Last May, I was on the hunt for a picture book illustrator after learning that one of my publishers was starting a children’s book division. The publisher needed a book ready to go. I had the text, but no illustrations. I’d nearly given up the search when a talented illustrator turned up right beside me at an author fair. We worked together and, in a very short time, I had a fully illustrated book which I sent off to the publisher.

THE COOKIE EATING FIRE DOG was first written about twenty years ago when I lived with energetic, imaginative preschoolers. Each of my children had a favorite stuffed animal. My older child had a well-behaved purple bunny, aptly named “Purple”. My younger child carried around a dog, a happy-faced, but very naughty Dalmatian named Dan. The Dalmatian was also somewhat sickly, according to my son. When he didn’t feel like playing with “Dan”, my son would inform me that, “Dan was in the hospital,” suffering from an undisclosed illness.

Dan had a lot of action in his stuffed animal life. One day, my child informed me that Dan refused to help the fire fighters when they needed him. I was at the sink washing dishes when I heard about the stubborn Dalmatian.

“Why won’t Dan help?” I asked.
“Because all he wants to do is eat cookies.”

I stopped washing, grabbed pen and paper, and a story was written.

I finished, sent the book out, and got a bite right away from a big name publisher. We went back and forth a few times, but they ultimately declined. My story sat dormant for a while (yep, twenty years!) until the time was right.

If someone had told me I’d be a picture book author, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I’m so glad to be one!

Author Fairs - Unexpected Benefits: Part 1

I’ve hit several gratifying, book high points this year, coinciding with the publication of novel #two in my Southern California Mystery series.
Attending writers’ conferences, bookfests, libraries, bookstores, Noir at the Bar and even co-leading a workshop at a conference as a newbie – all were bonuses. It was also my first time giving a presentation, by my lonesome, in front of a large audience. I loved every moment. But (and this is a good ‘but’), I also experienced some marvelous surprises…at author fairs.

I’d heard a few complaints from more seasoned writers that author fairs were time wasters. One successful, how-to book author even remarked, “A fair is a humbling experience.” And he didn’t mean in a good way. Another writer vowed never to attend a fair again, saying she didn’t sell enough books. But aren’t there other benefits as well?

Last spring, I learned that one of my publishers was on the cusp of creating a new division just for picture books. They sent an email to their existing authors inviting submissions if any had picture books fully ready to roll out. The new unit wouldn’t be open to outside authors until 2019. What do ya know? I happened to have a picture book with text ready, but no illustrations. Not a problem. I had a friend who knew a professional illustrator. Attempts to connect us were made, but no luck. I put aside the picture book idea and tended to my next novel.

Two months later, I had the pleasure of appearing at an author fair on the Central Coast of California. It was my first appearance at this venue. I wasn’t sure where to go or what to expect. I randomly selected a table and organized my books. While I waited for the fair to open, I thumbed through author books at surrounding tables. That’s when the light bulb burned brightly over my head (don’t you love when that happens?). The author sitting next to me had indie-published a picture book. The illustrations were fantastic. Bold, bright and fun. I suggested she send her book to my publisher, figuring they might want to hire her as an illustrator.

Fast forward. Being a mystery author, I like suspense, which means more details will be unspooled in the next installment of this blog. Until then, Happy Halloween!

Retreat to Regenerate

I’ve attended a few writers’ conferences and for the most part, I find them exciting. What better place to meet and mingle with fellow writers and readers, as well as publishers, agents and all-around book people? It’s a fertile, common ground we stand upon and share. At conferences, I’ve participated in speed dating (where authors have a minute to pitch their book(s) to a table of ten, ten times; I’ve been on stage as a debut novelist babbling to the conference world about my first book, and I’ve had the great pleasure of being a panelist at conferences and a workshop leader, discussing all sorts of wonderful topics. Exciting stuff, right? Right. Except, it can also be exhausting.

Conferences typically offer a boatload of activities. And the vast majority are hard to miss. But we writers are mostly quiet folk who need to withdraw, now and then, to rejuvenate. At least, that’s true about this author. I need time to do nothing, think nothing, speak nothing. If I don’t slow down, I tend to pay for it by dragging myself around.

Sometimes, it’s hard to back off when everyone else looks like they’re enjoying and thriving on constant interaction. But a little time to oneself can help re-energize the mind and body. Here are a few ways I slow down to re-boot myself at conferences:

– Take a walk. At the Malice Domestic conference, I took time to leave the venue and take walks. Boy, am I glad I did because the surroundings were lovely and I came back feeling refreshed!

– Take a nap. I’m not one for napping, but I am one for lying down in a quiet space for about ten – twenty minutes. I feel like a new person once I’m up and running again.

– Walk barefoot in the grass or sand. I’ve not tried this one at a conference, but I have on my own; feeling nature beneath my bare feet does wonders.

– Calm the mind by sitting quietly and focusing on breathing in and out. This forces me to slow down to feel energized afterwards.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of peace and quiet to restore the mind and the body.