Posts Tagged ‘Women Writers’

Strong Female Characters

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What’s Gracie up to next?

Here’s a sneak peek at the next book in my Gracie Kinkaid Mysteries, “Murder Off the Beaten Path”:

When Mountain Search and Rescue expert, Gracie Kinkaid, begins to suspect that a local 15-year-old girl who has gone missing is connected with the violent death of a friend, she’s plunged headlong into an insidious network linking the camp at which she works in the mountain resort town of Timber Lake with Los Angeles–a network more evil and more dangerous than Gracie ever imagined.

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I grew up in a very conservative town in Michigan. I’ve lived in Hawaii, New York City, St. Petersburg, Florida, Kansas City, Columbia (area) and St. Louis, Missouri, and California. I now live in the middle of the Colorado mountains next to a whitewater river with my husband and our chocolate lab. I’ve followed the family tradition and been fortunate enough to have traveled to Mexico, Canada, Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand, summered in American Samoa in the south Pacific, and went on a camping safari in Kenya.

My parents, now both deceased, were one-of-a-kind and hard acts to follow. My father, in chronological order, was a flight surgeon/paratrooper in China/India/Burma and New Guinea WWII, a neurosurgeon in Michigan, a world-class marine zoologist traveling frequently to the South Pacific, and a medical/missionary to third-world countries including Haiti, Ethiopia, and the Khmer Rouge refugee camps on the border of Thailand/Cambodia. From him I learned a sensitivity and love for the natural world and a sense of adventure.

My mother was the first woman city commissioner the city in which I grew up, a woman’s libber in the early sixties–way before her time. I gained from her a strong sense of right and wrong, a passion for fighting what is right and just. She was my first role model of a woman in a man’s world.

From my father, I inherited an adventurer’s spirit and love of travel, books, nature and the outdoors. From my mother I inherited my sense of justice and fighting for what I believe is right in the world. From them both I learned compassion for humankind and a commitment to serve others.

Like I said–hard acts to follow.


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I wrote this essay for the “Readers Write” section of the magazine, The Sun. The assigned title of essays to be submitted was “Cheap Thrills.” Mine wasn’t selected for publication (darn it), but I like it, so here it is.

Cheap Thrills

My memories of Summer 1969 are vivid snapshots in my mind’s eye. I was 14.

My father had accepted a research assignment which required him to spend a number of months on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa. My mother, not to be left behind, plucked my two older sisters and me out of our cocoon in a conservative mid-western city and flew us 5700 miles west to the tiny island in the south Pacific.

It didn’t take long for my sisters, ages 18 and 20, to hook up with one of the island locals—a Samoan Marine recently wounded and returned home from Vietnam—and some other palangis (whites)–university students manning a satellite tracking station. If anyone minded little sister tagging along, no one ever said anything.

That summer was one of firsts for me. I suffered through an unrequited crush on an older man, tasted (and loathed) scotch at a beach party, watched the moon landing on a snowy black-and-white TV, danced to Velvet Underground, bumbled upon a shark while snorkling, slept on sheets damp with humidity, soothed coral stings, scuba dived to eighty feet and climbed Matafao, the tallest peak on the island.

But one memory stands out above the rest.

At that time, only one plane departed the island each day–a Pan Am flight at 1:00 am. I don’t remember why I was allowed out so late, but I do remember, at 1 o’clock in the morning, crouching behind heavy vegetation lining the airport’s one runway. Off to our left, the jet moved into position, its lights brilliant white starbursts in the darkness. The jet lumbered forward, the engines growing louder and louder until it rolled by us. As a group, we ran from our hiding places and lay down half-on, half-off the pavement. The jet made its turn at the end of the runway and surged back toward us for take-off. I pressed my hands to my ears to shut out the screaming engines.

I can still feel the blast of heat and stones from the massive jet engines as the wing passed right over our heads.

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Some days it’s like slogging through cold molasses, a struggle every step of the way. Other days, the words flow like a river, effortless.

Today the words are trickling out.

Better than molasses.

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Okay, now that “Don’t Get Dead” is “finished,” what’s next?

The hard part begins: getting it published. That means I have to be the publicity/marketing department for my book.  Sell.  Sell.  Sell.

Why is it so doggone hard?

One reason, physiologically speaking, is because (it’s my belief that) writing and marketing use different regions of the brain. One region serves the creative, artsy fartsy, emotional–writing. Another region serves the analystical, pragmatic, unemotional–sales/marketing.  (While there’s some debate of this, I still believe writers have to engage different parts to do different things.)

Regardless I’ve always found I can’t be creative (writing, painting, etc.) while in the sales and marketing mode, and vice versa. It takes time, sometimes days for me to switch between the two. Which may be why I seem to write in spurts and market in spurts. (I know, I know, you’re supposed to write every day.)

So I’ve spent what seems like eons writing and editing and rewriting and polishing and rewriting my book.  Now I have to switch over to marketing mode, while at the same time stay in the creative because I’m also working on Number 2 of the Gracie Kinkaid mysteries:  “Death Follows After.”

Why it’s so hard emotionally to market and sell one’s own work is a whole other, infinitely more complex, discussion. Another blog perhaps?

I’m done procrastinating for the day.

Time to friggin’ sell! Sell! Sell!

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Ho hum, the fun part’s done. I’ve finished my book, “Don’t Get Dead,”  and now I have to find an agent. Or a publisher. What a pain.

Since I know no one in the publishing industry, I have to go the hard route: writing and sending out query letters.

Querying is a formidable task. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with (and intimidated by) all the information about literary agents floating around in books and on the internet.

I discovered two fabulous websites to help with querying.

The first is Query Tracker ( www.QueryTracker.net ). A Premium membership (nominal charge) provides writers with a wealth of information about agents and their respective agencies, i.e., names, contact information, links, affiliations, genres they handle, their submission requirements and on and on. Query Tracker allows you to research agents, save their information in separate files, and track what you have sent them when, whether you’ve heard back from them and what the response was.

You can also use Query Tracker for research and record your contacts with  publishers.

But before you query, you first have to  write that query letter (yikes!). Enter The Query Shark. On Literary Agent Janet Reid’s website, she accepts and critiques online query letters from writers. She’s blunt, ruthless, and shows no mercy. She’s also brutally honest, incredibly helpful, a wealth of  information, and truly funny. Delve into the website, read the information, i.e., the queries submitted and her responses, and you’ll learn tons about how to write a query, what to include in the letter, what agents are looking for, what they hate, etc.  What it also does is help you grow a thick skin, and God knows, we all need help with that.

Here’s the link:  http://queryshark.blogspot.com

Let the bloodletting begin!

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