Saturday, January 31, 2009

Even Mr. Grisham Knows His Limitations

My finger's healing. Thank goodness. It was almost devastating not being able to type during the last few days. Made me appreciate the little things in life. Like my beautiful Imac keyboard, not to mention the monitor!

Back to writing... Charlie Rose (PBS) interviewed John Grisham Wednesday night for the full hour. You can see the entire interview at Charlie Rose. There was a nice rapport between the men, and I suspect they're friends. Charlie has interviewed Mr. Grisham 16 times. The reason I'm mentioning this particular interview is because Mr. Grisham admits that he doesn't write great characters. It's the story that matters to him. The plot. There is an interesting section on what he thinks his flaws are. He says his effort goes into building suspense rather then into character development.

"I don't want to spend a lot of time getting into somebody's head."

I found that a fascinating statement because characters mean everything to me. My stories are about people overcoming great conflicts.

Rather than me quote here what Mr. Grisham says, take a moment to check out the interview; you can view increments on particular subjects: plot, story development etc, or you can see the full interview. You may or may not agree with his ideas on plotting and pacing, but his numbers speak volumes on what the reading public thinks. Over one thousand readers showed up at his last Barnes and Noble signing.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Unable to type yesterday got me thinking. Could I adapt to one-hand typing? What if my satellite connection quit? What if I had to go back to my IBM typewriter and could no longer connect with my online friends? Oh my Lord, could I survive? Would I?

Human beings can do just about anything needed to adapt to change; they've proving that enough times. I say this on the eve of last night's CBC show: The National News. They did a story on the economic situation in Canada verses what's happening in America, China and Britain. Compared to those countries, we have it easy. Unless you ask someone in Mackenzie or Osawa.

My reading Tuesday night at the Library is partially responsible for my heightened optimism. If you're a published writer feeling a bit discouraged about the book industry, stand in front of a group of writers and readers for 90 minutes. I dare you not to come away feeling inspired. Satellite disconnection, one-hand typing on an old IBM or pen to paper notwithstanding, writing is a God-given gift. Nothing should get in the way of you and that thing you love most: writing.

The snow out my window is one more reason I'm happy. It's a perfect day to snuggle up with my keyboard, despite one-hand typing. Lastly, I watched Charlie Rose's interview with John Grisham last night after The National News (kicking myself for not taping him) and I fell asleep thinking 'If Mr. Grisham can do it, I can too.'

One last thought: Have you subscribed to Copyblogger yet?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

MY FIRST READING turned out to be fun.

Last night's reading at the Prince George Library was fun. I had a great audience. Great questions. Everybody made me feel very welcomed. Unfortunately, I smashed my finger getting wood in yesterday morning, so typing is painful. I'll be back to talk about my evening as soon as my finger heals.

Thanks to Margaret for making it such a successful evening. And thank you to those who attended. You were a great bunch.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Do I Have To Market?

Blogging is creating content that one feels is of interest to the reading public. Those of you who blog know how difficult that can be. Similar questions arise: What in my life would interest you?

There's no easy answer to that. But it brings to mind (with the excitement of this week's inauguration) that what brings us together is our humanity. It's the one thing that binds all nations under God. And thus seems like a good subject for blogging.

As a Canadian, I was moved by Tuesday's ceremonies. While listening to President Obama's speech, I too was filled with hope. As far back at his win in the primaries, I experienced that sensation. Seeing it come to pass on Tuesday was the icing on the cake. There is a chance that the future for Canada, The United States and Mexico, and even the rest of the world will be brighter. That's what I feel and now I'm attempting to focus on that in my blogs.

Still not an easy task.

I've been of the mind that my past dictates my future. I'm never going to know what it feels like to be in the inner circle. I'm not going to be filthy rich nor eternally famous. I'm destined to be just one of millions of Canadian mums trying to make her mark in her small world.

And yet, here is a man raised by a single mother whose father was a sheep herder in Nairobi, and he's now the President of the United States. Makes my limited view of my future seem rather limited, wouldn't you say?

As you may already know, I'm blogging because I'm a published author and apparently blogging is part and parcel of that. I'm still not sure why. I think it may have something to do with how many authors there are. And on how many actually succeed in being best sellers. I'm blogging because on my own, my reach is short. Though I believe I've written a good story (Dead Witness), I don't have the facilities outside blogging to reach the masses. Therefore, blogging it is. Not to mention book signings, readings, interviews and tours. If I believe in my book, it's up to me to spread the word. Funds allowed.

Yes, here comes the BUT...

Mr. Obama decided somewhere along his life that he was destined to serve. He's obviously lived his life with that goal in mind. Kudos to him. He worked hard and now his dream is a reality.

For as far back as I can remember, I wanted to write stories. I paid relatively close attention in school. I went to graduate school. I did everything I could to hone my craft. I wrote one story, then another and another. Today I'm published. Readers are enjoying my book. In those terms, I'm a success. Kudos to me.

So why do I have to blog, tour, do interviews, signings and readings?

I'm scheduled to do a book reading at the Prince George Library Tuesday night at 7 o'clock and a book signing at Coles Books in the Pine Centre Mall sometime in February. Hope to see you there. And for those of you who have discovered the truth behind marketing, please stop by and let me know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cozy Mystery

Cher'ley Grogg is married to a wonderful, supportive husband, she has two married children and four marvelous grandchildren. She enjoys painting, photography, stitchery, reading and writing. She has completed two novels which are in the final editing stages. To support all her hobbies, she drives an eighteen wheeler cross country. She's been published in All Things Girl magazine, local newspapers, Long Ridge Writer's Anthology, Crime and Suspense magazine and 34th Parallel Anthology, and several blogs. She serves as an intern for WOW magazine. She belongs to numerous witing groups: Sisters in Crime, Guppies, Muse Online,West Virginia's Writers Group, Writer's University, Crime and Suspense, Edit Red and Crime Scene Writers.

Cozy Mysteries
by Cher'ley Grogg

The word Cozy brings up warm thoughts. The best time of year to think cozy is winter. A blazing fire, a heavy blanket, a hot cup of tea and fuzzy slippers are among my favorite warmer uppers. These items help a person escape from the cold. Short days and long frigid nights are a bit depressing. To help the nights seem shorter I love to curl up and snuggle in with a Cozy Mystery.

I'm in the process of revising two cozy mystery novels. One is for adults and it's set in a"quaint" little town in West Virginia and the other is for children and it's set in a "quaint" little town in Ohio. Usually Cozies have "quaint" or intriguing towns. These are areas people would like to visit over and over. The settings for hard boiled mysteries, suspense and even horror are usually set in cities or larger more populated areas.

My characters are mostly "quirky". Good people, hard working, dedicated They have strong minds and strong wills. An inner strength that not only surprises them, but everyone they know. The main characters in Cozies are average, everyday people who step up to the plate when they're most needed. They almost always end up putting other peoples needs before their own.

A river runs through both of my cozies. The rivers wind, twist and mingle in the countryside. Romance does the same thing. It winds and twists and mingles among the characters. Just a touch, because if there were too much love it would be a romance novel instead of a cozy mystery.

Often in suspense, horror or hard-boiled detective novels we know who committed the crime and we get to see an explicit image of the crime. The Cozy is a mystery which is more of a puzzle. The fun part of reading a cozy is following the amateur sleuth into their search of whodunit. It contains little violence, sex, or low language. The reader trusts that good will win over evil.

The cozy plays with the mind. It's an intellectual puzzle. People who are drawn to cozies are reported to be highly intelligent and not inclined to read fiction. The cozies are a study of human nature.

Above everything else a cozy offers a relaxing way to escape from everyday problems. It's normally a book you can read and then pass on to your children or your mother. A story that will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face as you and the main character solve the crime together.

Have you ever considered writing a Cozy Mystery? I'm no expert, but I'll always try to make myself available to help new writers along their way so don't hesitate to seek me out.

I enjoyed reading 10 Killer Tips to writing the cozy mystery offered by Anita Higman who is the author of 22 novels.

Cher'ley Grogg

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You Already Knew

Carol Percer, from Liberty, Texas is an office manager for a hose distributor corporation in Houston. A huge old film buff, with a passion for silent films like Valentino and Swanson, Carol is fascinated by all things "gangster". She's currently working on a book set in the 40's in Hollywood. The story pits her two passions together: the mob in the movie industry, with this question at heart: what draws the dames to the mobsters?

Carol is a mother, a music lover and a writer.

Glad you're here, Carol.

Thank you, Joylene. I'm happy to be here, and to share a story close to my heart.

A dear friend of mine, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, regained her hearing after being completely deaf for thirty-nine years. I don’t know who had more joy from her experience----my friend, for a glorious world of sounds which opened up for her; or me, for her blessing bringing to my attention the everyday miracles that I always took for granted. I wrote this poem for her for Thanksgiving, trying to find a way to express the pleasure I received from seeing her discovery of those things that are so common for us---but miracles for her.

“You Already Knew”
By Carol Percer

You already knew that
A soft drink can hisses when the tab is pulled,
A potato chip bag crinkles really loud when it’s opened,
Forks, spoons and knives clang when you open the silverware drawer,
Food makes a sizzling sound in a frying pan,
Your shoes make noise with every step you take,
Water makes a splashing sound when you pour it in a glass,
A toilet makes a swooshing sound when you flush it,
A door makes a thud when you close it.
I didn’t know that.

You already knew that
A car makes a noise when you start the engine then
Purrs as it’s running,
An airplane hums as it passes in the sky above,
A lawnmower roars as it glides over the grass,
A hammer pounding echoes loudly as it strikes a nail,
A fan buzzes as its blades turn,
A light switch makes a clicking sound when you flip it,
Scissors make noise as they cut paper,
Windows make noise when you open or close them.
I didn’t know that.

You already knew that
No two people have the same voice,
Dogs do not sound the same as cats,
Babies don’t sound like grown ups when they talk,
Different species of birds sing different songs or that birds make sounds at all,
Wind makes a soft sound when it blows through trees,
Rain makes a gentle sound when it hits the ground,
Gravel makes a crunching noise under your shoes.
I didn’t.

But the moon, sun and stars don’t make any sound after all.
I didn’t know that. But now I do.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I'm wading through old photograph albums in the hope that one day I'll scan them onto DVDs. Other than for obvious reasons, I'm hoping they'll spark some lost memories of my childhood, stuff I can share with my sons and my grandchildren. I have journals, but they're mostly dark thoughts that lead me to write equally dark suspense thrillers; the mind of a writer is a strange thing. By sharing stories of my youth, I'll be immortalized. The way I wish my parents and grandparents had been. Who are we really, but the legacy of our pasts?

This is a photograph of my dad visiting in the late spring of 1983. They'd recently made a trek to Manitoba. It was a sad time for my dad. He'd buried his mother. He and his sister Joyce had also gone through my grandmother's house deciding which grandchild should get what. Which grandchild should receive which crocheted dollies, etc. I'd already received a beautiful crocheted tablecloth as a wedding gift years earlier.

My dad's experience was blessed by the fact he adored his kid sister and she him. He was stationed in Victoria, B.C. after the war, married and raised his family in Maple Ridge. It was a long way from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. I understand now how homesick he must have been for his mum and sister. Our youngest has been stationed in Gagetown, New Brunswick for over ten years. Dad made it back to Manitoba as often as he could, but it's not the same.

His picture has a prominent spot on my wall of photos. I may not look at it everyday, but I doubt a day goes by that I don't think of him. Six feet three and a half, over two hundred pounds, he was larger than life. His resemblance to Robert Mitchim and Nick Nolte was uncanny. He had the singing voice of Dean Martin mixed with Ray Price. The women among the couples they chummed with said he had bedroom blues eyes. I remembered being perplexed over that description for years. What did the colour of eyes have to do with bedrooms? Duh.

The day I took the photograph of him sitting at our kitchen table, he was telling us stories of their trip to Manitoba. Adventures, really. Most of Dad's stories had Mum doing something embarrassing. Like the time she was daydreaming and drove into an eighteen wheeler waiting at a stop sign. Somebody nicknamed her "Crash" after that. It was probably Dad.

There was the story of how they met. 1947 or thereabouts, Mum was chaperoning her younger sisters at a dance in Winnipeg. The way Dad tells its: When she spotted Dad, she immediately abandoned the girls and dragged him onto the dance floor. Afterward she dragged him home and took advantage of him. Mum always laughed when he told that story. It was twenty years before I understood why. He was a charmer. My mother was brought up by a strict French Roman Catholic mother who freaked if any of us kids undressed our dolls.

One of Dad's best stories was of their trip to my grandmother's funeral. Mum's bladder was never very strong. She was good for two or three hours. Hence, trying to convince Dad to stop was a chore. After the third warning, she'd threaten to pee her pants. Their trip from B.C. across the Prairies to Portage usually took two days. When he was finally convinced that she did indeed need to go, they were somewhere east of the Rockies, in Alberta or Saskatchewan. There were no buildings. No gas stations. Nothing. Mum had a blanket in the backseat of their Ford 250. She pulled it out and handed it to him. Dad held it up and was supposed to be standing guard. He was wearing his favourite moccasins slippers, comfortable for driving. A semi was approaching from the east, but a safe distance away. Satisfied, Mum dropped her drawers.

"It's hard to pee on command," she told us later.

What she'd failed to do was to trust Dad to look to the west. A very long semi was approaching. You can imagine: big truck drives by. Wind flies up. Picks up blanket. And there's our very ladylike mother peeing freely, unable to cut it short, bare bum to the breeze. But hey that's not the all of it. The wind picked up her pee too and sprayed all over Dad's slippers.

He's yelling, "Hey! You're peeing on my slippers!" while she's laughing, unable to stop or cover her butt, but watching in sheer horror as the semi from the west motors on by. She swears the truck driver waved and gave her a big smile. Mum thinks Dad's soaked slippers was God's gift.

The story sticks in my mind because it was the last one he told me. I never saw him again. Eight days after I took this photo, he passed on. He left a lot of great stories behind though. I just need to make the time to jot them all down.

Friday, January 9, 2009


You know how I can tell this New Beginning & Self-Love attitude is working? I look out our living room window and think: What a beautiful scene, instead of my standard, "Yikes, I hate winter!"

The thing changing your life is it doesn't happen overnight. I've recently exchanged chapters with a writer I just recently met on a writer's list. I submitted the first chapter of manuscript number six. If you're a writer, you know what a big deal it is to show off your baby. It can open you up to all sorts of emotion turmoil. After doing this for 15 years, you'd think I'd be an old pro. I'm not. I still get butterflies. And while I'm waiting for feedback? Oh dear.

This time was different. Before I sent off the chapter I changed my internal monologue to Joylene, you know you can write. You also know you can't please everyone. You also need feedback before you go much further.

As a writer, being objective is tough. That's why God created critiques. He knew we'd need help. And as it turns out, my reader was very helpful. Not only did she see the potential, but she pointed out something I already knew, I tend to ramble in my first drafts. Too much descriptions. Too slow getting started. Okay, it did bug me that I've yet to write a perfect first draft (lol), but what was overdone or undone was was fixable. More importantly, what was right was my prose. And that's exciting because there was a time when my grammar would have been full of errors and my sentence structure all over the place. Sometimes I use too much backstory. But -- I've come a long way, baby.

Health-wise, I've also taken a big step: I've quit weighing myself. That may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but I did the nasty deed every single day for probably the last 15 years. Sure I missed a few days but we're talking maybe 7 out of 365. Does the word compulsive ring a bell? To go an entire week without weighing and more importantly not be freaked about it, is indeed a major life change. Whooray!

It's a slow process turning your life around, but I'm here to say it can be done. Every time a discriminating thought about myself enters my head, I vaporized it. I remind myself that I'm a survivor, I have a successful first novel, a wonderful family, the best friends in the world and an ole bod that is still kicking. What more could I ask for?

Okay, an interview on Larry King would be nice.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Today is a New Beginning.

2008 was not a good year for me. Yes, I published my suspense thriller Dead Witness and received excellent reviews, but the year was dark and depressing from the get go. I keep a journal, and after looking back at most of January and February, I quit reading. It was too depressing to continue. I never quite got over 2007. We lost a loved one at the end of 2006, and consequently 2007 is mostly a blur. I entered 2008 with no direction. Survival instincts took over and most of the year was spent just coping.

At the end of February, I was stricken with that terrible flu sweeping across the country. It took the wind out of my sails for most of March too. April, I honestly don't remember. I could go back to my journal to find out, but why? Summer came and went. Our youngest was deployed to Afghanistan at the end of September. Winter rushed forward. My husband and I didn't even put up a Christmas tree. Our hearts weren't into the season or the celebrations. Is it any wonder that I couldn't wait for the year to finish?

I'm grateful I'm still here though. I'm grateful that readers contacted me to say they loved Dead Witness. But gratitude isn't enough. When did I stop believing I deserved to be happy? If you've ever been in the thralls of depression, you know your reasoning stops working after a time. You recognize that you're depressed, but the tools necessary to help aren't readily available. Logic and motivation and yearning are flimsy.

It begins with the desire for change. I want to be happy again. I also understood that first I need to believe I deserve to be happy again. That's a lot to ask for when you're in a dark place.

So it started with a desire and grew to a necessity. I am going to learn how to love myself again. It doesn't matter that I don't know what to do next. That is what's so thrilling. Since I made this declaration New Year's Day, a life-changing decision, the pieces have been falling into place. In less than a week.

I very seldom watch Oprah because there are too many commercials. I sit down with every intention of watching, but then these commercials keep interrupting and before long I'm off doing something else.

Only Monday, I sat down and stayed put.

Has anybody been following Oprah?

Over the years, she and I have experienced similar stages in our lives. Except when she turned 50 and thought it was a wonderful age. I thought she was nuts. But that was then.

I'm definitely with her now on this self-love mission. And as corny as that sounds, if you're not happy with your life, if things seem downright shitty, rest assured it's something to do with imbalance. As Oprah explains it: to be happy means to have all aspects of your life in balance: relationship, career and spirituality. And don't forget: fun. The secret is to believe you're worth it and to love yourself enough to be happy. I'm finally getting that. If I want a successful career, I need to be fulfilled and to have fun at the same time. If I'm not, then it's my love of self that determines the changes necessary to turn it into fun.

To wake up everyday with the motivation to make my life better, I need to love myself enough to see cookies and ice-cream and cake for what they are: poison. If I love myself, then seeing sugar as something that is cutting my life short makes sense and is very simple to do.

I went to bed thinking about this last night, and guess what I dreamed? I was sitting in a room surrounded by tables of glazed donuts, cookies, squares, chocolates and some fabulous whipped dessert... and suddenly I saw them for what they were. It was both exciting and freeing. I don't know exactly how this self-love stuff works yet. But if you'll come along, maybe I can help you while I'm helping myself. Couldn't hurt. And besides, I haven't been this excited in a long long time.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Secrets of a Successful New Year's Resolution

A new year demands a new attitude. Not sure why January 1st dictates that more than any other day. A friend and I were discussing that very thing the other day. Why do we automatically make January the time for change? Why not any other day?

I think it's partially because change is in the air. Everyone's talking about New Year's resolutions. Everyone's making the decision to make a change: diet, get in shape, improve on life, become a better person. There's a feeling of optimism around every corner. Why shouldn't we pick up on that and go with the flow? Seems a natural response.

That's not to say that individually we don't try to make changes on February 13th, July 4th, or October 19th. It's just that as a New Year begins, a decision to change seems universal. Everybody's talking about it.

I know I want 2009 to be more than 2008 was. I want to be a better person, wife, friend, mother, writer. Okay, it might also be my age. I'm closing in on the same age my dad was the last time I saw him. I'm be kidding myself if I said it doesn't matter to me that I'm about to see the world through the same years of experience. It does. I'm now more aware of his state of mind. I was looking at the world through 30-year-old eyes, now I'm looking at life as his peer. Although it doesn't discount the fact that no matter how many chronological years go by, he'll still be my dad.

But, all that aside, in order to succeed and make a New Year's resolution work, I need determination and drive. After all "RESOLUTION" means promise, decision, plan and commitment. I've made a lot of resolutions over the year that failed. And I'm not alone. To fail means to weaken, to lose courage, to give up, to falter, to be consumed by guilt.

To succeed can be acquainted to winning the lottery.

To succeed at change means I seek out the techniques and devices for change. I implemented the tools and perform the actions necessary to succeed. To lose weight, I exercise and diet. But more importantly, I decide exercising and dieting is enjoyable, thus making their implementation an easy addition to my life.

For more years than I can count, experts have been questioning why people fail at New Year's resolutions. The answers make sense. My resolutions failed because my attitude didn't change or adjust. I let past failures speak for me. I let outside influences take over. I failed to change my environment to match my resolution. The list goes on and on. I didn't set up my life for success.

This year I decided to abandon New Year's resolutions in favour of contentment. I'm not looking so far ahead. I'm concentrating on the moment. If today I eat sensibly, incorporate activity into my day, avoid situations that are going to make me feel guilty later, (no chocolate cake, cookies, chips or ice-cream in my space), and not focus on how I'll look by April but instead how I'll feel in the next five minutes, maybe my changes will become natural.

2008 is over. Finished. Worrying about marketing put a major strain on my health, attitude and well-being. I made publishing my novel an obligation to everyone but myself. I had it in my mind that unless I did everything possible to promote my book, there was something major wrong with me. If I didn't work 18 hours a day promoting Dead Witness, then I obviously didn't believe in myself or my work. I had no faith.

What resulted was a nervous wreck worrying about book touring in the worst winter in BC since the 70s. Imagines of traveling over icy roads, fighting blizzards and snow storms -- replaced the act of appreciating the accomplishment and joy of publishing a novel, a novel that I believed in. I failed to trust that Word-of-Mouth would echo reader sentiments.

Today is the 4th day of a brand new year. If you've made a New Year's resolution that you believe is vital to your health and well-being, use everything at your disposal to succeed. Research, change your world and incorporate the tools necessary to win. You know what those changes are. Don't accept anything but success. Don't expect anything but success. And remember, you made this year's resolution because you deserve the outcome.

That's what I'm going to do. And if the secret lies in convincing you while I convince myself, so be it.