Anybody going to a costume party? Pictures would be fun to share. I plan to stay home and pass out candy (that I don’t like) to the little kiddies. I have to rest up to start NANO tomorrow!


~ Kay

Traveling Tales

Hubby was asked to speak at a conference in Park City, Utah this week. Since it started on our anniversary, he brought me with him–smart guy I married.

Our flight was scheduled to leave Nashville early Wednesday morning and we had to be at the airport before the sun woke up. We usually take a cab since we’re only a few miles away. It prevents the whole parking hassle and makes it easy to get home after the trip. The cab arrived at our house promptly at six, and we were on our way.

We got to Nashville International Airport only to find the travel agent who’d made our reservations had cancelled Hubby’s ticket. Now, this isn’t OUR travel agent, mind you, but the TA for the entity requesting his services. They’d not cancelled my ticket, by the way, only his. Fortunately, there was room on the plane and we were “allowed” to repurchase the ticket (for which we’ll be reimbursed) for the low, low price of $1100.00. (My ticket was around $400—go figure.)

Normally, a flight to Salt Lake City is an all day affair, but Delta now has a nonstop, so it took less than four hours. We actually arrived in time to have an early lunch with the conference coordinator. This was after we’d found out our rental car had also been cancelled, but before we got to our hotel where we discovered we had two reservations. We only needed one.

Hubby and I have been to Salt Lake City several times, but always in the summer, usually June. Each time I’ve been stunned at how beautifully landscaped and well kept the area is. I wasn’t sure what we’d find this time of year. I knew the summer colors would be long gone and it was too early for the heavy winter snows that blanket the region, although they have already had a couple of snowfalls, but nothing worth mentioning, I’m told. A major storm almost came in with us, but skirted Utah and dumped between one and two feet of the white stuff in the Rockies. Good thing. I didn’t even pack my snow boots. In Park City, they are making artificial snow on the slopes—to get a good base, I suppose. At over two miles above sea level, they’ll get plenty of the real thing for the ski season.

As we drove to in from SLC, the colors gracing the stark mountainsides were brilliant. There wasn’t the mass array of hues to which we’re accustomed in the southeast, but the reds and yellows were so . . . well, so red and yellow. The locals say this is the latest fall they’ve had in a long time.  Intermixed with the miniscule snow showers they’ve already had, were temperatures in the 70’s as late as last week—but it’s cold now.

There are still remnants of the 2002 Olympics both in Park City and Salt Lake City. Park City and nearby Deer Valley hosted the ski, snowboarding, bobsledding events. The bobsled/skeleton/luge track is still visible on the drive into town. According to the locals, this is the most liberal part of the state—must be the altitude.

Hubby finished his conference obligations, so today was a play day. We took long scenic drives during the morning and spent the afternoon stimulating the local economy. At least we made a dent in our Christmas shopping list.

We head home tomorrow. Hopefully, there will be no canceled reservations and all will go smooth as glass. If not, we’ll figure it out and call it an adventure. After all, that’s what life is.

Have a great weekend.


Loving this weather

October is perhaps the most beautiful month of the year in Tennessee. I love fall. It’s my favorite season. The hot, sticky summer is over and the brisk days of autumn are invigorating.  My most successful dieting has been in the fall (not that I’m dieting now, mind you.)

I’ve been on the road more than usual lately. A weekend trip to Montgomery and a day-trip to Memphis exposed us to an array of glorious landscapes as the beauty of the turning leaves was staggering. The reds were vibrant, against the contrasting yellows and effervescent oranges. There was enough green remaining to provide an ample canvass to compliment the colors.

Fall has always seemed like the perfect time to begin new projects. Maybe it’s because school started then. Or maybe it’s because Christmas is approaching and historically I’ve created homemade gifts (cross-stich, canned goods, other kitchen projects, arts and crafts). There never seems to be enough time to finish endeavors I start (or plan to start) and I end up doing lots of last-minute catalog shopping.

Whatever the reasons, every year I marvel at how alive I feel this time of year. What about you? Do you have a favorite season?

Are mistakes in e-books more acceptable than in traditional books?

I’m reading a book now that is driving me crazy. I think the plot is okay, but I’m not really sure because I can’t overlook the editing blunders. One or two in a book and I congratulate myself for spotting that which others have missed. But mistakes on every page are unacceptable.

What kind of mistakes? The most blatant error is lack of capitalization for proper nouns. For example, my name might read kay Elam or Kay elam or even kay elam in this book, instead of Kay Elam. What gives? Another universal problem is misspelled words. The word “America” has been used half-a-dozen or so times thus far and every time it has been spelled “Amarica.”

In all fairness, I’m reading a Kindle copy on my I-Pad, but even though I’m tolerant and will overlook formatting issues with this newish technology, I can’t ignore this many errors. As an experiment I went to Amazon and did a spot check of “Surprise Me” pages in the “Look Inside” feature for the traditional books. Scrolling through, I did not see any of the issues I’ve described. I even found “America” spelled correctly.

This tells me the issue is most likely only with the electronic form of the book. I paid $7.99 to download it. A paperback version would have been $10.17; hardcover, $16.47. Does this mean I get $2 less editing than the paperback version? I’ve not run into this with $0.99 books I’ve purchased.

Would I have noticed them if I weren’t in critique groups and doing beta reads? Yeah, I would have noticed.

I know this many errors didn’t slip by the editor(s) and the author. There is no way. We work too hard to produce a quality product to have it marred by poor editing. So what happened and why did it hit the electronic bookshelves with so many mistakes? I suspect someone made some last minute “changes” that affected these words and no one checked the finished product.

Whose job is it to check? Ultimately, in my opinion, it falls on the shoulders of the author—it is his book. I’m sure the temptation, however, with hardcover and paperback in hand, is to make the assumption the electronic version is also acceptable. In this case, it’s a poor assumption.

If they are misprints, can they be corrected in the electronic version? I honestly don’t know. But if it were my book I’d be raising hell until they were.

What have I learned from this? If When my book is published, I’ll read all forms of the product before and after publication. There may be nothing I can do after it’s published, but I will want to be the first to know if there is a goof-up. And if there were a way to correct the e-book edition (and I suspect there is), I’d want to catch the mistakes and get them fixed before my readers found them. But that’s just me.

I’ll get off my soapbox and back to the book. I think I could enjoy the story if I didn’t have these distractions.

Have a good weekend,


Southern Festival of Books brings unwanted news

This past weekend, Nashville hosted the twenty-third Southern Festival of Books at beautiful Legislative Plaza in front of the Tennessee State Capitol. The weather was perfect—cool and crisp—and I’m told attendance was good. I didn’t get to go because my youngest stepson moved into his first post-college apartment to start a “real” job next week and we helped. (Sounds like a Shake-n-Bake commercial. So was the move. Trust me.)

Anyway, as I was reading the weekend newspapers, trying not to drool about the happenings at the festival, I got a real shocker. Released earlier this month was a new mystery, set in Nashville, titled—you guessed it—MURDER ON MUSIC ROW. Damn it! That’s my title. I researched it. It hadn’t been used (which I couldn’t believe), and I’d jumped on it. It seems I didn’t jump fast enough, or find a publisher as soon as I would have liked, or whatever. A guy named Stuart Dill scooped me. His actual title is Murder on Music Row: A Music Industry Thriller. Close enough. Oh, well.

Of course, the first thing I did was go to Amazon to check it out. (Okay, the first thing I did was pitch a little hissy fit—you know me so well—but then I went to Amazon.) Momentarily distracted by Stuart’s Cajun Dill Okra for $18.88 plus $7.99 shipping (I think I’ll pass), I found the book on Kindle and immediately downloaded it to my i-Pad. Yes, I gave this title-robbing guy money. I have to read it.

You know how we authors fear someone is going to steal our story even though we know there really aren’t any new plots out there to steal? Surprise. Mr. Dill’s story isn’t anything like mine. And, if I’m truthful (and we know I always am–well mostly), his book is more deserving of the title because it is more about Music Row, while mine only has the murder occur there. I’m about a quarter of the way through his MOMR, and still no murder so I’m not sure where his occurs. But, heck, I wanted that title.

Regardless, congratulations to debut novelist Mr. Stuart Dill, also from south Alabama (but not Florala), also—hey, I wonder if he’s kin to Reeves Dill, a college classmate of mine who matched other factoids in Stuart Dill’s bio.

I know most titles get changed during the publishing process, but I need something catchy as a starting point. Any ideas?

Blog Action Day: Food

This week I’m posting my customary Monday blog one day early. Why? Because today, Sunday, October 16, 2011, is Blog Action Day. What this means is bloggers all around the world will be blogging on the same day about the same topic. Blog Action Day (BAD) began in 2007, as a way to focus as many bloggers as possible on one important global topic. Past years’ topics have included water, climate change and poverty. This year BAD coincides with World Food Day, so the theme is “Food.”

Food is my nemesis. Always has been and, I suspect, always will be. My problem is not that I overeat. Instead I get engrossed in things and forget to eat. By the time I slow down enough to realize I haven’t eaten, I’m ravenous and grab something quick and non-healthy instead of making better choices, always available, but which usually require some prep work.

Another problem—my favorite foods are white: potatoes, rice, grits (I’m a Southerner), breads, cake—you get the idea. White foods (aka carbs) are my comfort foods. My favorite ice cream is even vanilla. I don’t even like chocolate anything.

Surprisingly, I’m not big on fried foods except French fries. I don’t like the way I feel after eating it and I certainly don’t like to clean up the mess from frying. And it seems to me the grease lingers in the air for days.

Unfortunately, though I am not an adventuresome eater. Growing up my family ate whatever (fried) foods were prepared and believed we didn’t “like” things my mom didn’t cook. Whether my sister and I were told that or we came to the conclusion on our own, I’m not sure, but it’s created a lifelong food issue for both of us. I never even tried pizza until I was a senior in college. Perhaps it would’ve been better had I not tried it, but that’s not the point.

As a child, our mother used the “starving children in China,” adage to coax us to clean our plates. Of course, like most children, we suggested she send our meals to those poor, pitiful kids (and promptly got in trouble). The country may have been different, but I’d be willing to bet most of you experienced the same cunning parental strategy growing up.

I’ve overcome the need to eat everything on my plate and try to stop when I fill full. But just as I get distracted and forget to eat, I can also get distracted while eating and continue long after I’m content. I need to stay focused.

In America, we are a world of plenty. Even those without means, can find a meal at a soup kitchen or mission. Churches, Meals on Wheels, and other worthy organizations provide food to those in need. I’m sure there are those who’d disagree, but in my opinion, no one has to be hungry in America. I know that isn’t true in other parts of the world. I found I almost had to leave the movie Slum Dog Millionaire because of the starvation portrayed. And when I hear how many children die from starvation daily, I’m appalled.

I want to do something in honor of World Food Day. I’m donating some canned goods to a local food bank, but feel the need to do something more personal—something that is a sacrifice. To that end, I’m going to give up French fries for one year. This may not seem like a big deal, but every fast food joint tries to upsell them to your order. And I like them. I really like them. But until next October, no fries for me. It’ll be like an extended Lent.

How about you? What are you doing for World Food Day?






My stepson deployed to Afghanistan earlier this week. He is a career Marine, but that doesn’t make his departures any easier on our family. Stationed in Hawaii, he and his wife are expecting our first grandchild in March. He probably won’t be home until June. Yes, he’ll miss the birth of his child. We hope he can be there via videoconferencing.

The day he left he spent hours on the phone calling the people he loves. His dad called me after talking with him from work. Understandably, Hubby was despondent. When my call came at home, Stepson sounded so gloomy—how could he not? He’d been telling folks goodbye all day. I also talked to his wife during the call. She sounded like a little girl. Her birthday is next week so I’ve sent her lots of goodies which I hope will cheer her up. He also missed their anniversary while training for this mission. Life goes on.

I asked what I could do. I didn’t know what else to say, other than I loved him. He said to write letters—communicate—after he sends his new address. The last time he was stationed overseas our niece’s school class adopted him, and when he returned home, he visited her class in full dress uniform. She’s in college now, but I’m sure we’ll find others to adopt him for this tour.

When I get his address, I will post it in case anyone wants to drop him a note. Until then (and after) please keep him and his wife in your thoughts and prayers. It’s going to be a long eight or nine months.

~ Kay

Naomi and Drew

Is there a perfect query?

The answer, of course, is yes no maybe.

Ask a hundred agents how to write the perfect query and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Really. Don’t believe me? Google “query.” There are almost a billion possibilities. A billion! Everyone, it seems, has an opinion. Or, go to agency websites and look at submission guidelines. They vary from agency to agency and sometimes even from agent to agent. Read these guidelines carefully, and follow them to the letter when you query a specific agent.

Fortunately, many agents blog. If you read their blogs, you’ll see their personal likes and dislikes. Some are universal. They all hate the redundancy of “fictional novel,” and they all require the title, genre, and word count. About the only other thing they’ll all agree on, is the query should make them want to keep reading. As writers, we share that objective.

Therefore, research an agent before you query. If he/she blogs, read the blog. Go back and read all of their previous posts on queries. You might find something that’ll make you jump out of the slush pile and avoid a mistake that would send you straight to File Thirteen.

Here are a few of my favorite blogs on queries. Some will stroke your egos because you would never, ever in a million years make these kinds of mistakes. Or would you? Reading these links will be well worth your time. I promise.

Do you have other favorite blogs with good information on querying specific agents? Will you share?

Let’s go back to the original question. If the query interests an agent enough to ask for pages or a full, then it’s a perfect query for you with that specific agent.

~ Kay

Slush Pile Hell

Bookends, LLC – A Literary Agency  (Jessica Faust & team)

Pub Rants (Kristin Nelson)

Rachelle Gardner (WordServe)

Query Shark (Janet Reid)

Way behind

I follow A LOT of blogs–agents, editors, writer friends, and a few miscellaneous ones.

I knew I was a tad bit behind on checking posts so I took a peek at how many I had to read to catch up. Unfortunately, I did this before I wrote this morning’s post. BIG MISTAKE!!!   747 — It sounds like an airplane. It feels as heavy as an airplane. Wow! That’s a whole lot of reading. Calgon, take me away.

Since I have tap dance class this afternoon and dinner plans tonight, I’d better get started. I’ll be back with a real post on Wednesday.

~ Kay