is a story of hoarding and the perils of the disorder. I hope it helps you understand the problem so many people must face.

Laurel, a 26-year-old slightly impulsive pediatric nurse learned her survival skills through early years in foster care. Her life dream is to provide a home for six abandoned children. But, before she can do anything about the dream, she must sell the huge old house her adoptive parents left her. She must sell it before she falls even deeper into debt. To put it on the market, requires tackling the escalating compulsive hoarding of her reclusive half-sister who lives with her. Paper of all kinds is filling the rooms and hallways of the house. She has tried reasoning, nagging, and threatening. Now in desperation, she borrows from her Union’s Retirement Fund to go to a conference on the latest treatments for Compulsive Hoarding.

Andrew, a 39-year-old psychiatrist, is never impulsive. A reticent, somewhat austere man, he limits his interactions with people to his work. His life is strictly planned and modelled on the life of his grandfather who was one of hundreds of orphaned boys raised by Father Baker. Despite the scorn of his father, an entrepreneurial plastic surgeon, he prefers to practice psychiatry in the underserved communities of Buffalo, New York. Being handed Jamie, the mute two-year-old grandson of his father’s second wife, as he is about to leave for the conference where he has agreed to fill in for a colleague is definitely not part of his life plan.

When they first meet, a series of unfortunate events cause Laurel to view Andrew as arrogant, rude, but disturbingly attractive and Andrew to view Laurel as a dangerous distraction to be avoided. Faced with a crisis, they are forced to work together, but will they be able to put aside their protective armor and trust each other enough to let love in?

Eris Field was born in the Green Mountains of Vermont—Jericho, Vermont to be precise—close by the home of Wilson Bentley (aka Snowflake Bentley), the first person in the world to photograph snowflakes. She learned from her Vermont neighbors that pursuit of one’s dream is a worthwhile life goal.

As a seventeen year old student nurse at Albany Hospital, Eris met a Turkish surgical intern who told her fascinating stories about the history of Turkey, the loss of the Ottoman Empire, and forced population exchanges. After they married and moved to Buffalo, Eris worked as a nurse at Children’s Hospital and at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

After taking time off to raise five children and amassing rejection letters for her short stories, Eris earned her master’s degree in Psychiatric Nursing at the University at Buffalo. Later, she taught psychiatric nursing at the University and wrote a textbook for psychiatric nurse practitioners—a wonderful rewarding but never to be repeated experience.

Eris now writes novels, usually international, contemporary romances. Her interest in history and her experience in psychiatry often play a part in her stories. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Western New York Romance Writers. In addition to writing, Eris’s interests include: Prevention of Psychiatric Disorders; Eradicating Honor Killings, supporting the Crossroads Springs Orphanage in Kenya for children orphaned by AIDS, and learning more about Turkey, Cyprus, and Kurdistan.

Learn more about Eris Field on her website. Stay connected on Facebook.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The question from HL Carpenter. Tomato, tomahto, what’s in a name? In the case of fruit, a name may not matter much.

In the case of authors, a name can make quite a difference. Why? According to one successful author, the difference between writing generally and writing for a living is branding. 

Image by Gerd Altman from Pixabay

A brand, or name, author is one who provides prestige or reliable profits to a publishing house. For example, consider whether you ask for the latest novel by Nora Roberts or John Grisham by the title of the book or if you simply mention the author’s name. Most likely, the author’s name comes to mind first and you may not even remember the title of the book. That’s the power of a brand author.

Now let’s talk money. During 2010 and 2011, the successful brand author we mentioned in the second paragraph spent 10-15 weeks per year writing. For those two years, the Internal Revenue Service said she owed an additional $155,931 and $110,670, respectively, in self-employment taxes on her royalties. Yes, you read that correctly. She was required to pay more in self-employment taxes than many writers earn. And no, we didn’t make those numbers up or peek at her tax returns. The figures come directly from a court case, where she was required to tell the truth. We’re not mentioning her name, but you can look it up.

How did this author turn herself into a brand? According to the court transcript, when she decided to become a writer, she set out in a businesslike fashion to obtain stationery, a reputable agent, and a contract with a New York publishing house. She succeeded in working with a media coach and publishers to develop her name and likeness into a successful brand. In addition to writing, she spends time meeting with publishers, agents, media contacts, and others to protect and further her status as a brand author.

One final point: Branding doesn’t mean the writing has to be good. According to an expert in the publishing industry who testified in the court case on behalf of the author, the actual writing of a manuscript is a small percentage of the value a publisher seeks from an author. An author’s work may sell on the basis of the author’s name and readers’ expectations for a particular kind of story, rather than for the quality of the writing.

Tomato, tomahto? Name the fruit whatever you like. But make your author name a brand.

Simply Soupier Crockpot Tomato Soup

1 box (26.4 oz) finely chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. black pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place tomatoes, sugar, garlic salt, garlic, and black pepper in crockpot. Stir to mix.

Cook on high setting for 2 hours, or low setting for 4 hours.

Stir in cream until smooth.

Let stand 5 minutes for hot soup or cool to serve at room temperature.

While you’re slurping your soup (or is that just us?), we invite you to enjoy an excerpt from our mystery, Murder by the Books.

A letter from beyond the grave brings accountant Fae Childers face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.

Then the fortune-telling grandmother Fae never knew existed, whose name and psychic abilities she now learns are also hers, issues a challenge from beyond the grave—a challenge that brings Fae face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.
When the mystery of Fae’s past collides with the troubles of her present, the situation veers out of control. Her very life is threatened. Who can she trust? The man she’s falling in love with? The former fiancé who has already betrayed her once? Or only herself?

With justice, romance, and her future at stake, Fae must overcome personal and professional obstacles to save herself and those she loves. And she’s going to have to do it fast, before someone else dies.

EXCERPT
The letter arrived on the last Thursday in April, two weeks to the day after I got fired from the accounting firm where I worked for the past decade. August Palmer, my landlord, hand-delivered the letter in person, saying, “The mail carrier stuck this in my box by mistake, Fae.”

I took the envelope without bothering to look at it and glanced past Gus, at the patch of brilliant cloudless blue sky framing his shoulders.

Tampa, Florida on the cusp of summer, full of birdsong and the scent of warming pavement.

“Beautiful morning,” I said, as if I cared.

“Afternoon,” Gus said, his voice a low rumbly growl, the product of too many cigarettes and whiskeys in his happily misspent youth. He stood outside the tiny apartment my mother and I rented from him for the past two years and eyed me. “Still mopin’, girl?”

He had shown up on my doorstep every day since the firing with the same question.

Adhering to our new routine, I answered the same way I always did, except this time I didn’t bother pasting on a fake smile to accompany the words.

“Nope. Not my style.”

“‘Scuse me.” His tone was as dry as the month he was named for. “Forgot you’ve been hidin’ in the apartment, tap dancing with glee.”

I met his gaze. “For hours at a time. Any complaints about the noise?”

He clicked a nicotine pellet against tobacco stained teeth and kept his silence. I regretted my sarcasm. In my forbidden childhood game of describing people in colors, I would have painted Gus early-morning-yellow, the shade of the summer sun before the friendly sheltering coolness of night gave way to the brutal heat of day.

The description would have horrified him.

“How are the treatments going?”

He grunted. “They tell me I ain’t gonna croak this week.”

“Glad to hear it. You might want to keep your distance from me, though. I’m jinxed.”

Gus shook his head. “You gotta get over them fools, girl.”

“That’s no way to talk about my former bosses.” Especially since I looked at the real fool in the mirror each morning. I had believed dedication, loyalty, and hard work were appreciated by the partners of Slezia + Fyne, CPA, PA.

Ha, ha.

“Anyway, I am over them. Way over.”

“Yeah?” He was not convinced. “You over the suit, too?”

“Sure am.” Once again, I stuck with our new routine and gave him the same answer I always did. “I have moved on.”

Once again, the lie carried the bitter taste of betrayal. The suit was Scott Piper, former co-worker, fiancé, and man of my dreams. The suit dumped me the day of the firing.

Gus snorted. “Funny how much movin’ on resembles standing around feeling sorry for yourself.”

In my opinion, wallowing in self-pity was marginally more mature than throwing a temper tantrum. Even if it hadn’t been, I didn’t have the energy for a tantrum. I barely had the energy to maintain my half of the daily conversation with Gus.

“Have you been watching that big bald guy on television again?”

He stuck out his chin. “Don’t get smart. You know I’m right. You’re mopin’.”

“Only because I can’t tap dance.”

He was right. In the eight months since my mother’s death, I had slogged through an ever-darkening morass of the malady Gus called moping, and what his favorite celebrity psychologist might consider the early stages of depression. The firing and the accompanying fallout shoved me even closer to the edge of a black abyss.

My moping was self-absorbed, given the burdens others faced, but what could I say? One woman’s detour was another’s stop sign.

“You ought to call your girl pal, that one you worked with. What’s her name? Sarah? Have you heard from her?”

No. And I didn’t want to hear from her, much less call her.

I shook my head.

“Your ma would have been annoyed with you.”

A lump in my throat closed off my voice and I could only nod. He was right about that too. My irrepressible mother believed in taking the positive approach to life. To her, saying negative words or thinking negative thoughts was the same as asking them to come true. She had little patience for pity parties.

Focus on your strengths, Fae, and always keep moving.

My ability to follow her advice vanished with her death. I was slowly turning into the type of recluse the Japanese call hikikomori. Even the simple task of cleaning out Mom’s bedroom was beyond me.

“So? You gonna open the letter?” Gus asked.

I turned over the envelope in my hand.

Heavy, officious, dirty white, and mildly threatening, the envelope shrieked of the intimidation perfected by lawyers and the Internal Revenue Service and jolted me right out of my apathy. My breath hitched in my throat.

Had Gary Slezia and Richard Fyne gone back on their word? Had they decided to forego their distaste for publicity and press charges against me?

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Mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening
in Carpenter Country.

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