Saturday, December 23, 2006

Support Groups Needed

Whether published by a small independent press or one of the big guns, authors these days simply must help with the promotion of their books. This necessity has brought about the onset of a condition called “Promo Preoccupation” in which authors begin to see publicity opportunities in every situation. I know this condition exists because, unfortunately, I have been stricken with it myself.

I’ve extracted promises from my family that should I—God forbid—die accidentally or become the victim of a horrendous crime, they will capitalize on the subsequent news coverage and get exposure for my books. Hey, if I have to die a tragic death, the least they can do is sell some books from it.

I mean, come on. How hard would it be to slip a copy of my books into my dead hands and make sure the title is clearly visible for when the CSI photographers take their shots? Or, barring the opportunity for this, they could always just hold copies themselves while giving their grief-stricken interviews to the media about how they’ve merely lost a mother or wife, but the world has lost the female equivalent of Shakespeare.

Then there’s the advanced stage of the condition that causes the sufferer to invent ways for staging the kind of news stories that send the media into a feeding frenzy. You know, like hostage situations, kidnappings, children in wells, murder-suicides. Okay, strike that last one. Kinda hard to stage that.

For example, I have this great idea to get publicity for True Blue Forever. Since my 21-year-old son TJ is adorable and—more importantly—is a look-alike for Billy Joe, one of the most popular characters in the book, I could stage his kidnapping by a crazed Billy Joe fan! There would be a nationwide campaign to help me find my baby boy, with plenty of televised, tearful pleas by yours truly.

Picture this:

Joyce on the Today show with Matt Lauer-- "Oh, Matt. I'm just so distraught over the thought of my poor TJ being subjected to the amorous advances of a psychotic teenaged girl! If I'd known something like this would happen, I would never have written this Southern coming-of-age novel, (holds copy aloft for the camera) available from Authors Ink Books,, or through your favorite bookstore. Group discounts available to reading groups and search team volunteers. Matt, I just want my precious son back unharmed. Is that too much for a mother to ask?"

Then, just as the FBI converges on the remote cabin where TJ has been located, thanks to a clever message he manages to send via homing pigeon, the "culprit" escapes through the back door, never to be caught. TJ is found tied to a chair, covered with lipstick kisses and wearing a big smile.

It can't fail! TJ will become the next teen idol, he'll be a shoo-in for the role of Billy Joe in the True Blue Forever movie that Ron Howard directs and Madonna produces, (with "True Blue" as the theme song, of course) and my book will be off the charts in sales!

What? TJ doesn’t have a problem with it. And if I get caught, think of all the publicity opportunities during the arrest and trial!

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oh, Canada!

I don't know how I'm going to relate this entry to writing, but it had to be said.


No, not in a romantic sense, although he IS as cute as a baby's tushy. I love his showmanship, his sense of humor, his unpretentiousness, his appreciation for and recognition of the gifted musicians in his band, and his genuine love for the kind of music he has brought to a new generation of listeners.

But, most of all, I love his velvety voice that could make aboriginal war chants sound heavenly. The only song cover I've ever heard him do that I didn't like better than any other version is "Mack The Knife," and that's only because Bobby Darin's original is impossible to improve upon.

And the story behind Michael Bublé's (notice how I'm able to produce the properly accented "é" in his name. Not everyone can do that, you know!) musical career just makes him even more lovable. He was introduced to the old standards he came to love by his grandfather, who used to do free plumbing work for Vancouver musicians in exchange for their letting Michael perform a few numbers with them onstage, since Michael was too young to be booked in clubs at the time. In 2004, Michael took his grandfather on tour with him in Italy, and he dedicates "You'll Never Know" to his granddad when he sings it in concert. How can you not love a guy who loves his granddad?

I was fortunate enough to see Michael in concert last July, (I have the BEST sister in the world who treated me!) and it was an incredible show in every aspect. He's funny, self-deprecating, gracious, and he can sing any kind of music imaginable. He does a dead-on impression of Michael Jackson (including some enjoyable crotch grabbing!) and when he mocks Josh Groban (one of his best friends), it's hilarious.

If you've never heard Michael Bublé sing or have only heard his released singles ("Home," "Save the Last Dance For Me" and "Feeling Good"), then do yourself a favor and put his IT'S TIME CD on your Christmas list and put some asterisks and exclamation points beside it so Santa gets the message.

Hey, asterisks and exclamations points have to do with writing. Success!

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.

P.S. If you go to Michael's website ( you automatically get to hear three of his songs!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Vive la Tabby!

I just found out Tabitha King has another book out. Yay! She’s one of my favorite writers, although I didn’t realize it at first. Sure, I knew her books were engrossing stories about gritty characters who lived and loved at full tilt, but these same characters sometimes did things so incredibly stupid and screwed up their lives so royally that I found myself yelling at them on the pages of the books and sometimes throwing said books across the room, swearing I wasn’t going to finish reading them.

Of course, I did finish them. All of them. Some of them I’ve even read more than once, because I found myself thinking about those infuriating characters of hers long after I’d finished the books. That’s when I realized what an amazing talent Ms. King has for characterization. I might sometimes want to hit her characters upside the head with a limb and knock some sense into them (especially those bad-assed heroines of hers), but I always care about what happens to them and feel as if they’re real people she’s introduced me to. And they love with a depth that endures even the moronic things she makes them do just to stir things up. At least she doesn’t kill off all of them like some other writers who hail from Maine.

Speaking of Steve-O, (I read somewhere that he hates to be called that!) I’ve been known to read a few of his books as well. Okay, ALL of his books. But I don’t read them for the horror content. I read them because he does a pretty decent job of characterization himself, and the imagery he creates in some of his scenes using the simplest objects in the world tend to stick with me forever. I often find myself seeing colored auras around people, sparrows give me the creeps, and I always give sewer drains a wide berth.

What gets me is when I tell someone that I love Tabitha King’s books, and they say, “I didn’t even know Stephen King’s wife was a writer.” Don’t you know she gives him Holy Hell whenever she reads something like that on an Internet message board? I can just see her whacking him on the back of the head and saying, “See, if you weren’t always hogging the limelight with all those silly monster books of yours, maybe people would hear about MY books!”

I’m doing my best to help you get the word out, Tabby.

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Books for Soldiers

I recently became an official volunteer at the Books For Soldiers website so that I could donate copies of my own books to deployed soldiers. I encourage all my fellow writers to do the same, but you don't have to be a writer to help. The need among the troops for books and other supplies is so great, and I urge everyone to join this program and send a few care packages of books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, snacks, personal care items, or anything else that will help make a soldier’s tour of duty a little easier.

Please go to and register to become an official volunteer. Once you’re approved, you’ll have access to the list of needs the soldiers post or their families post on their behalf, along with their address overseas. You can also become a soldier’s pen pal and possibly be the only link to home they have. Trust me, the responses you’ll get from the soldiers and their overwhelming gratitude will touch your heart and reward you immeasurably for your efforts.

I also encourage everyone who has bought my books to please send them to a soldier when you’re done with them. If you can't become a volunteer for some reason, send the books to me (contact info on my pages at Authors Den) and I'll ship them to soldiers for you. These brave men and women risk their lives for us every single day, and we all—regardless of our political views or personal feelings about the war—owe these real-life heroes a much larger debt of gratitude than we could ever repay, but this program is a good way to make a worthwhile down payment.

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's 2006, Y'all

I write Southern fiction. I know it's Southern fiction because it's set in the South and I've lived in southern Alabama all my life--how much more Southern can you get? But, apparently, some people don't consider a book to be Southern fiction unless it contains at least two characters who either sport beehive hairdos or have names like Lula Mae Ledbetter or Cletis Joe Clampett. And they need to eat lots of cornbread and collards or biscuits and red-eye gravy while they hang out at greasy spoons like MawMaw's Kitchen and talk about the time they faced the wrath of the Klan by inviting Pearlie Lou's grandson Jamarcus to little Clementine's sixth birthday party.

Sorry, but my friends and family have names like Robin and Stephen, I've never seen a Klansman in real life, and neither cornbread nor biscuits are on the Atkins diet, so I only eat them on special occasions. My books have plenty of Southern charm and ambience, but it's not forced the way it seems to be in some (but definitely not all) of those "down-home" Southern books. And I absolutely refuse to throw in racial unrest where there is none just to attract the attention of Yankee--ahem, I mean, Northern editors who have no idea what it's really like in the South.

TRUE BLUE FOREVER is a prime example of this. Its characters attend Vigor High School, the predominantly black school I attended that made the national news because of the race riots that went on there in the early seventies. Of course, all that was over by the time I went there from 76-80, and race was truly a non-issue for my classmates and me, so I refused to play it up in TRUE BLUE FOREVER just so I could claim to publishers that my book was a social statement on desegregation and civil rights. I have both black and white characters in TRUE BLUE FOREVER, but I refused to portray them any way other than the way my classmates and I got along--without race being an issue.

BTW, I had a book signing yesterday at a local independent book store called Black Classics, Books and Gifts. Race wasn't an issue there either. And we didn't sit around eating chicken and dumplings with cat-head biscuits for sopping up the gravy.

Although. . . I think I'll make some chicken and dumplings for supper tonight. Better go make a big pitcher of sweet tea to go with it, so I gotta run.


~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Separation of Church and God

You know, I’m really starting to resent the negative fallout those of us with God in our lives get because of all the self-righteous hypocrites who give Christians a bad name. More and more every day I see the behavior of churches and their devoted members doing more to turn people away from God than Satan and his followers ever dreamed of doing.

Case in point, my second book, DIFFERENT ROADS, just received an overall positive review from an online book club, and while the reviewer liked my heroine’s hard-edged, gritty realism, he couldn’t stomach her spiritual growth at the book’s end, even though her fledgling relationship with God is completely personal and doesn’t involve any churchgoing or religious rhetoric whatsoever. And this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that my edgy heroine is weakened by her spiritual growth, although the only thing weak about Jaycee is her resistance to a certain dark-eyed rich boy with legs to die for. Clearly, these people are turned off by anything to do with God no matter how inoffensively it’s presented, and I think that’s just as much of a shame as when religious zealots automatically shun certain people without giving them a chance. I hate bigotry no matter how it presents itself.

While I expected this kind of reaction for DIFFERENT ROADS because of the contrast between Jaycee’s behavior in the beginning and later on in the story, I was surprised at the reaction TRUE BLUE FOREVER has gotten on the subject of religion. Although my teenaged characters have exceptional morals, because they abstain from sex to avoid an unplanned pregnancy instead of for religious reasons, a few Christian parents have said they didn’t want their teenaged children given such an “amoral” message. I’m sorry, but shouldn’t we be happy if our kids abstain from sex until they’re out of their teens no matter what the reason?

Oh, well. It’s not as if I have any control over how my characters behave or how the plots in my books unfold. I just write them the way they tell me to.

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Greatest Influence

Arnold Randolph Sterling Sr.
Feb. 14, 1923 - Sept. 4, 2006

My daddy was liked by everyone who ever knew him. Born to R.E. and Ida Mae Sterling in Norfield, Mississippi, he graduated from Picayune High School. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. At the termination of his enlistment in 1954, he was chief clerk of the Army Finance Office at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, and that's where he met my mother, Betty Jean Abernathy. One night he and his army buddies went to my grandfather's bar in Las Cruces where she was waiting tables, and he went back the next day to find out her name, because all he remembered from his first visit was her legs. He bought her wedding dress with silver dollars he won at the racetrack, and they went on their honeymoon in his powder blue '49 Cadillac.

He retired from the Terminal Railway at the Alabama State Docks in 1985, but he kept his love for the railroad and trains all his life. He had several collections of train whistles that he listened to, and he shared many wonderful stories with us of his early years spent on the tracks logging boxcars, gondolas, and hoppers before he moved into the yard office. I know the reason I'm able to write books is that he gave me his gift for storytelling.

Never would you call my daddy that you weren’t greeted by the most cheerful “hello” you’d ever heard, and he had a joke for every situation. He even had the ambulance attendants and ER personnel at the hospital laughing when they took him in two weeks ago. My sister and my brother and I got a call from him every night with a detailed weather forecast for the next day, any new jokes featured in Reader’s Digest, and some bit of trivia or obscure news item we could “tell all the girls on coffee break.”

A lifelong lover of music and talented guitarist whose father taught him to play at the age of six, my daddy filled our house every Sunday with Dixieland jazz, cowboy trail songs, gospel hymns, country songs, folk music, and rock-n-roll. He passed on this appreciation for all types of music to his children and grandchildren, and we all know the words to songs from as far back as the 30s. As recently as last month, he served as the “disc jockey” for the senior citizens at his apartment complex, and he had a vast collection of music that he’d painstakingly recorded onto cassette tapes in different categories to fit whatever occasion they were celebrating.

Although he didn’t attend church, he was a devout Christian who’d read the Bible from cover-to-cover many times, and he taught us about God through Bible stories he retold in his own words, modern parables he made up himself, and family games like Bible drills and memorizing verses, but our best lesson was the example he set for us because of the kind of man he was.

Born with one of the softest hearts in the world, he loved animals of all kinds, all the way down to the smallest of creatures. I remember him telling me when I was little about the colony of sugar ants on one of the piers at the Alabama State Docks that he fed every day on his lunch hour. He’d come home every night and tell me what kind of foods they liked and which ones they hadn’t cared for, and every Sunday afternoon I would sit in his lap and watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and learn about animals right along with him. This love and respect for all God’s creatures and exceptionally soft heart is another legacy he passed on to his children and grandchildren. My brother Randy carries birdseed in his car to feed hungry birds in parking lots, and my daughter Tia has been a vegetarian since she was 14 as a personal statement against the cruel treatment of animals.

Generous to a fault, my daddy was always giving things away, and he loved giving gifts and treats. When my sister Michaelé and I were little, he would come home from work with candy or cookies hidden in his coat pockets, and whichever one we found first was the one we got to eat. Before he stopped driving, he loved going to yard sales and buying knick-knacks and odd items like singing coin banks and fiber optic flower arrangements for everyone in the family, and he’d always say they were practically “brand spanking new.” He gladly spent all his extra money on his grandchildren, and never did they go to see him that he didn’t have them some kind of snack. Never also was there ever a Paw Paw loved more by his grandchildren, no matter how old or how young they are.

My daddy taught my siblings and me many things as we were growing up. He taught me how to tie my shoes, how to count in Japanese, how to draw a boy and a dog out of the letters in the words, how to do string tricks and play clock solitaire, how to be patient, how to tell right from wrong, and how to live by the Golden Rule. But the most important thing he taught me was how to recognize a good man, because he was the finest one I’ve ever known.

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Memorable Scenes

If you're a music lover like me, you know how certain songs always make you think of a specific person, place, or time, and you remember it vividly every time you hear the song. Well, I have a literary version of that phenomenon that makes me remember specific scenes from books I've read.

For instance, every time I see one of those subscription cards that are constantly falling out of magazines, I think about the woman in Gerald's Game by Stephen King who used one of those cards as a straw so she could drink water from a glass on the headboard of the bed she's handcuffed to. Another one is whenever I'm washing potatoes for baking, I always think of Amber scrubbing the meager potatoes she and Bruce had to eat in Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. Juicy sandwiches always remind me of the ones eaten by Detective Delaney in Lawrence Sanders' Deadly Sin books, sparrows make me think of The Dark Half by Stephen King, and drinking a Dr. Pepper always takes me back to the one Marlene drinks in My Sweet Charlie by David Westheimer.

One of my favorite fantasies is one day having people think of scenes from my books like this. Sigh . . .

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Virgin Post

Okay, fellow bloggers. Be gentle with me!

I'm told by my publisher, my writing buddies, and the authors of all those books I bought on how to promote online that writers must have a blog in order to compete in the self-promotion world. So here I am, blogging away and wondering who (besides my husband who knows best how to suck up with me) will ever read this, but here goes.

My first novel is entitled True Blue Forever and was published twice--once in 2003 by The-Publisher-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and again in 2005 by Authors Ink Books. (In case you're wondering about all the blue references, it's the only color in the world as far as I'm concerned.) My second novel, Different Roads, was also published by AIB this past July. Those so inclined can read samples and find useful buying links at my Authors Den pages. If you have plenty of time to waste (translated: you're at work) you can also read my short stories, sappy poems, and some humorous articles I probably should have saved for blogs posts! Okay, don't read the articles because they may just show up here later on if I run out of material!

My third novel (Symmetry) is completed and currently being shopped around to every agent on the face of the Earth, because this one features a previously ignored health and social issue I feel strongly about and want to talk about in the national media, but more on that later. Much, much more. Probably more than any of you care to hear, but too bad. This is my blog!

Okay, so this is my introductory post. I realize it's lacking in the profound insight department (except for my signoff line that I think is kinda cool) but I'll try to do better in the future. Right now I must go check my sales figures to see if this blog stuff is working.

Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!