Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Why I’m Not Ordering Today

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been receiving offers from Publishers Clearing House for at least forty-five years. I used to order magazines through them and enter the sweepstakes. Later on they started offering other “items” for purchase when the bottom seemed to fall out of the magazine ordering business. I’ve ordered a few things from that over the years.

But lately it’s gotten completely ridiculous, and today when I opened the 50th sweepstakes envelope I’ve received this year,  I snapped. If you don’t buy something, they often don’t want you to use the order form to enter the contest. Instead, your are required to jump through other hoops. Lately, they’ve also included a flimsy slip of paper on which you are asked to explain your decision NOT to purchase something when you enter. WhyI'mNotOrdering

Since I’m older now, I often find reasons to send out letters, telling a company how I feel about the way they operate. Today is one of those days, and I’m including the “attachment” I’m sending in with my sweepstakes entry. I hope some of you agree with me.

Why I’m Not Ordering

By Patricia Smith Wood

You want to know why I’m not ordering today, but the slip you sent me to outline that information for you is too small. So here’s the story.

I’m a member of the older generation of Americans, much as that pains me to admit to you. Because of that I have decades of experience and wisdom about purchasing and spending money. Yes, I have purchased items from you in the past. Sometimes a gee gaw reaches the childlike portions of my brain and says, “Oh, look at the interesting toy! Buy me!”

I’ve gone years at a time without even opening your sweepstakes mail because I know: 1) I don’t need anything you are offering; 2) I’m strapped financially and am watching my expenditures; 3) I resent the concept that I can enter the sweepstakes “free” but often I’m told I can only do it online or by sending in an empty envelope with my forty-seven cent stamp.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to buy stuff, but I’ve become more selective in that process over the years. Plus, as most Americans my age, I’m trying to downsize and get rid of the “junk” purchases I’ve collected during my lifetime. I’m in the process right now of cleaning out my elderly mother’s home after forty-one years of occupancy. I don’t want that same sort of burden to fall to my daughter.

You want to know why I’m not ordering today? Please don’t send me two sweepstake offers a week—it cheapens the entire process. What a waste of postage on your part, and a definite landfill glut for the public. If I send in an entry once, that should be enough. Either you draw my number or you don’t. Please avoid implying that multiple entries matter in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

Be clearer on how many of these “sweepstakes” you are running at once. Eventually it becomes suspect, and we think there is NO sweepstake at all! I’ve never seen the “announcement” on television you are always touting. All I see are commercials about Publishers Clearing House and people who may or may not be real people notified that they have won.

Now you know why I’m not ordering today, and perhaps never again. I hope someone in charge reads this. I suspect, instead, this will go into the same trash I’ve been tossing the majority of the entry letters all these years.

Ode To My Computer

I am NOT a poet. However, one evening, in a fit of despair, I created this little diddy.

 Ode To My Computer

101_0687I love you . . .

And I hate you . . .

 

You are my communication tool . . .

You are my encyclopedia . . .

You are my creative companion.

 

You are my nemesis . . .

You are my frustration . . .

You are my enemy.

 

You help me seek out knowledge . . .

You keep me in touch with friends and family . . .

You give me a canvas to paint my words.

 

You give me headaches . . .

You hurt my wrists . . .

You make me groan with despair.

 

You are a genius of engineering . . .

You are an invention of monumental importance . . .

You constantly grow and improve.

 

You defeat me at every turn . . .

You mock me in my ignorance . . .

You withhold results for no apparent reason.

 

Why do I put up with you?

Am I truly such a masochist?

Are you really so impossible to replace?

 

Yes.

A Bountiful August

Now that August 2014 is history, I spent time this week reviewing and discovered what a great month it was for me!

As most writers are painfully aware, marketing your work is not as fun as writing is. In today’s world, even those published by big name houses, backed by PR teams, and marketing specialists, find themselves going out into the world, selling their books. For those of us with smaller houses, the marketing becomes even more focused on the writer.

I discovered last year when The Easter Egg Murder was released that I had a built-in following I had never realized. Among other activities I pursue, I’ve been an amateur radio operator for almost ten years. At least that’s how long I’ve had my license. Back in high school (and I’m not saying how far back that goes!) I was secretary of the Highland High School Amateur Radio Club. I wasn’t licensed then, and I didn’t need to be. The only reason for my membership and participation in that group was my boyfriend at the time. He was president of the club and spent most lunch hours during the week at the club’s radio shack, tinkering with the ham equipment. I wanted to spend my lunch hour with him, ergo I became a member of the club.

Many, many years later, I married that boyfriend, and he was still a ham. Eventually I succumbed to his pleas that I get my license, too, and in August 2005, I passed my Technician’s exam and became a licensed amateur radio operator. Little did I know, some of my biggest fans for The Easter Egg Murder would come from the ranks of other ham radio operators.

In August 2014, the annual Duke City Hamfest came to Albuquerque. I brought along my books, and before I knew it had sold 16 over that weekend.photoThen two weeks later I got a last-minute chance to have a table at the ABQ Home Expo that periodically appears at the NM State Fairgrounds. During that two-day period, I sold 36 books. The next weekend we were off to Continue reading A Bountiful August

Monday Observations

This morning was a fairly typical beginning of the week. I’m looking to get organized for the next seven days, and I’m brimming with insights.

DSCF22331.  I’ve Become My Father – No lie, I remember when I was much younger, I saw my father entering into “old fogeyness” (if that’s not a word it should be!) It seemed to me he railed against everything new and, in my opinion, exciting. Whereas all my life we’d enjoyed the same music, now he thought Elvis Presley was too loud and vulgar. Not only that, but his conversations were peppered with phrases like, “Well when I was young . . .”; “In my day we were more . . . ” and similar observations. I think he would love being here now to see Continue reading Monday Observations

Conferences, Confidences, and Chums

The wind that should have blown in March, continues into April, and I’m so tired of it! I cough a great deal, and it makes me edgy and unsettled. I’m ready for the REAL spring!DSCN1460 DSCN1305 DSCN1334 - Version 2 DSCN1304 DSCN1302

We had a fabulous trip to Colorado Springs in March at Left Coast Crime. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon late, and all was fine until we woke up Saturday morning to a icy cold day with snow all over the place! It wouldn’t have been so bad except our hotel rooms were all separated from the main building that housed the conference and eating facilities. It also caused a huge delay in our long-anticipated Saturday afternoon interview of Craig Johnson by Lou Diamond Philips.  Poor Lou was stuck in the airport in Albuquerque waiting for the Denver airport to start receiving flights. He finally arrived during the banquet Saturday night about 9:30 p.m. The interview got going at 11 p.m. (only seven hours later than scheduled!) But Lou and Craig were great troopers and were in fine form.

I tremendously enjoyed the panels I sat on. It felt really good to finally be up there as a published author. The Sunday morning panel was the best of all. Catriona McPherson is a hoot! She had everybody in stitches, and the panelists went along for the fun-filled ride. Catriona was born in Scotland and has the most delicious accent. She won the Bruce Alexander Historical mystery award the night before at the banquet, so spirits were high for the 9 a.m. session. The authors on that panel were such good ad libbers, and the questions kept the audience laughing. We all had a great time, and it was the perfect top off for the conference.

My traveling chums, Charlene (our intrepid driver) and Margaret (my wing-woman) were such fun to be with. Our rides up and back were non-stop conversation. This did not and does not surprise my husband in the least. He maintains that each time our critique group gets together (of which Charlene and Margaret are members) the talk is constant, simultaneous and impossible for him to follow tucked away in his office down the hall. He says we make his head spin, and he closes his door to shut us out. He says men’s head are filled with individual boxes. A guy takes out one box, which contains one subject, like perhaps sports, and he deals with that subject. Then he puts that box away and takes out a box for some other subject. He even has a boxed labeled “Nothing” and when he has that box open, and his wife asks him what he’s thinking, he says, “Nothing,” and it’s completely true!

Women, on the other hand, have all these wires crisscrossing back and forth in their brains. He says we access everything, all at once, all the time. To illustrate to me how my mind and that of my friends works, he places his fingers above his head, wiggles them frantically, and makes a long, drawn-out buzzing sound. He sounds like a bee, and he says that’s what our brains do.

But I digress. We had informative, instructive and deeply revealing conversations both up there and coming back. The only thing better would be hiring a driver with a van that would hold eleven of us, and we could all talk, all the time, the entire trip. Of course, we’d have to put the driver in a sound proof booth, or he’d lose is mind!

Hey, maybe that would be the thing for Left Coast Crime 2014 in Monterrey, California!

Three Women and a Conference: The Initiation of a New Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday starts the week of initiation. I’m frantically preparing for a five-day stay in Colorado Springs for Left Coast Crime 2013. This conference will mark my debut in the world of authors, and for the first time, my book and I will be introduced to attendees. I’ve been waiting for this occasion so long it’s difficult to realize it’s almost here.

I’m driving up with two dear friends from my writers critique group. We’re called The Marvelous Ones, and for good reason. These women really are marvelous ones to have as friends and doing critiques of your work. I wish our entire group could go right along with us. But Margaret and Charlene will be good representatives for the team. They’ve promised to sit at my table at the New Author’s Breakfast on Friday morning and be my fans. I hope others will join them there!

After that, we will have another three days of panels to attend. Published authors will share their wisdom and experiences on such topics as: “The Lighter Side of Death & Dismemberment”; “Read My Shorts”; “You Don’t Have To Be A Lawyer To Kill Like One”; and the two I’ve been invited to be a panelist for, “Occupations To Die For” and “Breaking & Entering: Tales of the First Sale.”

It’s a great opportunity to meet new writers and mystery fans, learn new skills, and for me, begin to feel like a real writer. (I’ve already experienced a taste of that feeling when friends who’ve already bought the book give me feedback. That is a real thrill.) Then  Sunday afternoon, we pack up and make the drive home. With three of us all trying to talk at once about our wonderful weekend, it should be an entertaining seven hours!

On Easter Sunday, I’m having my first “official” book signing at Treasure House Books and Gifts in Old Town Albuquerque. I can’t thank John Hoffsis and his dad, Jim enough for being so supportive, not only to me, but to all the other local writers. I’ll be there from 1:00 to 3:00 that day, handing out candy-filled Easter eggs and signing books. That morning at 9:00 a.m. I’ll be a guest on the Terrie Q. Sayre Show on 770 AM, KKOB Radio. Terrie has been very kind to let me and my fellow ham radio operators appear on her show the past three years to promote the annual ARRL Field Day activities. Now I get to tell her and her audience about The Easter Egg Murder.

I’ve already gone through almost thirty of the books I ordered from the publisher. I’m also taking thirty to Left Coast Crime to be sold in their book store. We’ll see how many I have left after that. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not! This is so exciting and dream fulfilling. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s no longer something living in my imagination! It’s here and now, and it’s real! Wahoo!!! Bring it on!!

And so the fun begins . . .

Back in the dark ages (before I understood the nature of these things) I figured finding a publisher for my book would be the biggest hurdle and most difficult part of the writing process. Well, as you know from reading my previous post, that happened on September 6 last year. One would think I’d have all sorts of time for blogging and catching up on things.Cover

One would be wrong! Granted, finding a publisher is a huge part of the equation. I also knew (somewhere in the back of my head where life has a kind of story-book quality) that soon I’d be editing and promoting the book. What I didn’t realize was how fully it could consume a person and how I, in particular, seemed paralyzed to focus on anything else. From the moment I received the good news that I had a publisher, my brain started buzzing. What things did I need to do in preparation for the day I had the book in my hand? Who knew this would also be hard?

So it went. Each day my brain got more fevered. I needed to tell all the bookstores, “I’m on my way!” My friends at Treasure House Books in Old Town were jubilant for me and very amenable to hosting a book signing for me. Then there was my next encounter.

I was full of the enthusiasm only a newly contracted writer would understand. After years of dreams and toil, I had a book coming out. One afternoon I happened to be in the neighborhood of a store in which, over the course of thirty years, I’ve spent a lot of money. This was the first time I wanted something from them. I naively approached the first person I encountered and asked who I could speak to about buying my book. He directed me to another employee in the front of the store. I repeated my question. He informed me they took used books in each day, and that I would receive cash or store credit for turning them in.

Huh? Then I realized I was talking to the poor schlub who takes on all the outcast books from owners cleaning out their bookshelves. “No, no,” I quickly protest, “You don’t understand. I’ve written a book that is being published even as we speak, and I want you to order it from Ingram, put it on your shelves, and invite me to hold a book signing in your fair establishment.”

His raised eyebrows and weary expression (and yes, you can have both) told me I was definitely on the wrong track. “Lady, you need to talk to our manager. Maybe he can help you.”

So back I went to the bowels of the store and found the proper person. I repeated my fully rehearsed question. He heaved a huge sigh. “We only stock books by well-known authors.”

I explain that my books will be sold through the book distributor, Ingram.

He shakes his head.

“But,” says me, “I’m a local author. The book is set in Albuquerque and surrounding area. This is a book you should want on your shelves.”

“Lady,” (I’m now getting close to not fitting the description of a lady . . . at least by old school standards which require I not spew forth invectives) “we only stock books by local authors like Tony Hillerman or someone equally famous.”

I’m thinking, (thank God to myself) how the Hell do you think Tony Hillerman got to be famous if somebody didn’t stock his books so people could buy them, and he could GET famous? But instead, I smile . . . my most dazzling smile. Then he relents a tiny bit.

“Well, we allow all self-published authors and anyone who has a book to sell to come in one Saturday a month and  bring their books.”

Not to be denied, I try another ploy. “How about I bring in a supply of my books that I purchase from the publisher. Then you could put them on your shelf and sell them, couldn’t you?”

I get the raised eyebrow again. These guys clearly need lessons in other facial expressions. “Sure thing, Lady. You bring them in if you want to. We don’t guarantee they won’t be stolen, though, and we aren’t liable for your losses.”

Gee, such a deal. I smile, eyes narrowed (I hope he noticed the eye thing) and thanked him. I’m out of that store and not likely to return.

I see everywhere that brick and mortar stores are having a rough time. People are buying at discount chains and on Amazon. I’m sure I won’t make a difference to that store’s bottom line. But if they can’t even stock books by local authors, then they don’t need my business.

So I’m off to talk to other, more friendly bookstores. We have several locally owned stores who seem to appreciate our local talent. I’m sure to have better luck with them. There’s also the libraries all around the area. I need to find out who to sweet talk into stocking their shelves with my book.

I hope I talk to you before next year!

Sometimes Dreams Come True

Since I was very small, I’ve had a big imagination. Until I was a teenager I was an only child, so the imagination was a great playmate. I created stories in my head and acted them out. Sometimes I acted out plays with my dolls, or my miniature people in the doll house I had. The dolls and tiny figurines had great adventures, ate many imaginary meals, and slept quite a bit.

I also read voraciously. I remember the summer I was thirteen; I read almost every novel my mother owned. She had quite a collection of historical novels of the day, and I read them in between reading the books I acquired on my own. There were the Judy Bolton mysteries by Margaret Sutton, and I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club, which supplied a new volume each month.

As time went on, I tried my hand at writing, putting that imagination to work for me. Nothing much came of it for a long time. Then I became inspired to write a mystery based on a real murder. It would be highly fictional, and in my version, the bad guys would be brought to justice. I now had a dream, and it would drive me for several years. I decided this would be my goal: to create a decent mystery story, tighten and perfect it as much as I could, and get it published.

I had many surges of hope as I talked to agents and editors. I submitted one version or another to many different people. I entered the first twenty pages in a contest two different times. I got one great critique and one not so great. The dream was battered often, but it held steady and refused to die. I became a member of a wonderful writers’ critique group, and those women did more than anything else to help keep the dream alive.

This past Thursday afternoon the magic happened. I found an email waiting in my inbox from a publisher I had queried in July. We had exchanged emails a couple of times and eventually they asked for the entire manuscript. That had happened before, and it went nowhere. You try to keep that hope going, but you don’t want to pin the entire dream on it. If it crashes, it might crush the dream.

This time there was no crash . . . only the thrill and rush that comes with being offered a publishing contract. It’s never happened to me before, so I can’t say how normal my reaction was. I’ve been walking on air ever since, and I have what appears to be a permanent, sappy grin on my face all the time. All I know is the dream is on its way.

I can tell you one thing that, for me, is absolutely true: It’s the best feeling in the world having your dream come true!

Don’t Waste An Opportunity

Have you ever considered writing your life story? I don’t necessarily mean for sale and publication, although there are many people doing just that these days. I’m thinking more of what the process might mean to family after you’re gone.

A dear friend of mine volunteers for a hospice group, and one of her duties is recording life stories for hospice patients. These people have reached the point in their lives when they know their time on earth is limited. Often they may have only a matter of days or even hours Continue reading Don’t Waste An Opportunity

Innocence Ain’t What It Used To Be

Since I was a teenager in the 1950s, my “awareness” of life and some of it’s more “adult” themes was, at age 18, not what the youth of today would understand. Let’s face it. When I was a teenager, “I Love Lucy” was the biggest show on television and “Lucy” and “Ricky” slept in twin beds. In fact, any time a married couple’s bedroom was shown on television or in the movies, they had twin beds. Even in the 1960s, on the Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob and Laura Petrie had twin beds. All this is by way of letting you know that young, unmarried girls (at least those in the group I grew up with) lived in an atmosphere that didn’t impart much knowledge about sex.So, having set the stage, I will tell you about an incident that occurred on my first job after high school. A week after graduation, I got a position at Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company as a stenographer in the State Engineering Department. I was part of a “steno pool” of girls who Continue reading Innocence Ain’t What It Used To Be