Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Do You Like Gadgets?

Yes, we like gadgets!

There is a very cool company out there operating under the name of Budgetgadgets.com. They contacted me about reviewing an item for them, and I said yes. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but then this  arrived the other day. This is a gadget in every sense of the word. First of all, it plugs into your USB port and gives you 4 other USB ports. And they work! We've hooked up our printer and Ipod and other devices to it.

Not only that, but it's also a pen/lipstick/paper clip holder. Not only THAT, but when you plug it in, a little light turns on. Now you can do that late night typing with no light on.

And if that weren't enough...it has a speaker on it. Your Netflix movie too quiet? (We have this trouble all the time.) Plug in the speaker. Brilliant! It also works w/ Ipod devices. We had a romantic dinner listening to my husband's Ipod shuffle, LOL.

The price? $8.30.

That's not the only gadget this company has. The website is loaded with tripods for digital cameras, toys, video games, and holiday specials. Amazingly, they always have FREE SHIPPING to anywhere in the world!

And right now they have a special offer to you, my readers. They've given me a coupon code to get you 5% off your entire order. Here it is: tamarahartheiner5OFF

Not only that, but the first 50 orders also get this keychain/flashlight tossed in for FREE. Now come on, don't we all love keychain flashlights??? I know my kids do!

Go check out their website and tell me what your favorite gadget is! I'm excited to try some of their other things!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Truckin' Thank yous

No, that's not a pretend swear word, though it makes me think of a funny story. My 2yo is a very avid talker, but some of his sounds aren't quite right. Like the 'tr.' For some reason he can't make this sounds, so he always substitutes with an 'f' sound.

Compound that with the fact that he can't pronounce any consonants after the letter 'm'.

So the other day we were in the car driving somewhere, and he said, "Look at that dumptruck."

You'll understand why my husband laughed so hard.

But that story was a complete tangent. I want to talk about the simple, kind gesture of saying 'thank you.'

The other day I was in the fast lane, zooming along, when a big semi-truck to my right put on his signal. I think the semi in front of him was going too slow, and he wanted over. The car in front of me sped up, making it impossible for the big guy to get over. I uttered a sigh of tolerance and slowed down. I waited, my entire attitude radiating annoyance, while the trucker came over.

He got in front of me and flashed his brake lights at me in the universal Morse code for 'Thank you.'

That simple gesture changed my attitude. Suddenly I felt warm and silly inside, as if I'd done him a great service. The rest of my drive was peaceful and smooth, with me still living off of the residue of gratitude.

Really, it can't get much easier than flashing your brakes at someone.

How does it make you feel when someone thanks you for something? Even something mundane?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh Snap! and other Made-Up Words

There's a made-up word in Perilous.

On accident.

Snap. Snap snap snap snap.

Somewhere in my drafts, between drafts 3 and 4, I switched the c and the n in a word. Since this word is in Spanish, I failed to notice it. (I don't speak Spanish.) And the more I read over my drafts, the more I thought the incorrect word was the actual word.


And no one, not my publisher or my beta readers or my early reviewers, noticed. Which I guess is good because it means most people will have no idea. But if you speak Spanish, you'll notice. As a kind reader pointed out to me the other day.

My fault. I hope none of you are ever in such a humiliating position.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bumpy Landings and the Underdog (and chocolate)

Now that I've had my first novel published, there's something I've noticed about publicity that seems a bit unfortunate for the small, independent author.

The biggest way of spreading your book is word-of-mouth. And unless people have something negative to say, they usually don't talk.

So here I'm going to talk. From now on (and I reserve the right to change this), I'm only going to review books by small press authors. Those that aren't getting the national attention that they deserve to.

Starting with Bumpy Landings.

This is a novel by Don Carey, and it is a romance. My favorite part about this romance: It's from a male's POV. But at the same time, I could totally relate (did I just admit that?) because it's a guy who seems to always fumble his encounters with the opposite sex. 

Set in Hawaii, there couldn't be a better time of year to read this book. I could almost feel the tropical sunshine and smell the ocean breezes. Ah, refreshing. And Jordan, the MC, is going through a growth spurt: breaking away from Mom's tyrannical reign, learning you can kiss a girl and really like her but not LOVE her, and finally getting his wings. (Literally. He's a pilot.)

Honestly, like all guys, there were times when he frustrated me, especially where Mom is concerned. I wanted to scream at him, "Stand up for yourself! Get a backbone! Throw the kitchen sink at her!" That was the only disappointing thing, I didn't really get to see a stand-off between him and Mom, and I really wanted to. But he did go against her wishes and follow his heart in the end.

This is a fun book that took me only a few hours to read. And I was updating my husband as I read, who kept saying, "Hurry and finish the book so I can know the ending." Great job, Don!

Now, if you hadn't heard of that book before today, here's where you come in. Open your mouth and spread the word. Help Don became a household name. Tell people about his book.

Oh, it gets better. There's a contest involved. Every comment on this post gets entered into a chocolate giveaway. Plus a copy of the book. Plus a CD.

Cool, huh?

And there's a book trailer contest going on on Don's blog. Not sure what that's about, but hop on over, meet this real live author, and congratulate him on his wonderful efforts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Do People See You the Way You Think They See You?

I think there might be a slight discrepancy in the way I think people see me--and the way they actually do.

Here's how I want people to see me: Witty, nice, outgoing, reliable, nice, compassionate, stylish, nice, clean, organized, nice. 

Reality is, however, I'm not exactly all of these things. Sometimes I fake it--because I want to perceive me a certain way. Like being outgoing. I'm not. Like most people, I prefer to sit on my couch and wait for everyone to come to me, include me. I learned a few years ago, though, that everyone else is waiting for the same thing. So I decided to be the outgoing one. I'm the one sitting by strangers, making phone calls, commenting on everyone's Facebook post. I hope people think I'm outgoing, because I'm trying really hard to appear that way.

Other times, I try to be a certain way, but people see something else. For example, witty. I think I'm funny. I crack jokes, I make people laugh, I'm very sarcastic. But do other people really see me this way? Sometimes, after I've been somewhere, making people laugh, I get home and panic seizes me: Did I cross the line? Did I offend anyone? Did I make fun of anyone on accident? Did I look like a total attention-hog?

I hope that people know they can rely on me. I want to be that person that gets called whenever there's a need, a crisis, a new baby, a sick friend.

And some of these things I simply want to be. Like organized. If I clean my house enough, put things away enough, perhaps it will become second nature. Perhaps one day I will even enjoy it.

Here's the real me, the one I hope nobody really sees: self-conscious, sarcastic, insecure, desperate for friends, messy. And there are good things, too. I really am nice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We're almost done with January of 2011. It's about time to take a good look at my resolutions and see where I am. It's also a good time to reevaluate and see what I need to make sure I do this year.

I've been getting too involved with menial things, like blogging and facebook and reviewing and marketing. These things are important...but they are taking up too much of my time. Am I a writer, or not? I can spend all my time trying to promote my first book, but if I don't write another one, that's the end of my career.

Perilous launched me out there. It got my name on the internet, put my blog on the blogging map. But it by no means is going to be a one-hit wonder. It's time to move on. I need to let Perilous do its own thing and I need to write.

I've been working on Inevitable for months now. Months, because I am too busy with other things to do more than write 500 words a week. So I'm refocusing. I'm letting go of the menial tasks. I'll still blog--but the posts are going to be short and to the point. I'll still comment--on occasion. If people want to visit my blog, fine. If they don't, well, I'll miss them. But I can't spend countless hours beseeching people to visit my blog. What's the point, anyway? Either I'm writing something worth reading, or I'm not. Visits and comments don't equal book sales.

I'll still update facebook and Twitter--when it suits me. And I'll still review. But the reviews aren't going to be as in depth. I've been giving other people an hour of my time each day while not even giving my own writing that much time.

So, am I a writer or not? Doesn't that mean I actually have to write?

What about Perilous? Do I just leave it hanging in the virtual world, parentless? No. I will continue to promote my book. But it can't be a full-time job. It's too demanding, too tiring, and not immediately returning. These things take time, and I'm going to let it ripen.

You haven't seen the last of me, folks. But I've got some new priorities. And they involve a lot of writing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting Started: Planning a Novel

There are two things I really enjoy in the writing process: preparation and revising. Actually writing the draft, not so much.

But there are some things I can do in the preparation stage that really help me when I'm writing the first draft. First of all, I've started using Scrivener, and I'm loving it. It helps me write my novel in small, manageable chunks.

Before we get to that, though, I have to put my novel into chunks. How do I do that? I outline. I keep my outlines very brief and vague so that there's plenty of room for creativity and flexibility. Like this:

IX. Deceived
   a. Dana acts strangely
   b. mad at Jayne for keeping the secret
   c. Finds box of old letters
   d. Mother says grandmother was a witch

I do this for each chapter. Then when I sit down to write, I'm just writing about 500 words for each chapter scene (usually four to a chapter). My brief descriptions give me enough idea of where the chapter is going that very rarely do I experience writer's block (writer's laziness is another issue). But it also still allows my creative juices to flow.

And of course I have a file for my characters, where I include basic stats (age, full name, birthday) and also personal information. This part is so much fun that I often forget I'm supposed to be writing! That would be my one piece of advice to you. Stop your planning and start writing. Just do it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Adventures with Mark and Tamara: Running out of gas

Some day in the future, I'm going to write a book chronicling the misadventures of a young married couple. It will be entirely fictional, of course. Here's a preview:

Tamara glanced at her watch and saw the minute hand ticking past the eight. She felt a rush of alarm. It was almost nine p.m., and she still had to drop off some of the kids from youth night, pick up her own kids, and head to Missouri.

"All right, out to the car," she said, baby carrier balancing on one arm while she ushered the kids out to car. She shivered in the five degree air, checking to make sure the pink blanket was secure around the baby. 

"Oh! I've got to use the bathroom!" the 16yo girl said, turning and running back into the church. 

"Okay!" Tamara called after her. "Hurry! We'll be right here!"

"Let's just leave her," the girl's brother said, jumping into the front seat.

Tamara didn't respond, though she did wonder why the girl waited until now to need the bathroom. She clicked the baby's carseat into place and climbed into the driver's side. How long did it take to use the bathroom?

The doors to the church flew open, and the girl came running out. Finally, out of the church parking lot.

The small group chatted comfortably while Tamara drove to a friend's house to pick up her other two kids. Of course the children didn't want to leave, and then they were hungry, and then they needed to use the bathroom. 

By the time she got them in the car, dropped the other kids off, and got on the road to Missouri, it was 9:20pm. And she still needed to get gas. Roads were a bit slick. I forgot to grab blankets, she thought. Her children were in pajamas with coats, but no blankets this time. She pulled up the gas station. Oh well. One tank of gas always gets us there and back. She had made this trip more times than she cared to count, after all.

She swiped her debit card and hooked the pump up to the car. Nothing. No signs indicated that the station was closed, but she saw someone else trying to go into the convenience store, and the man inside wouldn't open the doors. What, the gas station closed at nine today?

Getting back in the car, she drove across the street and filled up. Time was ticking by.

The three hour drive to Fort Leonard Wood felt like an eternity. The 2yo cried for the first hour and a half before finally giving up and going to sleep. As the time drifted past midnight, she fought to keep herself awake. I'll pluck all my nose hairs. That's usually painful. After half an hour, though, the tweezers were coming up dry, and she resorted to her old standby for staying awake: biting her fingers. Thank goodness Mark was driving on the way back.

She felt a burst of energy when she saw her husband. He was coming home for the weekend. And hopefully he'd have a different mode of transportation for the ride back! They switched places, and Tamara popped her contact lenses out, leaned her seat back, and fell asleep.

It wasn't exactly a deep sleep, but it was sleep. Two hours later, feeling rested, she sat up. "I forgot my glasses," she told Mark.

"I need to get gas," he replied. 

That was new. Tamara focused on the console and could make out the yellow light. "When did it turn on?"

"About ten miles ago." 

Tamara looked out the window at the blackness that surrounded them. She didn't think there were any gas stations between here and Joplin on I-44. "How far is Joplin?"

"Twenty miles."

That was cutting it close. Not wanting to alarm her husband, Tamara said confidently, "We'll make it. Just don't take the 71 exit; drive into the city."

"Are there gas stations there?"

"Sure there are." One time, Tamara had missed the 71 exit. But to be honest, she didn't remember what came after that. She reached around and turned off all the heat dials, in case that was draining the gas.

They drove past the 71 exit and continued on I-44. So did the nothingness. 

"We're not going to make it," Mark said, uneasiness in his voice. "This isn't good."

Tamara had to admit he just might be right. "It'll be okay. I have my emergency card and we'll call for help." Though that would mean sitting for forty minutes with no heat while they waited. Tamara kicked herself for not remembering the blankets. "What are those lights?"

"It's a gas station. But there's no exit."

Tamara stared woefully at the bright flashes as they drove past. Maybe they should stop the car and run across the interstate to buy a gallon.

"We're going to make it," Mark said, and Tamara noticed the change in his tone. 

"Did you see a gas station?"

"Yes. Next exit."

Tamara settled back into her chair, fully awake now. Mark filled the tank up, and when he came back in, Tamara let out a little chuckle. "Well. That was fun."

"No," Mark said, his voice tight. "No, it wasn't."

The End

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That Couldn't Happen!

I saw a movie the other day where the girl posted a live video feed of herself online, and her whole school, the local pastor, her parents, and the town mayor all stopped, sat in front of their computers/ipads/whatevers and watched this video.

Come on, folks. That's not gonna happen.

My husband saw a movie the other day where a soldier sat down on the battlefield, pulled out a notebook, and started writing. He had an idea that couldn't wait, and he ignored the shrapnel, bullets, and grenades exploding around him because he couldn't jump back two feet into the trenches and write down his idea.

Uh-uh. Not very realistic.

But it's movies, right? Who cares? We know it's not real. We don't care. We want to be entertained. As long as it's semi-real, it's okay.

When I was a little girl I read a book about a girl and a boy who went on a school trip and got separated from the leaders. They ended up stuck out in the wilderness for several days before they were found.

Yeah, probably not. But great story! Just a Little Bit Lost. How did this book end up in obscurity?

A few months ago I read a book where a woman woke up to find a man under her Christmas tree. I giggled my way through this light-hearted romance.

This very cute, FAR-FETCHED romance. But still, it's fun!

But is it for everyone?

It seems to me that when something unrealistic happens in a movie, we shrug it off and keep watching, enjoying the movie (unless it was really really bad). But in a book, we throw the book down, scream foul, and  refuse to embed ourselves in the story again.

So, the question is, is it easier to suspend disbelief for a movie than it is for a book? What do you think?

The clencher for me is, I have to be able to believe it could happen. It might not be likely, it might not be normal, but I have to believe it's a possibility. Well, I don't know. I really enjoyed the man-under-the-Christmas-Tree story.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Perilous: 9-12 years?

So the other day I was looking up Perilous on Amazon.com (okay, so yeah, I do this every day. What? What's so funny?). As I clicked through the book information and what not, this little bit caught my eye:

Ages: 9-12 years

Do what now?

I can't find this descriptive bit on Amazon anymore, but it made me want to clarify. While it's true that I've had several younger kids read it and really like it, I'm not sure that they GET it. I wrote it for teens. Older teens, ages 16-18. It deals with some pretty heavy topics, with some pretty heavy social issues. 

Not that younger kids can't read it. It's not a hard read, certainly not beyond their reading level. But the story is so much more than just an adventure turned sour. It's a story about life, about death, about being a teenager in a tough situation. It's about faith and determination and trust and betrayal. 

Anyway. That's my speech for today.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Where Can I Buy Your Book?

People are asking  me this all the time. And it's a good question. Where's my book? Have you seen it? Probably not. There are only two bookstores that I know of that have it in stock. (If you see it somewhere, by all means, let me know!!!)

So how can you buy it? Let me break it down for you.

1) In ANY bookstore. Just because it's not in stock (on the shelves) doesn't  mean you can't buy it. You can walk in and ask them to order it for you. Most bookstores are more than willing to do this, and you don't pay until the book comes in. Pros: This brings my book to their attention. If they get enough orders, maybe they'll stock it. Cons: You have to wait for the book to arrive.

2) On Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Of course. And they often give free shipping and handling if you buy enough things. Pros: The more sales I make through Amazon and B&N, the higher my rank goes, bringing me to the attention of other people that might not have seen my book otherwise. Cons: They REALLY rip off authors and publishers.

3) Through my website. I don't have a discounted price, but I do offer free shipping and handling. Pros: I'll sign it for you! Cons: These sales don't show up on bookscan.

4) At a book signing. You never know when I'll have one near you. And a crowd always draws a crowd. Pros: You get to meet me, take pictures, and I'll sign your book. Cons: You might have to wait awhile.

But in the end, whichever avenue you choose makes me happy. It's always a win-win for me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ode to Roommates

It's come to my attention lately that true friends are hard to find.

Ever notice that friendshipping can be a lot like dating? You hang out with a lot of people, waiting to see which ones you click with. You start narrowing it down, getting to know people, until BLING it happens. You and someone, or a group of someones, really really get along, and you're friends. Maybe even best friends.

You love your friends. You talk on the phone. You text/facebook/email each other. You hang out and (my favorite) drop by each other's houses unannounced. It's like this total happy stage.

Most of the time, these friendship, hard as they are to find, are very very enduring. But sometimes, as in dating, there's a break up.

Being dumped is being dumped. You feel rejected, sad, hurt, asking silly questions with no answers, like, "Why? What happened?"

This is so totally high school. Let's grow up, shall we?

When I went to college, I was put in a dorm room with five other girls. We didn't get to shop around to find our friends; it was an 'arranged friendship.'

To this day, I am amazed at the true friendship I found in those girls.

Four of us went on to room together for the next three years of college, until we slowly, one by one, graduated and/or got married.

I miss them. I think there's something to be said for relationships where we are forced to like each other, forced to work things out.

Been dumped lately?

To my friends, I heart you. My life is fuller because you are in it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reflections on a book signing

I  had my first book signings a few weeks ago, and I brought back some notes.

I had one book signing that went really really well, and one that didn't. I read somewhere that the average book signing sells 4 books, so I guess I didn't do too bad either way. But here are my reflections.

What went well:
1) The newsletter. Almost everyone that walked by signed up for my newsletter. Which is great, b/c that means I've got a way to keep in touch with them about sequels, etc. (BTW, if you haven't signed up, you can sign up for my newsletter in the right-hand column.)

2) The raffle. So fun to have something to give away! And I was very pleased with the winner, who happened to buy 3 books.

3) The bookmarks. Everyone took one or two. Even if they didn't buy a book. Future customers? I hope so.

4) The fudge. I gave homemade fudge to both bookstore owners. One even emailed me for the recipe.

What could've been improved:
1) The fliers. Now, this worked at one bookstore and not the other. One bookstore handed out all of my fliers the week prior to the signing. The other? I think they must've found them the day of the signing, b/c they gave them all to me. Or maybe they thought I wanted them back so I could display them on my table. Um, no. They had the dates and times of the signing on them. No good to me afterwards.

2) The traffic. One bookstore stuck me in a prominent position where anyone walking in could see me. The other stuck me at a nice table behind rows of books, nowhere in sight of the coffee shop customers. Even though I got up and walked around to the other customers, very few followed me back to where I was.

3) Communication. I neglected to work out the details of payment with one of the bookstores before hand. When I got there, she suggested a split that would've made it so I LOST money instead of made money. She was willing to renegotiate, but I was embarrassed we hadn't cleared it up before hand.

4) Friends. I invited one group of friends to one signing, and another group to the other signing. Well...I know which group supports me more!

I have another signing scheduled later this month, and I'm excited to see how it goes!

Thoughts? What's worked for you and what hasn't?
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