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January 2013

Video Interview with Ron Boyer Artist of the Snowland Deck

I'm supremely thrilled to share this video interview I conducted with my husband, Ron, over the weekend. It's his first! (Can you believe he was voted "Most Shy" in his High School Senior class...and I was voted "Most Talkative" in mine? Of course you can!)

He talked about our 2+ years journey creating our Snowland Deck, including his artistic process, favorite cards and what it's like to collaborate with the "notorious" Janet Boyer.

Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview, sweetheart. I love you! (Isn't he handsome, guys? ::fans self::)

To find out more about our Snowland Deck, visit SnowlandDeck.com.

-- Janet


Writing Advice (and Writer Quirks!) from Chris Brogan

Chris roarChris Brogan is one of the most entertaining, accessible, generous and media savvy people I've ever encountered.

I adore him.

In case you don't know Chris, he's the president & CEO of Human Business Works, a media and education company providing tools and smarts so professionals can do the work they want, only better. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of four books.

When I asked Chris if he had any writer quirks he'd like to share with my blog readers, the guy shot back an email within a minute (as he always has). 

I did say "accessible" and "generous", right?

Oh, and funny! My God, how could I forget that.

Without further ado, I give you Chris Brogan...sharing not only his writer quirks, but also some fantastic writing advice:

Quirks, she says. Janet wants my quirks.

Okay. Here's a list, in no particular order:

* I must edit while I write. I can't do what smart writers do and edit later. It just doesn't work. I MUST (MUST!) go back and fix typos and rewrite while I'm in the first draft.

* In fact, there's never a second draft.

Trust Agents 300* When Julien Smith and I wrote Trust Agents, we wrote about 130 pages, and then threw it away when we realized we wanted to write the book a different way. Julien wanted to save the pages. I can't do that. In my life and in my writing, I must start fresh when the mistake is too big.

* I write about 4000 words a day. Where they go depends on what I'm doing: a book, a course, some newsletter stuff. It goes all over. But I keep the habit going, so that I can produce when I have to.

* You can't wait for the Muse. Write and she'll show up when she's ready. But if you wait for her, you're not an author. You're a hopeful. You can't wait for the muse.

* Learn grammar. Then forget it.

* Look for your quirky repetitive bits and remove them. I use "things" a lot when I don't really know which word to use. That becomes like a stutter or an "um" in the larger story.

* Write a strong beginning, middle, and end. People mess up on the ends. All the time.

* Never mistake the value of storytelling. It is huge. Never leave it behind for other temptations.

* I dress pretty much like a fat Mark Zuckerberg. I wear a hoodie and jeans and a tee shirt most every day that I don't have a speech or some other reason to dress like a grown-up.

* The best book ever on writing is who cares? Write. You'll never get it from a book. (Well, King's On Writing is the best of that kind, but it's because he says what I said, only maybe nicer.) 

Impact equationUm, wow. Is this fabulous advice or what, dear readers? (Hey, Chris, I wear pajama pants and T-shirts every day! But I'm not divulging my writer quirks until a later date...) 

In case you live under a rock, Chris is out with a brand new book that's sure to help writers (and anyone trying to affect or influence an audience). I bought my copy months ago, in fact. It's called The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise

And, seriously? Considering what I witness on social media every day, I really think many of you need this book. Not trying to be rude or anything, honest. Like Chris, I want you to create, thrive and make an impact.

Not be a pain-in-the-ass carnival barker lacking substance, passion or relevance. You don't want that either, right?

So don't just get yourself a copy of The Impact Equation, but also visit ChrisBrogan.com. Remember that generosity I mentioned? Chris freely gives helpful, sometimes life-changing, advice on his website, podcast and via his newsletter. 

He makes an impact. And I'm grateful.

-- Janet


Tarot is Broken and How the Snowland Deck Hacks Tarot

To Hack
2. To break up the surface of (soil).
3. a. Informal To alter (a computer program)
b. To gain access to (a computer file or network) illegally or without authorization

When it comes to Tarot, let's not confuse obscure for profound, nor historical minutia for depth.

But, confused it has been.

In fact, one could argue that Tarot is broken.

Judging from all the questions I've fielded over the last decade and all the frustration I've seen over understanding Tarot cards, it would seem that something is broken...and it's not the valiant efforts of the newbie.

Broken carIf Tarot is a symbolic vehicle for navigating life, understanding ourselves and illuminating answers...then why can't most people get in the damn car and drive it? I'll tell you why: the "car" of Tarot has built-in planned obsolescence that requires the "driver" to continuously "buy parts" (Tarot books), get it "serviced" (pay lots of $ for someone to teach the cards) or trade it in for a newer model ad infinitum (endless deck buying). 

Seekers look at Tarot cards and have no idea what they're looking at, especially if they're using the popular Rider-Waite Tarot or the Thoth Tarot. Why? Because the creators tried to make the images enigmatic and esoteric for their respective "special" groups (Golden Dawn and A∴A∴). Sorta like how the Catholic church kept the mass in Latin for so long so the masses couldn't get their hands on scripture to learn, and understand, for themselves. 

It is high time to bring Tarot out of dry, confusing esoterica. To yank it off the dark Kabbalistic alleyways, snatch it from the astrological heavens, rescue it from decrepit "scholars" who can't see past Gabelin's pseudonym, Uncle Al's cobbled world view or Pixie's backside. 

Censorship smallerIt's time to depict what Tarot cards REALLY mean. And that's what we set out to do with our Snowland Deck.

Considering the plethora of Rider-Waite-Smith clones, one has to wonder if that kind of hacking poses a threat not only to Tarot institutions, but also to the revered authors and deck creators/illustrators whose obfuscation has been confused with profundity.

With our Snowland Deck, Ron and I "hacked" the Tarot to make it accessible for everyone.

Instead of enigmatic images shown in the popular Rider-Waite and Thoth decks, our cards actually PORTRAY what the cards mean. For example, the 6 of Cups card in the Rider-Waite shows an elfin boy giving a little girl flowers in a garden. Traditional meanings ascribed to this card are "nostalgia" and "blast from the past"...but nothing in that image indicates this! This is true for MOST of the images in traditional Rider-Waite style Tarot decks.

But in our Snowland Deck, the 6 of Cups shows an elderly grandmother leafing through a sepia photo album while a child points at the pictures. We SHOW "nostalgia"! This is just one example of how we hacked the images.
Joseph Campbell did tremendous work on the power of myth and the Hero's Journey. Myths and archetypes are central to storytelling, and storytelling is a powerful way to unlock your innate intuitive and psychic abilities. In fact, universal symbols ARE psychic short-cuts, which is why Tarot and oracle decks are such powerful tools. (Make no mistake: powerful universal symbols that dot literature, music, art and culture aren't the same as esoteric symbols created by a few--for a few--just to have a secret, little, special group).

And this, dear reader, is why we wanted to set Tarot free with our
Snowland DeckIt's why we've purposely embedded SEVERAL of these powerful UNIVERSAL, modern symbols in EACH card: to facilitate  YOUR brainstorming, creativity, communication, psychic ability and search for answers.

Stories help us make sense out of life, as well as understand ourselves and others.

Commander Cropped 300Here's another example from our deck. In our Commander card, aka The Emperor in most Tarot decks, we show a blocky ice general sitting on a recliner with a remote nearby. He's being held up by an "army" of snowmen, while pointing straight ahead. The recliner and remote are symbolic shortcuts to "armchair quarterbacks", those guys who yell at the TV and think they can do it better...all while sitting on their butts.

Like a general, our icy commander uses the strength of others to his own benefit, much like business owners do with their employees. We chose to make him "square" because he's often resistant to change...a true "square". He likes things neat and tidy, and relishes containment, organization and boundaries. Fences.

He is partially in gray because gray is made up of black and white; The Commander (bureaucrat, institution, authority figure--insert your own term for "father archetype") has a very limited color palette. It's either/or, my way/highway. There are no "legitimate" outside options because The Commander can't see the rest of the color spectrum.

Until the lightning hits...


Emperor Cropped 250Oh, and the above? Pretty much in line with the meaning of the traditional, Rider-Waite Emperor card. But you wouldn't glean all that from just looking at the Rider-Waite image. What's he look like, you may wonder? ::points to the right::

Could you get those meanings from that static image? I didn't think so.

In conclusion, Ron and I have broken up the dry, inscrutable, dusty surface of Tarot--admittedly, riddled with perplexing symbols intended to make you think you're in deep territory, hopelessly lost--and dug until we got into the dark, rich, fertile soil teeming with life and ready for our storytelling seeds to be planted.

We didn't need the permission of the ATA or Aeclectic Tarot or anyone else to create our groundbreaking deck. We went through the back door and picked ourselves. We didn't need their Emperor-like authorization.

Do you want to understand Tarot? Unlock your innate intuitive abilities? Understand yourself and the world around you? Brainstorm more possibilities? Consider more options?

Then get out of the broken vehicle that's Tarot, grab a watering can and order our Snowland Deck so you may grow in wisdom and understanding. Visit SnowlandDeck.com to begin your adventure.



Behind the Scenes of the Snowland Deck - Wilson Bentley's Snowflakes

Ron and I consider Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley the patron saint of our Snowland Deck. You can find out more about this extraordinary man at SnowflakeBentley.com

We chose Snowflake Bentley to be our Nurturer Material card since he so diligently pursued the study and preservation of snowflake images. In fact, he was the first person to capture snowflakes on film.

The snowflakes that Ron painted in our card are all actual snowflakes that Snowflake Bentley photographed.

Snowflake Bentley Flakes

Ron and I pored over hundreds of photographs depicted in the book Snow Crystals by Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley and W.J. Humphries, selecting our absolute favorites for this card which Ron then painstakingly reproduced.  

Snowflake Bentley Flake

We hope you enjoy learning about Snowflake Bentley as much as we have, as well as gain a greater understanding and respect for the card traditionally called the "Queen of Coins" in the Tarot--a card whose traits this amazing man embodied in so many ways.

Snowflake Bentley 400

-- Janet


Behind the Scenes of the Snowland Deck - The Happy Family Card

10 of Cups in progress smallerMy husband, Ron, is ¾ done painting the 10 Emoting (10 of Cups), an image often known as the "Happy Family" card in Tarot.

What some of you may not know is that our son, Noah, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (on the Autism spectrum) when he was 3. He used to love drawing on frosted windows during winter, which is why we included it in this card.

Noah is 14 now (the painting has him around 10 years old) and he even designed a special card to go with our Snowland Deck, Chillaxin (it's one of the bonuses for those pre-ordering before January 31, 2013 and was included in the Life Themes Edition). 

In the foreground will be our beloved black cat, Neo, who we had to put to sleep on Christmas Eve after a sudden illness. (I'm too raw to even post a tribute to him right now). In the bay window, besides Noah, will be Neo's surviving brother, Stewart--our orange tabby. Both of them were born under our bed to a stray we adopted.

Cardinals often gather at the bird feeders in the back yard, so we included a little family of these special birds right outside the window. Just today, there were about 20 cardinals out there! (Ron once joked "Is the Pope there, too?") Silly guy...

If you'd like to know more about our Snowland Deck, including seeing all completed images, visit SnowlandDeck.com. To find out about pre-ordering our deck, which will be released in February or March 2013, click here. To view all the completed images in a larger format, visit our Snowland Deck Facebook page here, where you may also "like" our page if you haven't already.

Below, please enjoy a video I made about our deck:

-- Janet


Writer Quirks - Jenny Milchman

I'm super duper happy to introduce a new segment to my blog, one that's been brewing in my head for a long time. What is it? Why, Writer Quirks!

I knew I had writing quirks, so I suspected fellow writers did, too. And guess what? They do! They really do. 

Without further ado, here's the first one...


Jenny Milchman 2I met Jenny Milchman on Twitter, and found her engaging, witty and sweet. Turns out that Jenny happens to teach at the NY Writers Workshop, co-hosts the literary series Writing Matters, and chairs the of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. She's also the author of the brand spankin' new suspense novel Cover of Snow, now out from Ballantine. (I'm on Chapter 42 and OMG! Honestly--and it sounds so cliche to say this, but--her debut novel is a freakin' page tuner!)

Anyway! I asked Jenny if she happened to have any writer quirks. She does. Here's our back-and-forth emails (reproduced because I think she's so darn funny):

JanetI'm doing a blog post about Weird Writing Quirks of Writers. Do you happen to have any to share? (Don't lie.)

Elephant jennyJennyI touch a tiny glass pink elephant each day before I sit down to write a first draft. Can explain why if you want :)

Janet: Of course you must explain! Geez...

Jenny: You mean you don't understand?

Janet: LOL :oP

JennyOK, short version...my husband and I met in college in a philosophy club where we debated the burden of proof. Do I have to prove a pink elephant is in the room, or do you have to prove it's not there? So pink elephants have ever since been lucky, and now I have a teensy glass one I touch every morning before I begin writing a new book...


So there ya go, dear readers. An adorable writer quirk from a very talented author. 

Cover of snow smallerBy the way, writers, if you've ever felt like giving up, you must read this post by Jenny on She Writes. Not only did it take her thirteen years for Cover of Snow to see publication (yes, you read right--13), but she also endured rejection, discouragement, loss of an agent and more. She even decided to give up a psychotherapy practice to stay home to write (while having children, too). 

To learn more about Jenny and her writing, visit JennyMilchman.com. (P.S. It was her husband who did such a fab job designing her rockin' site).

So what about you? How many of you authors out there have writing-specific quirks? Feel free to share your writing quirk here in the comments section or email it to me at synerjay (at) atlanticbb (dot) net for possible inclusion in the Writer Quirks series. 

-- Janet


An Interview with Author Gayle Trent + Giveaway!

It's my pleasure to be able to interview one of my favorite cozy mystery authors, Gayle Trent! Gayle is the author of the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mysteries, as well as the Marcy Singer Embroidery Shop Mysteries.

After the interview, read for your chance to receive a signed copy of Gayle's newest book, Thread on Arrival (an Embroidery Shop Mystery written under the pseudonym Amanda Lee).


Gayle 3Janet:
You have one of the top agents in the business: Robert Gottlieb, founder of Trident Media Group (and agent to Stephen J. Cannell, The Vatican, The Issac Asimov Estate, Elizabeth George, Deepak Chopra, DUNE Estate, etc.). How did you guys hook up?

Gayle: MURDER TAKES THE CAKE had been published by Bell Bridge Books, an imprint of BelleBooks. The publisher took part in an Amazon promotion that made the books available for free to people who received Kindles for Christmas. In early January following the December promotion, I received an email from Robert Gottlieb. In the email, Robert said he’d read and enjoyed MURDER TAKES THE CAKE and was interested in representing me. At first glance, I thought the email was a mistake. In fact, I was so convinced of this that I called Trident Media and said I thought maybe someone was falsely soliciting clients using Mr. Gottlieb’s name. After introducing myself and telling the receptionist the name of my book, Mr. Gottlieb’s receptionist said that he did indeed want to speak with me. 

Janet: Wow, what a story! MURDER TAKES THE CAKE via Bell Bridge Books is how I discovered you, come to think of it. So, tell me, what writers/books did you cut your teeth on?

Gayle: I loved Nancy Drew, of course. Later it was Victoria Holt. 

Janet: So many of us adored (and still adore!) the Nancy Drew mysteries! When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Gayle: I wanted to be a writer for much longer than I thought it was actually feasible to be one. In my rural community, fiction writing was not a practical career choice. So I became a secretary and wrote as a hobby.

Janet: What's your writing/publishing background?

Gayle: My first novel, PHOTO FINISH, was published by Neighborhood Press in 1991. The company subsequently went out of business. Hope there was no correlation! After that, I was published by a couple of small presses and then, for a few years, I operated my own small publishing company and published not only my own work but the novels of other writers as well. The company was called Grace Abraham Publishing (my children’s middle names), and our mystery fiction was printed under the imprint Dark-n-Stormies. One of my crowning achievements with Dark-n-Stormies was getting the books featured in Woman’s Day Magazine in October of 2005.

It was too hard to operate a publishing business and continue to write, however, so I closed up shop on Grace Abraham Publishing and began writing again full-time. Some of my Dark-N-Stormies books live on in Kindle form—BETWEEN A CLUTCH AND A HARD PLACE , WHEN GOOD BRAS GO BAD and THE PERFECT WOMAN. All are available for .99 each. 



Gayle smallerJanet:
How many books have you written?

Gayle: 18

Janet: Who's been your favorite character to write?

Gayle: I have the most fun with the off-the-wall characters like Myrtle and Myra. 

Janet: Myra from the Cake Decorating Mysteries is hilarious! Speaking of that series, how do you come up with such clever names like the musical-themed family from those books?

Gayle: Sometimes I really do things tongue-in-cheek expecting the editor to make me delete them, and the musical-themed family names was one of those things! But the editor loved it and let it go through.  When I let myself go, I can be pretty creative. When I worry about what the editor will do with what I’ve written, it sometimes stifles me. I’ve learned to try not to worry about it. I was so close with Deborah Smith (who edited MURDER TAKES THE CAKE) that I really let myself go on that one. She’s the queen of clever! She came up with the EIEIO acronym for KILLER SWEET TOOTH.

Janet: What writer/s do you most admire? Why?

Gayle: I love Jeffrey Deaver because his books usually have a make-you-gasp ending that you never saw coming. I enjoy Mary Higgins Clark’s books because she’s simply a master of suspense. I rediscovered Jude Deveraux recently. I’d read several of her books and then began concentrating solely on mysteries when I began writing in the genre. I did myself a disservice. Jude Deveraux is such an excellent writer—seamlessly weaving together her stories (I stayed up late two nights in a row reading LAVENDER MORNING)—that no matter what the genre, any author could learn a lot about writing from her. 

Janet: I've not read Deaver nor Deveraux! Now, tell me, what's the hardest part about being an author? Writing? Easiest?

Pen paper smallerGayle: Sometimes the hardest part about being an author is the loneliness. My family teases me (and I also joke) about the amount of time I spend with my dog Cooper. But he really IS my best buddy! He’s lying at me feet right this minute. On Facebook someone posted, you begin to act like the five people you spend the most time with. One day during the Halloween season, I went into the “seasonal” aisle of the grocery store, stopped, raised my head, and sniffed the candy-scented air. That’s when it struck me, “I’m beginning to act like Cooper!” LOL 

One of the hardest parts of writing is making myself work through the hard spots where the writing has stopped flowing and I’m stumped as to how to transition from one thing to the next. The other hardest part is submitting to revisions. It’s often hard to go back and retool something you thought was really good. “This was sheer genius!” you might think when writing a scene. “This scene is extraneous and needs to go,” your editor might say. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Third hardest part – bad reviews. Everybody gets them, and they hurt like crazy. I can get five excellent reviews and one bad review all in the same day, and I’ll focus on the bad one. 

The easiest part is always when someone read what you wrote and enjoyed it. That’s why we all do what we do, and that’s wonderful.

Janet: Gayle, what's the best piece of writing advice you ever received? Worst? 

Gayle: I think the best—not necessarily advice, but certainly words of wisdom—I received was from romance author Teresa Medeiros at a writing conference. We were in the signing area. I was sitting there with my one book—PHOTO FINISH—and she was sitting beside me with her many books with their beautiful covers. She took a photo of me sitting at my table and said, “I want to buy one of your books.” I asked, “Why?” She laughed and said, “Because I want to read it! Never forget, Gayle, we’ve all been where you are.” 

CollaboratingThe worst thing I ever heard an author say was at a local library event. I’d tell you his name, but I’d be shocked if any of you had heard of him. No one among us was a best-selling author. Anyway, I asked this guy if he’d be interested in joining our writers’ group, and he said, “No. I’m an established author. I don’t need to belong to a group.” Uh…okay…. Didn’t want him in our group after that anyway. And, although I didn’t say this to him, I was thinking, “Pal, you need a group more than you could possibly realize.”

Janet: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Gayle: Hang in there. Writing ain’t for sissies! 

Janet: What are the next two books in both series and when are they coming out?

Gayle: Embroidery Shop series: CROSS STITCH BEFORE DYING - August 6, 2013. Cake Decorating series: BATTERED TO DEATH - Release date has not yet been set.

Janet: Gayle, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my nosy questions! It's been a pleasure. 

For more information about Gayle and her books, please visit her website at GayleTrent.com.

Thread on arrival smallestAnd now for the giveaway and news! To be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of Thread on Arrival, just leave a comment on this post. You can ask Gayle a question about writing or her books, or just share that you enjoyed this post or perhaps your favorite mystery. That's it! Contest ends a week from now, January 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM EST. All posters will be thrown into a hat, and I'll draw a name via Random.org.

-- Janet 


Disappearing Reviews

Empty seatsSome have asked me about disappearing reviews on Amazon, my site and my blog. If you're an author or deck creator with a certain publisher, I am being REQUIRED to remove all reviews and mentions from said publisher--even glowing 5-star reviews. If you are upset at this, please contact the owner of the company who's responsible. It's out of my hands. Thanks for understanding.

-- Janet


Spotlight on Cozy Mysteries - The Cake Decorating Series by Gayle Trent

Next to Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mysteries, my absolute favorite cozy books are Gayle Trent's Cake Decorating Series.

Cake Series

Heroine Daphne Martin, a 30-something divorcee who's opened up a cake decorating business in her house, is joined by her neighbor, Myra, in madcap adventures and deadly scenarios. This series is so funny, so clever, that I've often laughed out loud at the antics! Better yet, author Gayle Trent bakes up some darn delicious plots in the process.

The books in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mysteries include:

Book 1: Dead Pan

Book 2: Murder Takes the Cake

Book 3: Killer Sweet Tooth

Book 4: Battered to Death (release date to be announced)

Gayle is also the author of the Marcy Singer Embroidery Shop Mysteries, using the penname Amanda Lee.

You can find out all about Gayle and her books at GayleTrent.com.

-- Janet


Spotlight on Cozy Mysteries - The Embroidery Mystery Series by Amanda Lee

If you enjoy embroidery or cozies, do check out the Embroidery Mystery Series by Amanda Lee (pseudonym of Gayle Trent, author of the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Series and other books).

Amanda Lee Covers 300Book 1: The Quick and the Thread

Book 2: Stitch Me Deadly

Book 3: Thread Reckoning

Book 4: The Long Stitch Goodnight

Book 5: Thread on Arrival

Book 6: Cross Stitch Before Dying (Coming August 6, 2013)

The series is set on the Oregon Coast and features Marcy Singer--a spunky, thirty-something, entrepreneur who is handy with a needle--and her Hollywood costume designer mother and Irish Wolfhound, Angus.

When you visit the author's website, you'll find a virtual Seven-Year Stitch--the embroidery shop central to the series. Click around the virtual shop for some fun finds!

Visit GayleTrent.com for more information, including her blog that has Sew Deadly and Killer Cakes updates--recipes, embroidery patterns, photos of awesome images of sweet treats and more.

-- Janet


Writing Prompt Roundup #1


Every two weeks (or so), I gather all my Twitter #WritePrompt posts and put them in a blog post for you. Here is the first batch of my Write Prompt Tweets.

Pencil

  • Begin a story or poem with the sentence "It snowed, so I..."
  • This writing prompt is based on a book title, Glittery Images. What does this phrase suggest to you? Or, use it as a story or poem title.
  • Use the following five words in a story or poem: orange, clipper, svelte, rayon and marksman.
  • Like a modern day Alice, a girl finds a bottle that says "Drink Me".  She does. Write a story or poem about what happens.
  • You get a letter in the mail. The envelope is red...and smoking. Inside is a note that merely says 666. Set a timer for 25 minutes and begin writing a story or poem about this note.
  • Take a novel off the shelf. What is the first line? Begin a story, paragraph or poem with the same line.
  • You're walking in a woods when a tree speaks to you. What does it say? What happens? Set a timer for 30 minutes and write!
  • Four inches of a snow on the ground, yet a man is grilling chicken on the porch. What's the story?
  • You get in an elevator at the second floor and push the button for the tenth. A voice over the intercom says if you get off at the tenth floor, you die. Ready? Write!
  • This last prompt is a visual one. Look at the image below. What's going on? Write a story or poem based on what you see. 

Falling
If you'd like to see my #WritePrompt posts as I make them on Twitter, follow me at @JanetBoyer. Have you used any of my writing prompts for a story or poem? Feel free to post it here or email it to me at synerjay (at) atlanticbb (dot) net for possible inclusion in a guest blog post. Don't be shy...and don't forget to include your bio/website, too!

-- Janet


Spotlight on Cozy Mysteries - The Coffeehouse Mystery Series by Cleo Coyle


Since May 2007, I've become addicted to this delightful concoction by Cleo Coyle. (Cleoy Coyle is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini. The couple had also written as "Alice Kimberly" for the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, but the publisher recently changed that nom de plume to Cleoy Coyle, as well).


Coffee mysteryBelievable, likable characters (like plucky coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi), as well as java talk and recipes--not to mention compelling whodunits--makes this cozy series irresistible and enjoyable (I tend to consume large amounts of joe when I read one of the books...so fair warning to ya when you indulge in these books).


Cleo Coyle (Alice) maintains a wonderful website at CoffeehouseMystery.com, which is named after the fictional cafe in the books, The Village Blend. She features recipes, reading guides, giveaways, character profiles, discussion board, newsletter and more.

Alice is one of those rare authors that actually puts herself out there, interacting with readers and fans via her discussion board, Twitter and Facebook (maybe because her ol' stomping grounds is none other than Pittsburgh, PA--known for its down-to-earth, friendly people. Like myself. *wink*.)

Here's a list of the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle so you can dig into this wonderful series right from the beginning:

Coffeehouse Mysteries 1-12 smallBook 1: On What Grounds

Book 2: Through the Grinder

Book 3: Latte Trouble

Book 4: Murder Most Frothy

Book 5: Decaffeinated Corpse

Book 6: French Pressed

Book 7: Espresso Shot

Book 8: Holiday Grind

Book 9: Roast Mortem

Book 10: Murder by Mocha

Book 11: A Brew to a Kill

Book 12: Holiday Buzz

Book 13: Billionaire Blend (Coming October 2013)

So do yourself a favor and go out and buy the first few books of the Coffeehouse Mystery Series (heck, just buy all dozen!), making sure you have time to kick back, enjoy a hot beverage of your choice (no, you don't have to be a java drinker to enjoy this series) and relax with Clare Cosi and company.

Below, enjoy the offcial Coffeehouse Mysteries trailer, made by Alice herself.



The Artistic Side of the Psychic Twins


Twins 1 350In case you're not familiar with The Psychic Twins, Linda and Terry Jamison have appeared on Nightline's special Beyond Belief, The Tyra Banks Show, The Dr. Keith Ablow Show, Good Morning America and more. They were the only psychics who predicted 9/11, as well as JFK Jr.'s death via a small plane and (get this!) the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 5 years (predicted on The Dr. Keith Ablow Show, January 15, 2007...5 years ago). 

However, before they were famous psychics, especially in the 80s and 90s, these red-headed twins were cutting-edge models, performers and comics--appearing on Saturday Night Live as the two-headed housewife, as well live painted statues, robotic mannequins, silver automatons, black-and-white clad mimes and kinetic sculptures. 

They made all their own costumes, and did their own make-up. Indeed, both are accomplished painters (not surprising, considering Linda and Terry are the daughters of acclaimed watercolorist Philip Jamison). As if all this is not stuffing a whole lotta talent in two humans, they were also in a band called Flying Objects

Below are some stunning images of Terry and Linda Jamison:

Twins Red
The Jamison Twins for Clairol ad campaign (nationwide, 1980s)

 

Twins Pointed 300
The Jamison Twins as "The Pointed Sisters" in The Plaza Hotel, NYC, 1980s. Costumes by The Jamison Twins.

 

Twins Silver
The Jamison Twins perform robotic mime act at Earl's Court London, 1980 (International Menswear Show).
Twins Statues
The Jamison Twins as statues come to life, New York City, 1980s. Costumes by The Jamison Twins.
Twins Swans
The Jamison Twins at an event for Gloria Vanderbilt, NYC, 1980s. Costumes by The Jamison Twins.

 

Twins Mechanized
The Jamison Twins perform their famous mechanized mannequin act in window of Bonwit Teller, Philadelphia, 1979.

 

Twins Lobsterettes
The Jamison Twins as "The Red Hot Lobsterettes". NYC, 1980s. Costume by The Jamison Twins.

 

Twins People
People Magazine story featuring The Jamison Twins as "The Red Hot Lobsterettes", March 3, 1986.

 

Twins Statues Park
The Jamison Twins as models, Philadelphia, 1979.
Twins Hope
Terry Jamison as The Statue of Liberty with Bob Hope and Luciano Pavarotti, Lincoln Center "The Stars Shine for Liberty" Gala, 1983.

 

TWins Hope 2
Newsweek article: Terry Jamison as Miss Liberty with Bob Hope and Lee Iacocca, "The Stars Shine for Liberty" Gala, Lincoln Center, NYC. November 21, 1983 issue.

 

Twins SNL
The Jamison Twins as "Louise", on set of Saturday Night Live film "Louise's Tidy Tips", NYC, 1986.
Twins Barbies
The Jamison Twins as "The Barbie Doll Twins", Los Angeles, 1995. Costumes by The Jamison Twins.

 

Twins Beehive
The Jamison Twins and Jesse as part of the 80s band "Flying Objects".

And here are Terry and Linda Jamison in present day, following their calling as The Psychic Twins:

Twins Tyra
The Psychic Twins on The Tyra Banks Show

Here's a recent video clip of The Psychic Twins on Good Morning America, talking about their newest book Psychic Intelligence (now out in paperback). I've already read it and it's the best book on identifying and cultivating your innate psychic abilities.

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I even had the opportunity to interview Terry and Linda last month on my Janet Boyer Live! radio show. You can listen below.

Terry and Linda were also recently on the Jeff Probst show. You can watch both parts below.

-- Janet


Plural S vs. Possessive S

It drives me crazy when I see the wrong use of "s".

Thems smallerLook at the poster on the right. 

Now, we know that "thems" isn't a word. But if it were, as the creator of this poster intended, then it would be written just like I did: THEMS.

Why? Because it's intended as a plural. More than one "them" equals "thems". 

Now, if "them" owned something, or had an attribute, it would be "them's". 

Here are some examples:

1. There were three cats on the fence.
2. Hey, look at that middle cat's white tail!

Number one is an example of a plural "s"--more than one cat. Number two is an example of a possessive "s" that shows ownership. 

When you're confused, ask yourself "Is there more than one thing I'm talking about here?" If yes, then add an "s" without an apostrophe because it's a plural usage. 

Here's another example:

1. I found two coins in the couch.
2. The coin's date was completely rubbed off.

Another way to tell the difference is to ask yourself if the sentence can be reworded using "of the". The date of the coin was completely rubbed off. (Tips you off that it's possessive).  And, "Hey, look at the white tail of the middle cat!"

-- Janet


On Authenticity, Authors and New Rules for Social Media – Or, Cultivating the Happy, Productive Author Persona

A realization has dawned and a lesson has been learned.

It has finally occurred to me that authors are respected and revered entities—so much so, that we cannot “act” like the rest of the world on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ (and certainly not on LinkedIn!).

It doesn’t matter if an author like myself doesn’t place herself on a pedestal, doesn’t want to be looked up to and figures herself “just like everyone else”.

MaskOur readership doesn’t buy it. They refuse to buy it.

For some bizarre reason, public personas—and make no mistake, a persona it is—have certain expectations placed upon them. Those expectations may vary a bit according to genre—after all, readers don’t expect the same things from a Self Help author like myself as they do, say, a Horror writer--but demanding different standards of Authors, even if largely unconscious, still remains.

I have discovered that readers expect Body/Mind/Spirit authors to:

  • Never write critical reviews of fellow authors. “The Public” think it’s awful for a author to do so (even if said author was a reviewer for years prior to becoming traditionally published). They don’t see reviews as a public service to consumers. No, once you become an author, you’ve signed on an unspoken dotted line requiring you to speak highly of all colleagues and competing titles—or, at the very least—remain neutral and say nothing at all. Naming names is anathema.
  • Never display deep anger, hurt or despair. “The Public” expect you to be upbeat, resilient and strong at worst—and show them how to successfully navigate such difficult states with a step-by-step map at best. Having a really bad day? Save it for your real friends and family. Don’t post about it on social media. It will come back to bite you in the behind if you do.
  • Never say what you think. Freedom of speech doesn’t apply to Authors on social media. Well, technically, yes, it does—but there will be a price to pay if you say what you actually think or know…especially if it’s an unpopular opinion. You will attract stalkers, gain haters and lose readers. Trust me.

And so, in light of this revelation, I present to you…

The New Rules for Social Media

  • Never criticize a competing title, author or colleague. Absolutely do not name names. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. “The Public” doesn’t want to know. They only want to know the author or artist “Persona”…and they despise anyone who tries to move aside the “Persona Curtain”.
  • Never show your dismay or disappointment, especially if it involves writing or publishing. There is a sparkly veneer covering the publishing industry—especially for hopeful would-be writers—and “The Public” doesn’t want to hear about your Publisher-from-Hell, shoddy Editors, absent Proofreaders or clueless Marketing “team”. You must pretend that your relationship with your Publisher is a match made in a New Age Heaven…or don’t say anything at all.
  • Never show hurt or indignation at 1-star shill reviews, gossip, lies or slander against your name. You are an Author (capital “A”). You may whine and cry to your real friends and family—off social media sites, of course—but never, ever to your followers or fans. You may, objectively, correct a misperception—but you’re still treading dangerous waters here because you’ll be showing that you actually read your press. Which brings me to…
  • Never let on that you read gossip, blog posts or reviews about you or your work. “The Public” expect you to be above that, toiling on your next magnum opus. Pretend that you’re oblivious to criticism. This will help contribute to your Happy, Productive Author Persona. The Public loves, and wants, a Happy, Productive Author to follow, read and enjoy. Nothing else will suffice. (Bonus Advice: Actually avoid reading your press. Remove all Google Alerts with your name and books. If you’re truly confident and happy in/with your work, you don’t need to know what readers think, anyway. If you really need to know something about your writing or work, get that information from your writing group, beta readers, fellow author pals, editor or agent.)

 (Very) few of you may be wondering “Why?”

 Why must it be this way?

Cracked earthSimply put, we live in tumultuous, uncertain times.

Individuals are searching for—and clinging to—a sense of certainty and safety. For an Author—especially a Self Help or Body/Mind/Spirit Author—to show any weakness or “cracking” is to send existential tremors through his or her readership (mostly unconsciously). Authors tend to be viewed as gurus and are put on pedestals for this very reason.

To point out any cracking or misrepresentation in another author or artist is to do the same…with even more negative fall-out. This is because of the “Child” effect (Emperor’s New Clothes). If another person vocalizes what some suspect or fear could be true, it amplifies the existential “fear factor”. What is “real” for an individual may be fundamentally undermined when another points out an illusion or delusion.

In short, the Persona Curtain must stay firmly closed to ensure a delighted, loyal readership and fan base.

It’s not that readers don’t care about Authors. Quite the contrary, they do. Most will say they prefer when Authors share personal tidbits on social media—pics of the kids, the pets, the latest supper dish, daily struggles, etc. These types of postings make Authors more relatable, more “human”, readers say.


But what The Public says—and what they truly, really want—are two different things.

Like 98% of the population, readers prefer a lie that makes them feel good to a truth that makes them feel uncomfortable.

LighthouseReaders, especially of Mind/Body/Spirit books, want Authors they can look up to—who are anchors, lighthouses, and thermostats.

They do not want Authors who are thermometers, reflecting the temperature of the zeitgeist.

Oh, sure, it’s OK if our books are thermometers. That’s fine.

But authors themselves?

Negatory.

We set the desired temperature, maintain the anchor, pulse a steady beacon.

We give our readers hope. Assurance. Stability.

Thus, if you want to fall apart, rant about marginalization or point out falsehoods in your peers…do it behind closed doors. To real friends and family. Not on social media.

After all, you have an Author Persona to uphold.

-- Janet


Snowland Deck Update

My husband, Ron, just finished painting Tomten last night--the 76th card in our Snowland Deck. Only two more to go before he reaches 78, the number of cards in a standard Tarot deck. 

Snowland Snap

Then, we're adding four special "significator" cards--a psychological system I came up with to locate how you (or someone else) may be feeling or thinking. I call it a Soul GPS system. In addition, Ron's painting a special backing, which will be different from our limited Life Themes Edition Snowland Deck.

Not only will our Snowland Deck be a working oracle deck, but it can be used for creative writing, storytelling, inspiration and meditation. In addition to connecting you with your innate intuition, the cards can be used by parents to faciliate communication with children, by kids to help them understand what they're feeling, by therapists seeking to illuminate client issues and much more. 

You can see all completed images of the deck at SnowlandDeck.com and find out more information on how to use the cards, as well as pre-order the deck (which include a special custom-made, hand-sewn bag--3 wintry themes to choose from--to store your cards). Click here to see the three different Snowland bags.

PreorderIf you pre-order by January 31, 2013, you not only get the special "Noah's card" that our son designed, but also one of the following: 30 minute Tarot reading with me by phone, Snowland ornament (your choice of image and size), Snowland bracelet (click here for choices) or a pendulum (clear quartz, blue onyx or sodalite). We're 98% sure our deck will ship out in time for Valentine's Day. Hooray!

Below is a video I made featuring many of the cards in our Snowland Deck. Enjoy!

 

P.S. The Snowland Deck is also on Facebook! Click here to visit our page, "like" us and see all the images in larger format.

-- Janet


Naming Your Cozy Mystery

Pen inkI was just over author Lorna Barrett's blog (she's the author of the Booktown Cozy Mysteries) and noticed that she was having trouble naming Book #8 in her series. In fact, she's holding a contest for those who email her a winning title.

I just submitted a dozen titles to her that I came up with in about ten minutes. But then, it occurred to me that there are other cozy mystery authors who may be in the same boat, trying to name their first (or, like Lorna, their eighth) book. 

I'm working on my own cozy mystery series (my first!) and I've amassed over 70 crime-related words to help me brainstorm titles. I thought I'd share them with you in case you're having trouble naming your mystery. After I list them, I'll also share the dozen titles I submitted to Lorna...and how I came up with them.

Crime-Related Words for Mystery Titles

Poison 2Death
Trouble
Mortem
Kill
Skull
Funeral
Bury
Death
Scream
Fright
Deceiving
Deceit
GraveShroud
Burial
Knife
Rendezvous
Chill
Yell
Scream
Shot
Wicked
Blood
Lost
Hang
Explosive
Silence
Dark
Twisted
FallingFear
Reaper
Bad
Pushed
Shove
Spill

Fatal
Corpse
Coffin
Hearse
Dead
Crime
Murder
Slay
Grave
Tomb
Killer
Die
Revenge
KnifePoison
Violent
Tainted

Terror
Danger
Body
Cadaver
Evidence
Missing
Gone
Lethal
Bone
Shadow
Witness
Clue
Crypt
Lies
Theft
Stolen
Purloined
Fingerprint 2Chase
Lies
Ruin
Guilt
Guilty
Innocence

Assault
Weapon
Bludgeon
Mischief
Dare
Agony
Tumble
Fall

So, how did I come up with a dozen titles for Lorna's 8th book? It was easy, really. First, I Googled "book related words" and found this link. (She said it had to have a "catchy 'wordy' word that has to do with writing"). I studied the "wordy words". Then, I looked through my list that I've just shared with you to see if I could do a book or word-related mash-up. I came up with:

Definition of Death
Pen ink 2Fatal Ink

Killer Reads

Pushed Over the Page
Capitalized Corpse
Stanza Shot
Lethal Lines
Wicked Writings
Funeral Plot
Column Crime
Silence the Scribe
Catalogue Cadaver

Cool, huh? So if you're writing a series about, say, fish--then find fish-related words to match up with the crime-related words. Minnow Mortem, anyone? What about Tainted Trout? Aquarium Assault? Bury the Betta? Grave Guppy? OK, OK...I'll stop. *wink*

Have I missed any crime-related words? What words do you think are good candidates for a mystery book title?

-- Janet


10 Ways to Screw Up a Writing Blog

10 ballYou won't believe this, but I just whipped up this post in less than 10 minutes. What's really sad is the inspiration: SIX of these were on a writing blog I just visited. Especially sad because I enjoyed her last post!

Without further ado...10 Ways to Screw Up a Writing Blog:

  1. Never make post. Or, only post once a month.
  2. Make sure your Twitter button that says “Follow Me!” leads to someone else. Anyone else…but you.
  3. Have outdated blogs on your Blogroll. You know, ones that last posted in 2011 or earlier.
  4. Make sure your Google Friend Widget is on your blog. It doesn’t matter that it’s been discontinued and leads to a 404.
  5. Fill your blog with ads, widgets, badges and “awards”.
  6. Hide your past posts. You don’t want anyone to find what you’ve written.
  7. Don’t have a Categories section.
  8. Don’t include code or widgets to help visitors share your content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.
  9. Don’t have your contact information listed anywhere.
  10. Don’t provide a way for visitors to subscribe to your blog. 

-- Janet


Authors Shouldn't Review Other Authors? Get Real.

WritingThe last year, I've been subjected to harassment, blackballing and stalking. This also included a spate of 1-star reviews on my traditionally published Tarot books.

Why? Because a few self-appointed loudmouths in the online Tarot world think it's awful for me to continue reviewing Tarot books and decks on Amazon after becoming an author. (Never mind that I'm a Hall of Fame Reviewer with over 1,000 reviews to my name who has helped promote many a Tarot author and deck creator via my volunteer efforts.)

Because of this mindless mob, unchallenged by others in the online Tarot community for fear of the same type of reprisals, I've soured on writing Tarot blogs, books or reviews...and am moving away from it altogether.

For you clueless Tarot twits, read what Anne R. Allen has to say about authors reviewing other authors:

If authors weren’t allowed to review, there would be no New York Times Book Review. No New York Review of Books. No Times Literary Supplement.

Can you imagine the San Francisco Chronicle asking some random tourist at Fisherman’s Wharf to review the latest Michael Chabon instead of hiring National Book Award finalist Jess Walter?

Or if the New York Review of Books had told John Updike he would be “unethical” to review Philip Roth?

Or if the New Yorker had banned Dorothy Parker from reviewing The House at Pooh Corner because they suspected she’d be “too nice” to A. A. Milne after meeting him at a cocktail party? (Her famous review under the byline "Constant Reader" said "Tonstant Weader fwowed up.")

Here's the link to the rest of Anne's brilliant, thorough post: Online Book Reviews: Games People Play.

-- Janet


An Open Letter to the American Tarot Association

In the latest ATA Quarterly, President Stephanie Arwen, aka Tarot By Arwen, writes this:

I like to keep this letter positive, but I have to confide in you. I'm very concerned about the future of the ATA. You pay dues to belong to this group. What is it that you want? What is it that you need? As your president, it is my job to make sure you are getting your money's worth. So please, tell me what you need from the ATA. Is this still a viable organization? If not, what would make it viable for you? “It's not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity." ~ Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

I've said this before, but I want it to be clear that 2012 marks my last year as president of this organization. I have always felt that new blood rejuvenates groups. So, in an effort to practice what I profess, I will not run for any ATA board offices in 2013 when my term is up. After five years (I was elected in 2007), my blood is old and you de-serve a new head for this group. I'd like this last year in office to be hallmarked by membership growth and membership satisfaction. So I need to hear from you. Email me at president@ata-tarot.com. 

You SHOULD be concerned for the ATA. Your blood is more than just "old", Stephanie, it's toxic. Under your "leadership", you bullied the ATA Board to ban any future mention or review of any of my Tarot books (like Tarot in Reverse and Back in Time Tarot), as well as our forthcoming Snowland Deck. What kind of leader censors a recognized Tarot author and expert...especially one that has FREELY contributed CONTENT to both the ATA Quarterly and ATA Reflections?

Who else have you censored? What other fresh, daring Tarot voices aren't we hearing because YOU have determined that they shouldn't be heard by due-paying members?

-- Janet