An Abundance of Accolades

Many bloggers share personal everyday experiences, even when their blogs have a particular non-personal theme.  I like that.  A lot.  I’m not as prone to disclosing facets of my life.  Truth is: I have next to nothing at this juncture to disclose (not being negative, just candid).

Currently, my time (for those not in the know) consists of caregiving for Mom and working a 9-5 job.  I was recently put into a new role  and, to be frank, it’s “tryingly stressful”.  Time has become even more of a factor—i.e. I’m scrambling to grasp it.  Also have another [minor but unpleasant] health issue.  As such, my life at this time doesn’t seem overly joyous/joyful, but it’s all good (downs and ups are par for the course).

I do, however, find absolute joy in the fabulous blogs I follow, too many to mention here.  They entertain, inform, inspire . . . and keep me motivated when I sometimes want to give up.

I love that my fellow [faithful and focused] bloggers:

  • write so eloquently that a casual walk along a sidewalk sounds exciting
  • share their struggles [addictions/disabilities] and successes in overcoming them
  • post picturesque pictures of travels and loved ones with lovely lyrical tales
  • engage in ambitious projects . . . and then engage us in the excitement
  • have adorable pets that provide much pleasure and that awesome unconditional love
  • communicate their writing progress and process in enlightening detail
  • reveal their faith—and inspire us to maintain ours
  • impart information in fascinating and edifying ways
  • offer [welcome] support, guidance, and friendship.

joypost2Accolades to you all, my friends.  You make the blogging world such a brighter place.  Count your God-given blessings, and honor your talents.  And should life/work ever seem tough or challenging, never give up.  We’d be lost without you.

Kalorama Road by E. Denise Billups

There’s something Allie can’t remember, hidden memories bordering consciousness that refuse to surface until one day someone, something, ignites horrifying images of a forgotten night.

FBSunThe above book blurb for E. Denise Billups third novel succinctly sums up Kalorama Road, an exciting rollercoaster ride of memories—intricate pieces that, in due course, complete a complex jigsaw puzzle.

Billups has a gift with words, no question.  She can paint vivid pictures (“an overwhelming scent of roses whirls gossamer coils about me”) that help us visualize the setting or locale and experience what characters are feeling, sensing, and undergoing.

What makes Kalorama Road stick out from others of its ilk is that the plot twists and twines not only through the lead character’s POV, Allie, but those of others.  When we’re in another character’s head, however, we’re never that far removed from Allie; we see her from another’s perspective.

The switches in POV would have proven more dynamic if characters had different voices.  No one in real life speaks the same—some use jargon and lingo, some have accents, and others display positive or negative tones or attitudes.  How characters communicate actions, details and thoughts would benefit from a few variances and idiosyncrasies.

There’s more telling than showing, which we’re often told as writers not to do, but it works.  It’s as if we’re invited to read various character’s diaries; as such, we receive a “confidential” sense of inner turmoil and personal conviction.  They all have quests and we’re pursuing them in tandem.  The mystery of that strange, terrifying night on Kalorama Road will be solved if it’s the last thing we do.

Kalorama Road could easily be a five-star book—with a little reworking of the POVs (and some punctuation/typo clean-up).  It has a bit of a “not final” draft feel, but it’s definitely worth a read.  So pull up a chair, grab the book and a coffee (as java-lover Allie undoubtedly would), and enjoy the twisty turns and zigzag slopes of a suspenseful (“slightly supernaturally-infused”) mystery.

Rating:   star2star2star2star2   4 out of 5

E. Denise Billups was born in Monroeville Alabama and raised in New York City where she currently resides and works in finance. A burgeoning author of fiction, she’s published three suspense novels, Kalorama Road, Chasing Victory, By Chance.

reviewpic1Social links for E. Denise Billups include:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kalorama-Road-Denise-Billups-ebook/dp/B079J5YFYJ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38340854-kalorama-road

Youtube: https://youtu.be/QhVJLy6QOK8

Switch Up: Wednesday’s Post Thursday

Hi, it’s Linda.  Just a quick post to let you know that the usual Wednesday post will appear tomorrow – a stop on E. Denise Billups’ Kalorama Road book blog tour.

On the Triple Threat Investigation Agency front, it’s volunteer day for Rey and JJ and I.

Have an amazing day (I know we will).

Linda

 

Reviewing the Art of the Review

Next week, you’ll find my second book review.  I’m excited (aiming do do one every two months and, hopefully, more frequently down the road).  This inspired me to pen a quick “refresher” post re writing one (see The ABCs of . . . Reviewing Reviewed).

If you’re new to writing reviews, or are thinking of setting up a book review blog, there are several things to consider, but let’s narrow it down so it’s not overly daunting.

The first thing to do is identify the book by author, title, and genre.  Then, add a bit of background and/or brief overview of storyline/plot.  Easy, right?  Of course!

In subsequent paragraphs, incorporate the following.  Be as detailed or succinct as you deem fit.

♦ Title:  Is it catchy, fitting the storyline/plot . . . good?

♦ Genre:  Does it fit the intended category?

♦ Storyline/Plot:  Is it easy to follow, logical, strong, intriguing?  (What’s the story about?)

♦ Characters:  Who are the main characters?  Were they believable?  Were there quests and issues to add tension, friction, or suspense?  Could you relate to any of them and if so, why?  (You may want to make mention of a favorite character.)  What about character POV: is it is logical / does it work?

♦ Did you like the book?  If you loved the book, state this.  If it was simply another well-written book, say so.  If you hated it, don’t claim you loved it, but be considerate when you provide a reason for not being enamored.  Remember: you didn’t write the book, someone else did.  We all have different writing styles and approaches; let’s respect that.BlogReview2

Make sure to include some author bio info—what he or she has previously written, any qualifications or awards, and website and/or blog links.

When offering a summation/conclusion, include an appraisal.  Would you recommend it?  Is there something you didn’t like about the book?  Maybe it wasn’t a five-star project in your estimation.  Why?  Is there something you would have done differently?

. . . Feel free to ding me if I follow my own recommendations/guidelines.   <LOL>

Shootin’ the Breeze

Hey, it’s Rey.  The Boss is scrambling to get things done on “Forever Poi”.  Yeah, she’s still doing the final edit (time runs through that woman’s fingers like folks sprinting to a Black Friday sale).

Been a wee while since I’ve posted and I’ve been missing it.  Who’d have guessed that Reynalda Fonne-Werde would ever admit she wanted to write?

If you’re keeping tabs on the daily Triple Threat Investigation Agency FB posts, you know the three of us have been busy with some small cases.  They’re not as complicated or dangerous as the FP case (which seems to be going on and on and on—hint, hint, hint, Boss Lady, get it together), but they help us to keep honing P.I. skills and pay bills.

On a personal update front . . .

Linda’s thinking of entering a surfing contest.  I think she’s crazy, given she’s only been doing it for a short while.  Granted, she looks pretty amazing on a board, but anyone who can stand on one of those things for more than 30 seconds has my applause.  She insists she’s up for the challenge; I say she’s up for a hospital stay.

JJ debated visiting her sometimes boyfriend, Cash/Richie J, for all of ten seconds.  He sent her an e-ticket; she deleted it.  End of story.  For now.

I’m doing another commercial, this time as a singing cricket for Cracking Cricketty Crunchies.  They come in four flavors—regular (yukko), ranch, BBQ, and honey-garlic—none of which I’ve tried.  You couldn’t pay me to eat bugs, but Linda says they taste great and are nutritious—yeah, in a pig’s eye.  I’m also heading to Cali for a few days to catch up with actor friends this coming week.

That’s it, that’s all.  Didn’t feel like—hmm, what’s that word?—ah yeah, inundating you with editing or writing “snippets of advice”.  I’ll leave that to The Boss.

Enjoyed shootin’ the breeze with you.  Hope you did, too.

Aloha—e mālama pono.

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Staying Faithful to Your Craft . . . and Self

Ever been in a writer’s funk?  When the likes or followers aren’t coming, no one’s commenting, it’s natural to ask [cry] why-yyyyyy!?  <LOL>  Okay, maybe I’m being like dear Rey from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency: melodramatic.

Still, you wonder.  Is it me?  What’s wrong with the blog?  Why didn’t he/she like the post or book?  Am I boring?  Not innovative enough?  Have I got what it takes?

This prompted an idea for a post: how to maintain writer confidence.  (I’ll confess [honesty is a good thing] that I’ve often struggled with it.)

The most important conviction a writer should possess is confidence.  Yes, skill and talent are vital too, but these can be developed with time and practice.  Sureness is a must.  With it comes positivity and optimism, which translates into enthusiasm.

When you believe in yourself and what you do, you have a take-charge attitude.  You look forward to developing and completing those writing projects.  . . . And how do we maintain/boost confidence?

Social media is a great place to start.  Join writing communities and post on them.  The exchanges—and subsequent support—are uplifting (to say the least).  It’s amazing how wonderful you feel when you’ve shared ideas and thoughts, offered and received gratitude.  On a similar note, see what fellow bloggers and writers are up to.  Post/comment on their sites, as you see fit.  Besides learning a few interesting and valuable things, you’ll make friends, to be sure.  The more you network, the more reinforcement you’ll receive.  Find the right [best] support for you.

Even when nothing’s flowing from those creative fingertips—you can’t seem to get into it—continue writing.  Keep at it.  Keep busy.  Keep it (return later and revise/delete as you deem fit).  Reflect on: why you write, what got you excited about it, why you’ve been doing it for as long as you have, who inspired you and why.

Some non-confidence moments may be due to the fact that we writers and bloggers tend to set [tremendously] high expectations for ourselves (I know I do).  So if there’s a stumble or tumble, boom (!) goes the assurance.  When this occurs, we need to carry on writing, no ifs or buts.

What about those discouraging moments when someone has something negative to say re a post or book?  First and foremost, accept the fact it’s going to happen.  Murphy’s Law.  Maybe the criticism is legit, maybe it’s not; consider the person it came from.  Even though the comment or advice is disheartening, maybe you can use it you can use it to your advantage.  If it truly sounds like sour grapes, ignore it.  I know, easier said than done, but negative comments are simply subjective opinions (one person’s treasure is another’s junk, something like that).

Take breaks to boost a flagging spirit.  Sitting at a laptop for 10-12 hours a day may work for some (heartfelt kudos to those of you who do), but some of us need breaks to clear thoughts, loosen stiff limbs, enhance mental thoughts.  Go and do something you enjoy, something that will make you feel good and detract from negativity.

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Having a schedule helps.  Commit to a certain number of hours per day or week.  The obligation and focus will lessen any lack of confidence getting in the way.

Remember that you’re a writer/blogger and don’t question if you’re doing it right; just go for it and do it.  We learn as we develop (and we develop as we learn) and that’s awesome.  If we were great authors from Day 1, what would we aspire to?

Confidence enables us to remain focused on the craft.  The more we write, the more we discover and absorb.  When those down or doubting moments occur, go Googling.  Get inspired—be it through quotes, inspirational or spiritual videos and tales, fellow writers’ successes in overcoming challenges, or simple hands-on guidance re boosting self-assurance.

The life of a writer and blogger can be quite lonely, given the time dedicated to our passion—but we know this and it’s all good.  So when you’re ambling down that proverbial dark tunnel, recognize that—yes!!!—there is always a vibrant light at the end.

The Freshness Factor

Just shut down the other blog.  It had grown, well, kind of wearisome.  My heart was no longer in it and it probably showed.  There seemed little point in wasting my time, much less that of [potential] readers and followers.

lightbulbBThat got me to thinking about “staleness”—a musty, fusty blog isn’t much better than hard and crusty bread past its prime.  And that, in turn, gave me—woo-hoo!—an idea for the mid-week post.  Freshness!

There are many awesome-looking blogs out there, which is great . . . but not so great if said blogs don’t have the posts or content to keep people coming back (kind of like my former one).  <LOL>

If you’re posting regularly and your heart’s truly in it, make sure what you’re providing readers/followers is interesting, informative, and/or entertaining: think, yup, f-r-e-s-h.

There are many ways to keep blogs appealing [attracting], which could easily make for a five-part post.  Worry not followers and fellow bloggers—I’ve hung up the teacher’s cap for a wee while.  We’ll keep it short and sweet, and review a smattering of vital tactics.

See what others are writing to get a notion of what’s popular.  And here’s where “fresh” comes into play, again—if you’re going to follow suit, make certain you’re adding something new and noteworthy.  Regale, my friends, regale!

Change it up.  Consider adding interviews, facts and stats and charts, studies and analysis, photos and videos . . . have followers, friends and colleagues contribute . . . use bullets and numbered lists . . . the sky’s the limit.  Have at it!

Don’t be afraid to ask your readers and followers what they’d like to see.  Request suggestions.  Then, deliver!

Do some “spring cleaning”.  Free space.  Get rid of old posts that no longer have any value add.  The information may be out-dated or the writing not as crisp (we do hone skills over time).  On the flips side, some old posts may [still] be of worth.  Maybe they’ve been shared across many miles, literally, or they’re traffic drivers even now.  If you’re particularly fond of certain ones, rewrite them with new . . . fresh . . . spins.  Change or add visuals.

springcleanupA

And when all that awesome freshness has been applied, [continue to] do this: keep generating [more and more] traffic.  Metadata (keywords and meta-tags) will net high search numbers, which could translate into [more] followers/subscribers.  Remember SEO or Search Engine Optimization?  It’s not as daunting as it sounds.  Simply put, SEO is boosting blog (or website) content so search engines show it as a top result for searches of a particular keyword.  We want to make it super easy for people to find us.  Do a little due diligence to obtain guidance—maybe start with checking out Google’s Keyword Planner.

Some [fresh] food for thought, I hope.  Happy [continued] blogging.

Copy . . . right?

In my blog and writing community travels, I’ve stumbled across some questions and concerns new writers have re copyright.

Given I’m about to [hopefully] finish “Forever Poi”, I thought a little post on the topic might not be a bad or boring thing.

Just for the record—and I’m no lawyer (though I sometimes kind of wish I’d pursued law as a profession)—copyright per Free Dictionary is “the legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work”.

If you Google the word you’ll come across scores of sites that offer information and guidance. Read a few to get a grasp of the intricacies.

Basically, though, as e-book authors we want to ensure that we’re protected against infringement or unauthorized use of our original books (like our hard-copy counterparts).

Good news: a finished e-book is actually automatically copyright-protected.  Per law, any work crafted today is deemed to be copyrighted once it’s created.  Maybe not so good news: it’s not going to help you if someone “borrows” your e-book concept, but it will if said [dishonest] someone uses your characters and/or other specific items.

Some sites will recommend registering your copyright and storing your e-book with the U.S. Copyright Office.  I’ve never done this, and I wouldn’t advise anyone not to—it’s a personal decision—but I’ve read that while there are some benefits to taking this route, it’s far from “the” route.  Check out the U.S. Copyright Office’s website for more info.

If you’re looking to copyright your e-book, you can find samples of simple copyright pages.  They’re all fairly similar, but I use a short and sweet one that Smashwords offers—here’s a model:

*Title*

 Published by [Name] at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018 (Name in brackets)

Smashwords Edition

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America.  Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.

This eBook is licensed solely for your personal pleasure.  This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this eBook with someone, please purchase a copy for every reader.  If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased solely for your use, please return it to your favorite retailer and purchase your own personal copy.  Thank you for respecting the author’s time and effort in completing this work of fiction.

Disclaimer:  The persons, places, things, and otherwise animate or inanimate objects mentioned in this work of fiction are creations of the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to anything or anyone, living or dead, in this novel is absolutely and unequivocally unintentional.

Hopefully, this helps clarify the sometimes confusing world of copyright a wee bit.

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How it All [Kinda] Began

Forever Poi, the fourth in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, has taken much [much!] longer than anticipated.  But there were extenuating circumstances truly not in my control, so I’ll just count my blessings and offer gratitude to the Great Power that is that it’s nearly there.  Hurrah!!!!!

FPWed1

I went for another final edit (#23), but glad I did—found a couple of “flaws”.  You read and review, scrutinize and consider, yet you still don’t necessarily always catch those wily little buggers  As writers, we often see what we think is there and sometimes what’s not there.  This is a good reason to have someone else take a gander—new [fresh] eyes, that sort of thing.

I thought I’d go back and share when JJ, Rey and Linda seriously [or not] discussed the possibility of becoming Hawaiian private eyes.

And speaking of time, it was hard to believe that the Connecticut Caper—as Rey laughingly called it—had happened nearly a month ago. Yet in some ways, it felt like a year. The entire episode seemed dreamlike and distant.

I dropped onto the only piece of furniture I’d purchased for the Brentwood apartment so far: a beautiful two-piece leather sleeper sectional sofa that set me back a lot more than budgeted for. But it would serve as a perfect focus piece and last for years, and I wasn’t planning on being that extravagant with anything else. It rested to the side of a large deep-set fixed window with solid panel shutters. Sitting here, I could gaze four stories below onto a lush courtyard with two burbling fountains.

Christmas was around the corner and it felt strange to not have my nephew Quincy racing around, trying new seasonal recipes, or sticking Quincy-would-like gift suggestions in obvious places. The first week of December, Mom usually had the B&B decorated with lights, holly and ivy, and a couple of tinsel-trimmed Christmas trees. A stunning silver menorah rested on the dining room sidebar for Jewish friends and guests.

I’d made a move to California. Sold all belongings, put the Wilmington condo up for sale, packed clothes, and wondered what I’d gotten myself into besides a three-day weather-forecasting job at a local community television station. I’d have to find other work, of course, if we didn’t make money serving as professional sleuths (which I had doubts about), but it was a start. Rey was planning on getting the detective agency going in the next month or so.

Yes, that was correct: detective agency. Back at the Moone manse, as the three of us were packing and making promises to stay in touch, Rey had revealed a plan that she’d been considering since May-Lee had been wheeled away: opening a private investigation agency in California. To make her happy and keep me sane for the remainder of the brief stay, I’d said I’d consider the wild notion that seemed as probable as a Minnesota drought in January. But somewhere and somehow over the weeks, I’d decided maybe it wasn’t that wild after all.

Even Linda had gotten caught up in Rey’s enthusiasm. I wasn’t quite sure how to inform them about California’s strict licensure. They’d be devastated to learn they weren’t going to be private investigators any time soon. Among other things, we’d need a combination of education in police science, criminal law or justice, experience equaling three years or 6,000 hours, and to pass a criminal history background check. Oh yes, we’d also have to receive a qualifying score on a two-hour written exam. It was surprising that Rey hadn’t yet discovered that; or maybe she had and had simply refused to accept facts. In any event, at present, in addition to scouting offices, my cousin had signed up for a business course. Kudos to eager and determined Cousin Reynalda.

The drive back from Connecticut had afforded Adwin and I time to talk about life, goals and objectives, feelings and family. By the time we’d reached Wilmington, we’d decided that moving in together was probably not a great thing. We truly weren’t that compatible or in sync, and that was fine we both acknowledged. I loved Adwin, and he loved me, but in the grand scheme of things we weren’t really a romantic couple or marriage material; we were more of a buddy-bud duo. We’d remain in touch and he’d visit California, and I’d see him—and Fred—whenever I returned to North Carolina. We’d take the odd vacation together. Pledges were made and, with a bit of luck, they’d be kept.

I stretched bare legs onto the sofa, and sipped mango nectar from a bottle via a straw. It was thick and sweet and perfect for the sunny weather outside, and seemed to work well with little, decadent mouthfuls of a Red Velvet cupcake I was enjoying. I’d been off sweets since Connecticut—hadn’t wanted to see another cookie to save my life, but this morning, after a three-mile power walk, I’d dropped by Suzee-Sooz’s Cupcake Houz and bought the sinfully delicious treat that was nearly the size of a soccer ball. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.)

“Hey you.” The door opened with a bang.

“Hey yourself and watch it. I don’t want to buy a new door, thank you,” I groused, watching Rey all but dance into the small L-shaped living room, Linda in tow.

Both were dressed in the same Chip & Pepper jeans and similar Aloha shirts. While Linda sported colorful Converse runners, Rey wore strappy sandals. I half expected them to have the same polish on their toes and fingers. Maybe they’d both been deprived of high school friendships and were making up for missed girly-girl BFF moments.

I looked back at the shirts. Hawaiian wasn’t Rey or Linda’s usual taste. Oh-oh.

“What’s up ladies?” I asked suspiciously, putting my drink aside but keeping the cupcake on my lap. I suspected I’d be needing sugar-enhanced comfort momentarily.

Linda closed the door and followed Rey. They leaned into the kitchen counter comprised of pretty pale blue and dusty rose ceramic tiles. I liked the cozy, bright kitchen, but why did I suddenly suspect I’d not be enjoying it for long?

Rey moved into melodramatic mode. “The licensing requirements to become private eyes in California are tough.”

“We’d don’t have the qualifications or background,” Linda affirmed.

Oddly, neither looked deflated or upset. I smiled dryly and said nothing.

“I know, you’re thinking that our detecting days are over before they’ve even begun.”

Not really, but I eyed Rey expectantly.

“They’re not!” she announced gleefully, hanging an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Guess what?”

“I couldn’t even begin to,” I responded wryly, gazing from one to the other.

Rey grinned. “We’re going to become…”

“Hawaiian P.I.s!” Linda finished with a jubilant grin.

“Pack your bags, Jilly!”

The Red Velvet cupcake caught Rey in the middle of the forehead.

An index finger sporting neon blue polish removed some of the frosting clinging to her brow. She licked it and smiled. “Delicious. Mahalo.”

Should all go well, Forever Poi will be available around the beginning of August.

Aloha, my friends.