Monday, April 25, 2011

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Shortly after I had written the first Penelope mystery and placed it with the agent, my friends urged me to write a second. Can't have a series with only one book.  Publishers will be looking for the next book. Best time to write it is when the characters are fresh in your mind. So I embarked on the second one.

Creating a series meant reoccurring characters, something I didn't plan for in the first book.  The environment had to be conducive to more books. Conflicts needed to sustain between installments.  Enemies. Feuds. Friends.  I looked over some of the current YA literature and took the cues. I wrote the next book: PENELOPE AND THE GHOST'S TREASURE.

Afterward I wondered if it had been a good idea.  I now had two stories peddle. Penelope #1 and #2. For a long time I regretted the decision of writing a second book.  Selling two books on the same subject seemed doubly hard.

 Now with plans to self-publish, I foresee the choice a good one. In fact it seems only logical to have third novel.  So I have started writing Penelope #3.  PENELOPE AND THE MOVIE STAR.

Schedule: PENELOPE AND …

THE MOVIE STAR                      SUMMER 2012

Catch you later…

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I saw it on, so it must be true.

"E-book sales top paperbacks for first time". This tidbit of news was published in the Technology section at  I thought perhaps it would be more appropriate in the Business news. E-book sales were $90.3 million in February. That's up 202% over February of last year.    Or may be in Entertainment; at least I find books entertaining.

If truth be told, legacy publishers must be taking notice and scratching their heads.  Technology advances and the old crumbles away.   I remember paying $19.95 a month to AOL so I could dial up on my home phone to get on the Internet.  Then IP's came by and who'd pay that extra fee, so AOL went for free.  Twenty years ago, Ma Bell collected $0.10 per minute every time I made a long distance phone call.  Then came VOIP with providers springing up all over the place and, poof! I get everything for one low price.  Publishers once controlled the business deciding what I'd read and how much I'd pay.  Thanks to the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the others I get a better selection, larger choice and it costs less.  Anyone can print a book with POD or e-book publish for little or nothing.  Let the readers decide what they want.

I had a great conversation with my agent when I decided to pull back my two YA mysteries about what was happening in the publishing world.  She said there was no way to predict anything.  Established writers with decent track records suddenly can't find a legacy publisher to print their next book.  My two YA books sound like something out of Disney channel sitcom, but no one will take the chance.  Placing a book with publisher became a guessing game of what do they really want.

Like telephone service and the Internet, technology is driving the prices down and offering choices.  For around five bucks I can enjoy a descent hamburger with fries and a drink.  I can get an affordable bottle of wine in the 5 to 10 dollar range. And the last TV I bought cost less than what it did twenty years ago. It's about time what I read became affordable and with more choices.  Legacy publishers should be paying attention and rethinking their business models.

Gives a whole new perspective to the saying: Publish or perish.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Penelope and The Birthday Curse.

This is the third novel I have written and the first one that I placed with a literary agent.  But back then it was The Christmas Curse.  It differed from the current version in two aspects.  Penelope was the only young adult in it, and of course it centered on Christmas.   I learned some valuable lessons.  First, novels for Young Adults should have young adults.  Second, don't write a story around a holiday.  The problem was no one was interested in Christmas until it was upon us and then it was too late because they were looking for stuff for next year. 

So I rewrote the story into The Birthday Curse.  It was actually an option I had planned when first writing but somehow got off on the holiday path instead.  I reworked characters and added three more kids.  Ruthie the fourteen year old fortuneteller. Wendell the twelve year old bookworm turned sidekick.  And Orson a nine year old terror.

Here is a cut from the book.


“Has anyone seen my son Orson?” A woman with a pony tail poking from the top of her head and too much lipstick shouted. “I can’t find him.”

“Jeanette, how nice of you to join us.” Mother glanced up the stairway and raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure your son is exploring the Manor.”

When the Biscuits had arrived earlier, Orson said nothing and only leered at Penelope, like a wolf stares at a rabbit. She glanced out a window. “Maybe he wandered outside into the freezing cold.”

“Dean,” she said to the man standing behind her, “say something.”

Her husband was a slim man with ferret like features. He stared down at his feet. “It’s snowing outside, too.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.  – Mark Twain

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Evolution of Penelope

The protagonist of my YA mystery series had started out much older.  Originally I picture her around college age and returning home.  She stood on the porch of a dreary old house isolated out in the middle of nowhere. A lone porch light burned and a light from an upstairs bedroom window burned, casting dim glows into the darkness.  She returned home after being gone a long time, but she knew crossing the threshold meant entering back into her parents' dysfunctional world.
As I wrote, things took an interesting turn.  Her parents and relatives and their friends turned out to be offbeat, quirky, different and perhaps a little bizarre .  To survive Penelope had adapted to the environment and people.  She survived by going with the flow while watching out for her own survival.  Here actions and reactions became more fitting to someone much younger and eventually I settled on thirteen.  One friend put it as Nancy Drew meets the Addams Family.
Here is a cut from The Birthday Curse. After learning that her mother’s friend had been married four times, the woman’s step-son explained to Penelope’s persistence to know more.
I can tell you.” Wendell stared at her through the thick lenses of his eyeglasses.  “Her first husband, my father, died of food poisoning.  The second one disappeared, and Miss O’Connell had him declared dead. The third one drowned.” Wendell removed his glasses and looked off thoughtfully.  “They dredged the bay for three days before they found the body.”  He pushed his eyeglasses back on and shook his head.  “Not a pretty sight.”

Penelope tried to imagine what three days in water did to a body. Fish nibbling at its flesh. Water swelling it to the size of a small whale. Maybe something with sharp teeth swims by and chomps off something. Penelope bit her lip and shivered, deciding best not to ask for any more details.


Catch you later…

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On My Own with Penelope

Last weekend I withdrew my two YA mysteries (The Penelope Amour Murder Mysteries)  from the literary agent by mutual agreement.  She had peddled them to publishers and had some positive results but no takers. Here are some of my favorite responses.

One response was "I was wondering whether or not you have already begun collaborating with a publisher on the project" which was followed a few weeks later by "not interested in your proposal at this time."  (Go figure!)

Another said, "Ron has written such a fun book, one I’m certain children will love. I’m afraid, however, that I found some of the story’s elements a little too familiar and similar to books already in the marketplace." (What happened to studying the market and see was is selling?  And doesn’t "children will love" mean sales?)

My agent wrote back regarding one publisher: "They liked the story, but had some issues with Penny's relationship to her mother." (I admit she and her mother did not get along, but they resolved their issues and became much closer at the end. Also, the relationship was that Penelope was growing up and exerting her desire to be more independent while Mother was trying to hang on to her little girl. I did a lot of research to make certain that the mother-daughter conflict was in keeping with Penelope's age group."

One publisher was looking for an edgier protagonist with raw content.  (??????)

Enough said.  Now I embark on a new direction with the YA novels.  I had planned to self-publisher, but the agent has urged me to consider small press.  She said no need to have an agent as most accept from the author.  So this week I send out to the first publisher.