Monday, July 28, 2014

Past lives and Present lovers


This is an excerpt from Mayans, Muscadine and Murder. Dabney's genetic memory brings the past into the present. I really think this turned out to be a beautiful story of love and friendship that transcends time. 
I held up my hand to silence the applause and picked up the microphone to an ear-piercing shriek. Thinking it was feedback, I held the microphone as far away from the speaker as I could. Then I heard the second scream and all heads turned in the direction of the periwinkle shed with floating yellow metal butterflies attached to the side of the building. My heart took a leap when I saw Tasha, Bernice’s seven year-old daughter, running toward us screaming. Standing as I was above the crowd, I could see a little girl with long black hair, around three years-old, kneeling between the rows of that allotment rocking back and forth and sobbing. Others still looked around confused about from where the noise came.
Regardless of being constricted by FanEx and handicapped by Sister’s borrowed extremely high-heeled Manolo Blahniks sinking into the soft dirt, I made my way off the stage and ran down the path toward the children. I caught Tasha up in my arms. 
“She’s bleeding and won’t move!” Tasha told me. 
My first thought was the child I saw. I abandoned the Manolo Blahniks as I handed Tasha off to her mother Bernice and ran barefoot after Palmer Police Chief Carrow Dee Gunther who moved mighty fast for such a big woman. I glanced toward the periwinkle painted shed and caught a glimpse of a man in fatigues deformed by severe burns carrying a ratty pink knit baby blanket appear from inside. Alarmed by something he saw behind me, he turned and ran in the opposite direction. The child I saw from the stage had disappeared.
 I did not see the shovel lying in the path and went sprawling full length and face to face with a woman only partially buried beneath the marigolds and nasturtiums. Her brown eyes stared sightlessly at me. My head pounded.
“Ilyana?” I cried out. And then I passed out.
-------------------------------------------------------------
“Ilyana!” Saroya pulled the cloak now wet with blood from her friend to press and staunch the flow. So many wounds both healed and festering. And now, the newest that she knew would take her friend’s life.
The child crawled to Ilyana with tears flowing and laid her tiny body across her. Ilyana lifted her arm to comfort the child.
“This is K’inich Balam’s only living child. I have brought her to you,” she said. Blood bubbled at her lips.
 “I stayed until only one of the young daughters of Lady T’abi and K’inich Balam still lived,” Ilyana whispered as I held her in my arms. The blood gushed from Ilyana’s frail body despite my efforts to save her. Kish broke the spear, but knew to pull it out would cause the loss of even more blood. I kept pressure against the wound in a futile effort to stem the flow of blood.
Ilyana touched my cheek to make me focus on her words. She knew her life ebbed with every beat of her heart. Tears flooded down my face. My dear friend. My valiant protector.
-----------------------------------------------------------------

I awoke on a cot in a shed with my heart pounding, tears in my eyes and a scream about to erupt from my lips. It took me a moment to come back to myself and get oriented to the present. The tin roof reverberated with pounding rain. The dream remained vivid. Ever since the SpedEx truck ran into Kevin and me at the intersection we passed through every day of our lives, killing my husband of thirty-five years, the theory of genetic memory confronted me in a way that made me pay attention. From that point forward, what seemed to be ancient memories locked in my subconscious surfaced in a way that transformed my life. At first they were vague. But now these strange visions became stranger, more intense -- and more frequent.

Humor and Depth to Mint Julep Mysteries



I thought I would mention the spiritual aspect of the Mint Julep Mysteries. Dabney is a genealogist, Master gardener, star of a hit cooking show, Partying on the Plantation, on the Dishing It Network, though she cannot cook, mother, grandmother, and prayer. She is a real person and lets a few expletives escape now and then (not really bad ones), she wants to do right and be right but when the going gets tough she knows where to find her strength.

From Book 2: Mint Juleps and Murder:
"I awoke to the sound of something slithering beside me. Faye Lynne wore a nylon nightgown…but that slither did not sound like this slither. I opened my eyes and realized I was not still in Sister’s bed with Sister and Faye Lynne. I looked up and saw the light of a bright blue sky in the distance. But, it was like I was looking through a tunnel to see that blue sky. My hands were sticky and there was no light there where I lay looking through that tunnel to the light. My feet were elevated, propped against the side of that tunnel. If I was dead and headed through a tunnel to go to Heaven I had somehow gotten stuck somewhere along the way.
Maybe I was in Hell.
Wouldn’t that be a hell of a note? Finally become a star of the Dishing It Network, a geriatric sex symbol about to publish a romance novel with Fabio on the cover, and then all of a sudden… just… croak? I always said it was dangerous just to be alive.
I wonder how I died.
If I just be still a minute and think of Jesus, maybe He’ll zap me on up, I thought.
I looked at the clouds way up beyond the end of that tunnel and I started to sing to myself. “Jesus, Jesus, the precious Son of God, Sweetest Rose of Sharon, Born to set men free, Jesus, Jesus, You’re everything to me.”
I kept on humming that song, but it soon became obvious that this wasn’t the tunnel to Heaven and those slithery things I heard around me were not angels’ wings. At least not yet.
So, if not in Hell, then where the hell was I?"

She participates with Ruby T in a charity review to help the "homeless, hopeless, helpless, and hungry." In Book 3, they build a Victory Garden near a tent city where homeless veterans gather.

The books are fun, but there is depth there as well.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

BISAC codes do matter!

My sister, Dr. Sylvia Burson Rushing, and I collaborated on the Wakefield Plantation: history and cookbook with primer on Southern manners and etiquette. We thought it appropriate with the publication of the Mint Julep Mysteries to get the background of the inspiration for those mysteries out there.

On the continuing saga of publishing the novels. One thing I had not realized was so important was the BISAC identification. What is this? It is how Amazon and Kindle (and libraries) label your books. At first I labeled the books Fiction/Mysteries/Women Sleuth. My first review came in with two stars. That was very disappointing until I looked at the books the reviewer normally reads. They are heavy duty mysteries with blood and guts and a hard nosed female detective. I then realized she did not like my book because it wasn't the genre she was accustomed to. So, she actually did me a favor. I decided my books are more the Fiction/Mystery/Cozy variety. So I have gotten Kindle and Amazon to recode the novels.

Who knew so much hinged on every detail of identification. I am sure folks who like to read a certain genre and get something not quite what they are accustomed to WOULD be disappointed. Also, my books are truly Southern and that may offend some. Sometimes the books are a bit bawdy. That may offend some. In addition, Dabney prays and they go to church. But that is THE SOUTH! 

I looked up a definition for cozy mystery and found one at http://www.cozy-mystery.com/Definition-of-a-Cozy-Mystery.html.  

 A “fun read” that engages the mind, as well as provides entertainment…                            Check!

The crime-solver in a cozy mystery is usually a woman who is an amateur sleuth. Almost always, she has a college degree                                                                                                      Double Check!

The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village. The small size of the setting makes it believable that all the suspects know each other.                                                                     Check!

Although the cozy mystery sleuth is usually not a medical examiner, detective, or police officer, a lot of times her best friend, husband, or significant other is.                                                        Check!


In a series, it is important that the characters are likeable, so that the reader will want to visit them again. The supporting characters are equally important to the reader.                                     Check!

Cozy mysteries are considered “gentle” books… no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex.                                                                                                                                             Check

Sex (if there is any) is always behind closed doors. It is implied…. at most!                           Check!

Cozy mysteries tend to be fast-paced, with several twists and turns throughout each book.     Check!                                                                                                                                      


The cozy mystery puts an emphasis on plots and character development.                                Check!

So, Mint Julep Mysteries must be cozy mysteries!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Genre. Now I'm writing Mysteries! Marketing blues.

This marker in Key West marks the beginning of U.S. 1 at the most southern point of our country. Kind of reminds me of the beginning of launching a totally new genre for me -- mystery.

You'd think getting your books written, with covers and published you'd be home free. Nope. Every time you look at the book you find another error! But, the good thing about Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing is that you can correct those errors.

The next step is the Marketing. I am lucky. I have a dear friend who is a Publicist and if I need her help, I know I can call upon her. She really puts you to work, however, arranging for festivals, book fairs and book signings. While I do enjoy those, they are exhausting. But necessary, I suppose.

I have found that whether you are with a big publishing house or self-publishing, the responsibility for marketing is primarily on the author's shoulders. So, today, I have worked on the Author pages of my website (http://www.sharmanbursonramsey.com), once again edited the newsletter/flyer I created for the Mint Julep series, and combed through my Contact list and divided it into groups. I chose a few of those groups to send the flyer to. Found an error in Wakefield and corrected it which required uploading a new copy. And now I am working on the blog.

I wonder who reads this and what they think when they do.

And I called my cousin, Clair, who let me read some of my book to her. She laughed at all the right parts and then went to Kindle and downloaded Book 1, Creme de Cassis and Murder. She always has been one of my favorite cousins. Those with whom we grow up are so much a part of us that when we write, they must always become a part of the fictional world we create. I wonder if she will see a bit of herself in my books. She invited me to call her back and read to her some more. Is it any wonder I love her?

I have encouraged everyone I have contacted to pass the newsletter/flyer on and to write a review. Those truly matter. I will find out if there remains a bias if one publishes through Createspace. It's a new world out there on the literary playing field. I think of Stephanie McAffee's success with her Diary of a Mad Fat Girl. 122,000 copies sold the first year. No agent would take her before she self-published the book. Afterward they were knocking at her door. I'm sure there are lots of books out there that remained in drawers because they crossed an agents desk on a bad day or on a day she/he had already read their quota and didn't like the title so they filed it in the round file.

At least I pulled my books out of the file. I'll give it my best shot. I encourage those of you who read this to do the same thing! Nothing ventured nothing gained, you know.




Friday, July 18, 2014

Mint Julep Mysteries finally available on hard copy through Amazon and digitally through Kindle

I was never happy with the original cover for Mint Juleps and Murder, so I redesigned it. The ability to do so is one very good thing about Createspace. 

The Mint Julep Mystery series are all up on Amazon now. I have learned so much along the way. Createspace gives you a minimum recommended price for your novel. This price depends upon your choices for distribution. I opted for the Expanded Distribution which makes the books available to book stores and libraries and listing by Barnes and Noble, Ingram and NACSCORP, and Baker and Taylor. 


Kindle provided the jpeg for the covers and I also got a pdf of the book version to download and use wherever. Kindle suggested the price that produced the most sales for authors of books like mine. I took their advice and the books are listed on Kindle at $2.99. The Wakefield Plantation cookbook and history with a primer on Southern manners and etiquette is listed on Kindle at $4.99. They suggested other distribution ideas for making the most on the books and, once again, I took their advice so it is in their lending library as well. 




I am excited to see where this goes. They are bound to be far more lucrative being available somewhere than locked away in my computer. Thus far, publishing through Createspace and Kindle has cost me nothing but my time and all the sweat equity that went into writing these books. I look forward to whatever input folks choose to give me. I hope they think they are a fun read and they will take the time to write reviews so that others will also want to read them. 

Think Murder She Wrote but with two sisters who cannot cook and whom critics compare to Lucy and Ethel starring on a food show set on a plantation in Alabama. Spice it up with Rosemary and Thyme with an organic garden planted by the Cox County Master Gardeners around Waverly that inspires Victory Gardens around the country. Mix in romance with the Saks Fifth Avenue quality gentlemen who attend the Five O’clock Mint Julep Hour on the Waverly veranda. Season with Newhart appeal as Palmer, former ghost town, now attracts outdoorsman from around the world to the best deer hunting in the world. Add a dash of variety with a multicultural cast. Stir in the drug dealing serial killers upset with all that attention and a broad variety of heroes and villains and you have the Mint Julep Mysteries. Complicate everything with Dabney’s genetic memory, the result of the accident where the SpedEx truck killed her husband of 35 years and left Dabney in a coma from which she emerged in tune with past events that intrude into the present.

Those are the Mint Julep Mysteries. And now I will go on vacation to Key West and hope Catherine, the great white shark, has not decided to holiday there as well! We do plan to go snorkeling, but I'm not sure if she's become well-versed on manners and etiquette on her sojourn in the Gulf. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Casting Mint Juleps Mysteries



Mint Julep Mysteries Coming Soon!






Mint Julep Mysteries is the title of the series of books I am writing that includes the characters listed below. I write in scenes and it helps me to envision who I would have playing the parts. I know how arduous the Marketing part of writing can be; I have done a lot of that with my novels, Swimming with Serpents and In Pursuit. These are a totally different genre. Think Murder She Wrote meets Rosemary and Thyme and add in the Newhart show. Set the scene on an old plantation house in Alabama with two formerly estranged, newly widowed sisters (who cannot cook) who parlay their way onto the Dishing It Network with a cooking show they call Partying on the Plantation and you have the Mint Juleps Mysteries.

The Cover Creator on Create Space produced these covers. I am pleased with them. I'm now in the PROOFING process. I ordered a proof of the completed book and made the mistake of looking at the digital copy before receiving the hard copy. Somehow that copy had no page numbers or headers. So, I tried to correct it and sent the manuscript to the wrong book. That's what I get for working too late at night. So, this morning I had to send the right manuscripts back up to the right books. The physical proofs have been created and mailed so I should get them soon and will have to correct whatever errors I find combing through the physical copy.

This is the tedious part, but well worth it in the long run. I do want the best product possible.

This has definitely been an interesting adventure. These characters have taken on a life of their own. I cannot wait for you to meet them. I am also a writer of historical fiction, so when the adventure took on a past intruding on the present with genetic memory turn I guess that part of my brain stood up and told the creative part, don't forget about me!

Last night I found myself casting the major characters.
Dabney Palmer Rankin                  Delta Burke
Dr. Sophia Palmer Ransom            Susan Sarandon
Faye Lynne                                     Jessica Lange
Ruby T                                            Queen Latifah
Florence Newkirk                           Halle Berry
Kendrick Newkirk                          Shemar Moore
Police chief Carrow Dee Gunther   Melissa McCartney
Wilhelmina Mucklewrath Banks    Heather Locklear
Fredricka Pinkerton Amos              Heather Locklear
Dr. Gavin Crenshaw                        Richard Gere
Warren                                             Tom Selleck
Adam Rankin                                   Lucas Till
Reverend Roscoe T. Ledbetter         Forrest Whitaker
Hannibal Ledbetter                          Tequan Richmond
Harvey                                             Mark Harmon
Hartwell Banks                                Ed Harris
Bennett Chastain                              George Clooney
Estrellita Torres                                Maite Perronni
Pedro Torres                                      Benjamin Bratt
Julio Estavez                                     Diego Boneta
Ralph Stankey                                   Gary Busey
Elvis (a.k.a. Felix Forbes)                 Owen Wilson

In order to get attention to the series and their movie and TV series potential, I am looking at Amazon Story Builder at Amazon Studies to see if I can write a script they might find interesting. I would love to get input on others who have done so (sharmanramsey@gmail.com).


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Create Space Process

I recently made the decision to self-publish the novels I now call Mint Juleps Mysteries.  They have been through numerous edits and in the end I decided that others edited the life out of the novels. So, I went back as close as I could to the original and reread it. I decided I liked it. That's why the self-publishing concept appeals to me.

Soon the first three novels in the Mint Julep Mysteries (Creme de Cassis and MurderMint Juleps and Murder, and MayansMuscadine and Murder, as well as Wakefield Plantation: History and Cookbook of one Southern family) will be available. I know from experience the writing and the preparation for publishing seems soooo hard, but I know once this is completed, the hard part will be marketing. One step at the time.

I researched different self-publishing opportunities and decided upon Create Space. For about the past week, I have been preparing the books for publication. This has turned out to be more complicated than I imagined, mainly because each time I thought I had it prepared and submitted it, I found another error. But the wonderful thing is that you CAN see it and you CAN correct it--over and over again!

I made a mistake in the beginning that has made it harder than it should be. That lay in the very basic decision on what size the book should be. Create Space recommends 6 x 9 for the most distribution opportunities. I chose a different option. I downloaded a formatted template for the other size and spent a lot of time editing in that format and saving it as a pdf. I should have saved a Word format of every PDF so that I could correct whatever errors.

As I progressed through all the stages I decided that I wanted the Expanded Distribution opportunities that Create Space offers and I had to go back and go with the 6 x 9 size. That meant I had to figure out how to convert what I had already done to that size template. Not easy. You cannot just Select All, Copy and then Paste on the different template. I discovered that you can Copy and Paste small increments and then you paste it and can maintain the integrity of the formatted template. I learned to save each step as a Word document since you can't easily access a pdf format.

All of these steps are really not complicated, merely time consuming. These mechanical details may be helpful:
1. Check to make sure you have not double-spaced after a period or a comma. Use the Find and Replace to check that spacing. Just type a period with two spaces and go through the alphabet to replace with a period and one space. Include quotations.
2. Use the Spell and Grammar check. Do not automatically take the suggestion because the suggestions are not always correct. Sometimes the rewording they suggest is quite effective, however, making the sentence active rather than passive and therefore makes the writing more powerful.
3. Make sure you address headers and footers, including adding page numbers.
4. Double check the file borders, spacing, etc. Check with the formatted template to find the paragraph formatting, then if you lose it at any time, you can copy the section that got messed up and reformat it.
5. Use Find to make sure you use the same format for writing all Chapter headings and spacings. Use Page Break at the end of previous chapter to keep chapters separated.
6. Keep notes on spelling names and places. Use Find and Replace to make sure all words are spelled the same. I caught myself sometimes spelling verandah with an h and sometimes without it. I decided it should be without the h and used find and replace to correct that error. That is one very handy function!

All four books are now in the process of Review.

In the meantime, the Pricing issue presented itself. Create Space gives you a minimum price to work with. I'm talking hard copy here. I wanted it to be available, but I do expect that most who choose to read the books will read it through their Kindle. In my experience with my other novels, $20 and under with even number pricing made the books easier to sell. So, I decided on $20 for the Cookbook with all the color pictures and $15 for the other novels. I wish they could be less expensive, but with the price point suggested by Create Space that seems to work best. If possible, I will lower the price. I hope Kindle prices can be MUCH lower.

As soon as they are ready, I plan to order a physical proof and then upload to Kindle, unless I get too eager and just go straight to Kindle. I understand change is always possible and just a click away!