Friday, September 26, 2014

Artist's Date--With Friends!

Writer's Group friend Elaine Soto choosing something
wonderful from Blue Bead Designs.

I'm a true believer in Julia Cameron's concept of the artist's date, something I've been lucky enough to take advantage of in the last few weeks. But sometimes I like to tweak it up and break the rule of "go somewhere by yourself." Which is exactly what I did with my writer's group last weekend when we went on the Tanoan Studio Tour here in Albuquerque. 

Tanoan is an exquisite gated community of custom homes built around a golf course and country club. Walking through the immaculately landscaped neighborhoods as we made our way from studio to studio was almost as much fun as seeing the artwork! 

Altogether we visited nine home studios:
  1. Margaret Ferrer makes necklaces and earrings with an ethnic flair. Her company is Blue Bead Designs LLC, and she can be reached at (505) 301-2661.
  2. Sandy Miller-Lastra and Diana Swanson work in fused glass. Their imaginative designs range from kitchen cupboard pulls to delicate jewelry pendants. Contact Diana at or (760) 601-4417.
  3. Carolyn Poole is an artist working in oils as well as other mediums. She paints portraits, landscapes, still life, and . . . pets! Her business postcard features a bull terrier who I swear could double as Swatch of Project Runway. Carolyn's contact info is (505) 828-3909 or
  4. Brenda Bowman makes contemporary jewelry with semi-precious gemstones and glass beads. One item she had for sale that really stood out for me were her beaded wineglasses. She had wire wrapped the stems in a variety of colorful beads and patterns, an excellent way to know whose glass is whose at parties. Brenda can be contacted at
  5. Debi Housley, Heather Housley, Marie Torres Cimarusti. Debi and Heather made beaded and felted crosses and hair ornaments, and Marie has a series of children's picture books. More info about her books can be seen on Marie's Amazon Page.
  6. Jessica Bonzon is a quilter. Besides traditional bed quilts, she also has home items such as place-mats, wall hangings and pot holders for sale. She can be reached at Pieces and Patches, (505) 828-1066.
  7. Karen, Kirsten, and Jenn Swanson had modern paintings, drawings, and decorated bags for sale. The tiny drawstring bags are perfect for storing jewelry purchases!
  8. Rachel Nelson, the organizer of the tour, was selling wreaths, notecards, and paintings based on her photographs of the Tanoan community. She also very kindly gave visitors drilled pine cones ready to be made into bird feeders. Just smother the cones in peanut butter, roll in birdseed and hang in the garden--how cute is that?
  9. Gloria Dial Hightower is a local author writing mystery and adventure novels. Her titles include The Cotton Rope Strangler, In Total Darkness, The Shadow Mountain Murders, and her latest, Simon of Cyrene. The first three, a trilogy, are set in a Country Club community--a lot like where we took our tour, LOL! Books can be ordered from, or by phone, (505) 345-7192.
All of the studios generously provided us with snacks, water, and juice (much needed and appreciated by the time we arrived at each stop. The Albuquerque sun becomes pretty hot after an hour or two.). Heat aside, though, it was a glorious day, indeed, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to share it with my writing friends. Thank you everyone for the fun and hospitality! Looking forward to our next adventure.

Yay! Earrings!

Fused glass from Sandy Miller-Lastra and Diana Swanson
All that color was just luscious.

Blue and orange--always my favorite pair of 
complementary colors.

Fall is in the air with Pieces and Patches.

Tip of the Day: Taking the time to see what other artists, writers, and craftspeople are creating in their individual fields is just as important as setting aside time for your own work. Whether you take your artist's date on your own, or make it an event to share with friends, just make sure you go. Now is a particularly good time for exploring as there are so many shows and exhibits planned with the holidays in mind. (P.S. Shows make great places to find those holiday gifts, too!)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Marketing Time: Using a 12-Point List

Good news: The end is nigh! Finally, finally my current WIP, The Abyssal Plain, is just a few pages away from being finished. It's a great feeling, tinged, I must add, with a little sadness. No more exciting adventures for my characters. No more characters! No more figuring out how to get them from A to B. And rather than designing their homes and wardrobes, it's time to move on to marketing. Ugh.

Marketing has never been my favorite part of writing. Query letters, synopses, pitching--they've all been pretty scary to me. I know how small the window is for attracting the attention of an editor or agent, and I know how easily they can delete or ignore whatever they receive.

So that's why I want to turn everything upside down. I want to enjoy marketing, and I want to create marketing materials that will be read. My two main goals are:
  1. That I feel relaxed about writing my query and synopses (in all their wonderful forms, e.g., 1-page, 2-page, 3-page--you know how it goes), and,
  2. That whatever I write be easy to read. After all, who has the time to pore over pages and pages of convoluted story telling when all anyone wants to know is:  what is the story about?
To that end I've come up with a new approach: Before I write a single letter or outline, I'm going to brainstorm three types of 12-point lists:
  1. An ABOUT MY STORY list. This list will include whatever is relevant to sales, e.g., genre, word count, why I wrote the story, who are my potential readers.
  2. A 12-point EVENTS THAT HAPPEN IN THE STORY list, in other words, the top 12 plot points and why they matter.
  3. A 12-point CHARACTER ATTRIBUTE LIST for each of my major players.
Once I have my lists completed, I can then decide what is truly important in each, and what I can put into a single document to be edited and narrowed down even further until I hit pay dirt. 

I’ve always liked listing things in groups of twelve, (something I wrote about in my Take Twelve blog post) finding it a good way to focus and brainstorm at the same time. Aiming for twelve points on any subject seems to help me go beyond the obvious without going overboard and including too much information. My hope is that using the technique for my marketing will turn what has previously been a dreaded task into a good experience I'll look forward to. Wish me luck!

Tip of the Day: What are the top 12 things you can say about your current WIP?  Listing the most important points could be a great way to not only sell your book, but to get it organized before you write it, too!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Influenced By . . .

Who do you consider your literary influences? It's something I've been thinking about lately as I get ready to market my current WIP, The Abyssal Plain. Although I still have about 60 pages left to edit, I'm giving serious thought to my query letters, synopses, and anything else I can put together that can describe both my book and who I am as a writer.

Last night I made a list of all the authors I believe have had the most influence on my own work. In no particular order, they are:
  • Victoria Holt
  • Mary Stewart
  • Daphne Du Maurier
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Ursula Undset
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Jean Rhys
  • Katherine Neville
  • Doris Lessing
  • Willa Cather
  • Angela Carter
  • Velda Johnston
  • Shirley Hazzard
  • Luke Jennings
  • Arturo Perez-Reverte 
  • Yukio Mishima
  • Haruki Marukami
  • Ray Bradbury
After making my list, I wanted to know what it was these particular authors had in common and/or why they appealed to me so much. I narrowed it down to these categories:
  • Language. Rich, lush, yet also straightforward in meaning. Strong sentences that when read alone could almost be mistaken for poetry.
  • Gothic suspense. Characters and plot lines filled with a sense of foreboding and the darker side of human nature.
  • Details. Dress fabrics, tea ceremony rituals, the dust on Mars--I love experiencing every little nuance transporting me into a world I can see, hear, taste, smell, and until the oven timer rings and I have to choose between burning dinner or finishing "just one more page."
  • A brooding sense of melancholy. Although I enjoy a good conclusion to a story, I've never insisted any book I read end with "happily ever after." I'm just as comfortable with  open endings, characters who end up wiser but not necessarily happier, and anything that leaves me on a philosophical note regarding human nature.
  • International and historical settings and culture. One of my favorite things about reading is the chance to travel through both space and time without leaving home. From medieval Sweden to modern-day Japan, I've gone there just on the strength of my library card.
  • Genre description: literary fiction. I enjoy reading a wide variety of genres, but I always seem to come back to what I call "literary page-turners," books that don't necessarily follow strict (or any) genre guidelines, break a lot of the "writing rules," and yet manage to hook me in so I never want to stop reading. All of the authors I've listed above fit the bill perfectly.
I'm sure there are many more connections I could make between my authors-of-influence, but for now that seems to be a good start to understanding why I write the way I do. And speaking of writing, it's time to get back to work--hoping to turn those 60 pages into a nice round zero before the end of the month!

Tip of the Day: Making a list of "where you came from" is a great exercise for developing your personal brand and marketing materials. For extra credit, why not share some or all of your list under "Post a Comment"? Inquiring minds would love to know! Happy memories, everyone--looking forward to reading your findings.