Inspiration: Widows, Mobsters and the Secret Service

Writing is an integral part of who I am. Very few days pass that I do nothing writing-related. As some of you know, I started a new project recently – intended to be the third in the Widow’s Web series, about widows who overcome challenges when they are facing the most difficult time of their lives. I’m about 10,000 words into the story, about a woman who finds out her husband is cheating on her.

But my muse seems to have other ideas. For those of you who are unfamiliar, my muse is a fairy named Jennie. She sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. While I’ve been trying to write Morgan’s story about her cheating husband, my muse is obsessing about the Secret Service. At the library recently, she directed me to choose In the President’s Secret Service as the audiobook to listen to during my daily commute. Last weekend, I decided to flip on the TV and see if anything good was on. What was on? The Clint Eastwood film, In the Line of Fire. This morning I turned on Netflix, thinking I’d play something in the background while I was writing. Netflix suggested Vantage Point.

My muse hasn’t stopped there. She’s given me a character. A woman named Mackenzie (“Kenzie”) Egan. Her great grandfather was an Irish mobster in Kansas City (moved over from the St. Louis crime family). I cannot stop thinking about this woman, and the Secret Service . . . those agents who dress sharply, with white shirts and dark suits and dark sunglasses, with the ever-present curled wire disappearing under their collars.

So, tell me . . . what would you rather read about? A woman with a cheating husband, or a mob princess who joins the Secret Service?

Why do you write?

That’s a question I get asked all the time. Of course, there’s the simple answer – I write because I must. It’s who I am.

But there’s more to it than that. I write because I want to create a lifestyle. My day job is awesome. I love what I do, love the people I work with, and am fortunate to work in a supportive, energetic environment where I am challenged every day. My salary is enough to almost make ends meet (note the “almost” – right now our dryer and dishwasher are limping along, threatening to quit). The benefits are decent.

Rich Mountain RoadBut I am never going to have freedom with my day job. I will always work Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. I will always schedule vacation time around others’ schedules. My paycheck goes into the bank and bill payments come out. Frankly, I want more than that out of life. I want to be able to make enough to pay our debt down. I want to be able to travel every now and then (yeah, we travel some, but rarely and are always budget conscious – like our trip to Gatlinburg last year – on the right). I want to be able to pay for the vet bills for a stray Beagle hit by a car. I want to be able to donate money to a friend who is rescuing horses from a kill yard.

All of those things take money. And in order to make more money, I need to do something beyond the day job. It seems natural to honor the talent I have been blessed with, and write. Hopefully, I can make enough money off of that talent by entertaining people, letting them escape into another world for a bit, so that I can do some of those things that I want to do.

If you want to help me do some of those things, and you like to be entertained by a well-written book with twists and turns, consider buying one of my books.

Thanks for listening. And comment below about what YOU want out of life.

Guest: Joanne Guidoccio (and a giveaway!)

Too Many Women in the roomI’m happy to have Joanne Guidoccio with me today (psst . . . take a peek at her new book cover and you’ll know exactly why I was drawn to her!). I asked her to tell me a little about her writer’s journey and her new book. Make sure you read to the end for info about her giveaway!

All About Freedom 53

In 1984, London Life Insurance came up with a uniquely Canadian slogan – Freedom 55.

Each time I saw the commercial of the middle-aged couple walking along the beach, enjoying a sunset, or engaging in water sports, I imagined my own retirement: extended holidays as a snowbird, launching a non-profit, starting a counseling practice. A little different but compelling enough to keep me dreaming of my own freedom years. Why not leave the workforce at age 55 and devote the remaining 25 to 30 years of my life to my passions.

Five months before my fiftieth birthday, a diagnosis of inflammatory cancer brought everything to a standstill. I survived, scarred but happy to be alive and appreciative of the many gifts cancer had brought.

I returned to my teaching position, with new determination. I would not wait until age 55 to retire. Instead, I aimed for Freedom 53, a very early retirement, possible because of a generous teacher pension program.

As 2008 neared, I felt flutters of trepidation but remained committed to Freedom 53. For the most part, family and friends were supportive, but I could see flickers of doubt in their eyes. A few ventured to ask: “What on earth will you do?”

While some of my earlier dreams no longer fit, I did have a vague idea of what life on golden pond would look like. Sleeping in each morning. Leisurely breakfasts. New hobbies. Volunteering. Traveling.

These were my pat answers whenever anyone asked about my future plans. And at some point in the conversation I would work in one of my favorite quotations from Eckhart Tolle: “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”

I kept my writing dream, concocted at age eighteen, tucked away, fearing to even speak the words: “I want to write.” It sounded a bit pretentious and a definite stretch from my 31-year career as a mathematics and co-operative education teacher.

All that changed when I returned from a trip to Newfoundland. I put pen to paper and wrote an article about my adventures. To my surprise, it was picked up by the Waterloo Record and published two months after my retirement. I took that early publication as a sign from the universe and announced my intention to write.

I started journaling and filled large blocks of unscheduled time with workshops and online courses. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. At first, I focused on the nonfiction market and wrote book reviews and articles about careers, money management, wellness, personal growth and development. While I was delighted with the response from newspapers, magazines, and online publications, I wanted more.

“More” translated into a novel, and in my case, three novels—Between Land and Sea, A Season for Killing Blondes, The Coming of Arabella—released over a two-year period (2013 – 2015) by Soul Mate Publishing and The Wild Rose Press.

On May 19 of this year, The Wild Rose Press released Too Many Women in the Room (Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series).

Right now, I’m polishing the final draft of A Different Kind of Reunion (Book 3 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series).

So what’s Too Many Women in the Room about?

When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Excerpt

“I’m a nobody here,” David said, glancing down at his plate. “And with my credit rating, none of the banks would endorse a loan. I’m screwed.”

“What if I backed you?” I couldn’t believe I was speaking so casually, all the while my heart beat at an alarming rate.

David rubbed a hand over his chin and flashed a grin at me. “Gilda, darling, you’re sweet to offer, but I don’t think you know what’s involved here.”

Susan nodded in agreement.

Were they playing me, I wondered. Since winning nineteen million dollars in Lotto649, I had encountered many sharks who hoped to prey on my easy-going nature. A quick Google search would have revealed my three-year-old lottery win. Old news, but still there on the second and third pages.

“Would one hundred thousand dollars be enough?” I asked. “In case you don’t know, I won a major lottery several years ago.” Since winning, I had received many proposals from across the province and had backed three local ventures. In each case, I had chosen to remain a silent partner.

David’s right hand trembled as he poured himself another glass of wine. Susan’s mouth dropped open, and she gave a little gasp.

“I take it that’s a yes,” I said.

More mild protests followed, and another bottle of wine disappeared. We were all a bit tipsy when we shook on the agreement. And so Xenia was born.

Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORaCadAnbA

Buy Links

Amazon (US): https://is.gd/NRjAXT

Amazon (Canada): https://is.gd/1pX3Bn

Kobo: https://is.gd/5VwbTf

Indigo: https://is.gd/o3ZKRW

The Wild Rose Press: https://is.gd/1mns8Q

Barnes & Noble: https://is.gd/NFHdlS

Bio

In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne…

Website: http://joanneguidoccio.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Giveaway:

Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/628069205/

WriteScouts: Promotion – Building Your Email List 2 (MailChimp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last time, we talked about the overview of an email list. Getting started was a challenge for me – for some reason, it scared the bejesus out of me. So, I thought I’d share what I learned when I started with MailChimp.

Getting started:

  • Login to MailChimp
  • Click on the Lists tab
  • Click on the Create List button
  • Follow the instructions to create your List

Okay. You have a list. It’s an empty list, but you have a list! And now it’s time to fill that list. To do that, you need email addresses.

Click on the Lists tab > Click on the little down arrow on the right.

 

 

 

 

Click on “Signup Forms” > Choose Embedded Forms by clicking the “Select” button.

You can choose between several embedded forms, such as Classic, SuperSlim, etc. To begin with, let’s just go with Classic. You can see what it will look like in the Preview window. The default collects your subscriber’s email address, first name and last name. These are the basics – that’s enough to communicate with subscribers.

Just below the Preview window is a section of code (conveniently labeled as “Copy/Paste Onto Your Site”). Click in the box and press Crl-A to highlight all of the text. This is what you will insert in the code of your website (for instance, at the end of a blog post, or on the front page of your website, or perhaps in the sidebar).

Other options that’ll be covered more in-depth later are pop-ups on your website, and Facebook integration.

Something to think about for next time – lead magnets. What can you offer your readers to entice them to give up their email address?

As a reader, what do you want from authors?

WriteScouts: Promotion – Building Your Email List

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the “badges” that will be offered in a future WriteScouts class is Promotion and one of the topics I’ll cover is building your email list. One of the things I learned as I studied promoting was that building an email list – a list that you yourself own – is key. You don’t want to depend on followers on a platform you don’t own or don’t control. Why? I have one word for you. Myspace.

Okay, so, we’ve addressed the fact that you need an email list. How do you build a list? What is it? What do you need?

Software. First, you need email software. Two that you’ll hear about often are MailChimp and Aweber. Which you choose is up to you. I won’t go into the versus issues, because, frankly, all I have used is MailChimp, so that’s all I can speak to. There are great resources out there, though, like THIS ONE or THIS ONE. I chose MailChimp because it was cheap to start out with, particularly given the fact that I had such a small <cough> non-existent <cough> list.

Plugin. You need a way to capture email addresses. Do a little research on your website so you can create a pop-up. You know what these are – those little boxes that show up and say, hey, just type your email list in here and I’ll send you X! I have a website (psst . . . get your name as a domain as soon as you can), which is currently hosted on Fatcow, and I use WordPress to actually create the content of my website (including my blog — which you know I have because you’re reading it right now). To capture the emails of the people who visit your website, you need to use a Plugin (I use WP Popup). Check out this post for some background info.

Funnel. Every single thing you do should point people to your website. Your social media profiles should all contain a link to your website. Your email signature should have a link to your website. Your business card should include your website address. Think of a funnel that leads people to your website (and ultimately, your plugin to capture their email addresses).

Lead Magnet. People generally need a reason to give you their email address. You’re a writer – give them something they want. I use a free ebook, which is a collection of short stories. There are lots of ideas out there for lead magnets. Like THIS. Take your time with this. Create something that people will actually want.

Cross Promote. Get out there. Talk to people. Be social on social media. Guest post on other blogs. Invite other authors to post on your blog. (psst . . . I’ll include a special section on this in the WriteScouts course.)

Newsletters / Mailings. Email your subscribers on a regular basis, with content that is interesting. I sometimes include snippets from my books or deleted scenes. I’ve also included news, such as when one of my books is nominated for an award, or cover reveals. From the moment you start sending emails out, act as if you are writing to your Perfect Reader. Be personal. Have a conversation with that Perfect Reader. Invite him/her to respond to you. Include content that he/she wants to read. Build a relationship with him/her.

Have you built an email list? What have you found that works? What have you used as a lead magnet?

(Oh – and before I forget – Fatal Obsession has hit the shelves! If your local bookstore or library doesn’t have it, ask them to order it! And if you want the ebook, you can get any format HERE.)

Techno Thrillers: My suggestions

I once described myself as a book slut – I read a bit of everything from horror (Stephen King is the master) to romantic comedy (love Tawna Fenske’s books). I’ve been reading a lot about technothrillers here lately, so I thought I’d share my own suggestions for the genre, in no particular order:

As you can tell by my list, once I find an author I like, I tend to keep reading them. But this list also shows that I need to find new authors! Give me some ideas. What are some of your favorite technothrillers?

Three Creeks Press: 2016-17 Catalog

I grew up around printing. One of my earliest memories is going up to the Centralia Fireside Guard to see my dad, where I breathed the sweet smell of ink while shouting to be heard over the clanging of the presses. When I stayed with my grandparents, I loved going down to the basement and running my hands over the long, narrow drawers of type that lined one whole wall.

In fact, one of my short stories that was inspired by a story my grandpa told about what happened when he was working late one night to put the Washington Journal to bed (hint: it involves Bonnie and Clyde, and is featured in my short story collection, Train of Thought).

So, it seemed natural for me to evolve from writer to authorpreneur to publisher. In 2016, I started Three Creeks Press. Thanks to the advances of technology, I was able to do so from my home, without the expense of purchasing an offset press (though I would dearly love to own an actual press). It is still a lot of work, and requires constant learning of new processes and new technologies, but I have been able to publish a few books and am now confident enough in the processes and distribution channels to be able to open Three Creeks Press to submissions. My goal is to help new writers achieve their dream of publication, focusing specifically on writers from the Midwest.

Please take a moment to check out the new website. I’d love to know your thoughts.

And if you’re interested in our offerings, here’s our first catalog:

Three Creeks 2016-17 Catalog

Technothrillers: What are they?

As I was perusing Amazon, looking at the various best seller lists, I came across a category called “technothriller” – and a lightbulb went off. That’s the kind of book I gravitate to! Think Jurassic Park, the Hunt for Red October, the Judas Strain, Relic . . . these are books that I absolutely love. So, what is a technothriller? Simple. It’s a book that draws from different genres, usually mystery, thriller and sci fi.

Fatal ObsessionSo, if you like these books, too, check out this list from Goodreads of the best technothrillers. And share some of yours in the comments – I need new authors to read! Oh, and if you like that sort of thing, too, check out my latest release, Fatal Obsession. It delves into the cutting edge world of nanotechnology, and dips into the ethical questions medical research raises.

Spring Break!

Woman on the beach at Gulf Shores

I saw a post on Facebook Friday from a friend who was hours away from her spring break starting. Ohhhhhh, I am so ready for spring! How ’bout you? Though I really can’t complain – our winter has been practically non-existent. Just a few minutes ago, I walked the dogs without a coat on. Just clipped their leashes on and walked out the door. In March! In Missouri!

But still . . . there’s something magical about Spring Break. As a broke college kid, I never did anything for spring break. And I always felt a bit cheated about that. Maybe that’s why I find myself jealously reading spring break posts on Facebook, then browsing the internet looking for travel deals. As a matter of fact, we just booked a trip to the beach in May. My idea of a perfect beachy vacation would be lounging beside the pool or in the sand, listening to the cry of sea gulls while losing myself in a good book (have you gotten your copy of Fatal Obsession yet?). Oh, with a sweet icy concoction in a thermal mug sitting on the table next to me. The salty smell of the ocean and the coconut fragrance from my sunscreen would tickle my nose. And I’d be wearing a big floppy hat.

Ahhhh . . . I’m ready for that trip. How ’bout you? Tell me your idea of a perfect spring break day.