Monday, April 27, 2015

Making the Most of Your Minute

As a newer author, I’m lucky in many ways. I’m an extrovert, and I started competitive public speaking at the age of 14. I love nothing more than getting up in front of a crowded room to talk about my work and publicly share my neuroses. Many writers I know—especially those new to the writing scene—aren’t nearly so comfortable. It’s not surprising, really. Authors are programmed to express their ideas at a keyboard, not in front of a microphone. The idea of speaking in front of a group can be terrifying. For many, the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death.

Here’s my free and unsolicited advice: Get over it. ;-)
A writer has to express herself verbally in many situations, including conferences like Malice Domestic and the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference. Pitching your book to agents and editors, participating on author panels, speaking at new author forums where you have sixty seconds to wow readers with the brilliance of your work. All are great opportunities, if you can stay composed enough to take advantage of them.

There are at least a gazillion blog articles, books, classes, and videos that teach presentation skills and discuss conference etiquette. Most of them, however, miss a critical point. The best way to wow an audience is to show them the true you. Not the you that would rather huddle under the table. Definitely not the you that yells desperately, “Buy my book!” The you that shines when you feel the most confident. The you that bubbles with enthusiasm when you share your passions with friends. The you that often gets left behind as soon as you step up to the microphone.
Once you feel confident when speaking in front of an audience, you will automatically escape most of the public speaking traps that all of those blog articles warn you about. But how do you build that confidence? The general advice (and it’s true!) is to practice. Give presentations over and over and over again. Advice that is exquisitely unhelpful for newbie, terrified authors. If you can’t gain a skill until you practice, but practicing makes you want to upchuck your orange juice, what can you do?

Practice mentally.
It’s a well-proven fact that your brain doesn’t know the difference between actually doing an activity and visualizing it. Want to improve your golf score? Visualize the perfect hole-in-one. Want to get through dinner with your mother-in-law without sparking the next family feud? Visualize listening to her rather than talking at her. Want to build self-assurance when public speaking? Mentally rehearse speaking confidently in front of a group. By visualizing confidence, you stimulate the areas of your brain that build self assurance while simultaneously decreasing the drip, drip, drip of adrenaline that promotes stress. Believe me, it works.

Not a visual learner? No problem! Effective visualizations aren’t all about seeing. They use all of your senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.
I’ve used the visualization below to help me prepare for job interviews, speeches, and frightening medical procedures. It’s been a true gift to me and I hope it helps you.

Visualization for Presentation Success

1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable and your spine is in “neutral.
2. Allow your eyes to close and your focus to go internal.
3. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Feel the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils. Allow your mind to focus on and pay attention to this feeling of the breath. This will be your anchor. Whenever your attention wanders, you’ll invite it back to your breath.
4. Remember a situation in the past in which you felt confident and completely at ease. Try to re-experience that moment with all of your senses
·        What sensations did you feel in your muscles?
·        Was your mouth dry or moist? Your jaw tense or relaxed?
·        What was the rhythm of your breath?
·        What expression did you wear on your face?
·        Were your hands, toes, and jaw relaxed?
·        What sensations did you feel internally in your throat, your stomach, your chest?
·        What was your “inner dialogue” like?
The above questions are just guidelines. The specific sensations and sounds that you notice aren’t important. All that matters is that you try to relive this positive situation as vividly as you can while utilizing the senses you’re most drawn to.
5. When you’re ready, try to hold that confident experience in your body as you mentally step up to a microphone.
·        What sensations do you feel in your muscles?
·        Is your mouth dry or moist? Your jaw tense or relaxed?
·        What is the rhythm of your breath?
·        What expression are you wearing on your face?
·        Are your hands, toes, and jaw relaxed?
·        What sensations do you feel internally in your throat, your stomach, your chest?
·        What is your “inner dialogue” like?
As in Step 4, the above questions are just guidelines. The specific sensations and sounds that you notice aren’t important. All that matters is that you try to feel confidence in this new setting as vividly as you can while utilizing the senses you’re most drawn to.
6. When your mind wanders—and it will!—notice how your body responds. If your muscles start tensing, your breath shortens, or your gremlin mind starts giving you grief, take a deep breath and go back to Step 3. Feel the breath inside your nostrils, refocus your mind then begin the visualization in Step 4 and/or Step 5 again.

7. Continue this visualization for 5 minutes or longer if you’d like.
Your body already knows how to have fun—if only your trickster mind will allow it. Mentally rehearsing confidence in situations of stress is no different than practicing your golf swing. Pattern your mental muscles to find fun instead of fear. Like most life skills, visualization is more effective the more often it’s practiced. Try doing it several times a day the week before an event. You might be astounded at the difference!
Those of you who will be at Malice next month, know that I will be there cheering you on, hoping for your complete and utter success. I’m happy to give you in-person pointers. Public speaking is easy for me. Mingling with strangers is tougher. Please stop me and say hi! I promise, you’ll make my day!

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:
Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate Davidson and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. Her first book, Murder Strikes a Pose won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and is a 2015 Agatha award nominee for Best First Novel. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, was released January, 2015 by Midnight Ink.
Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 
Visit her at, friend her on Facebook at, or e-mail her at


Monday, April 13, 2015

New Arrivals

by Shannon Baker

This is book launch time and I’ve been all over the place talking about Tattered Legacy. I think it’s a great book and you’ll love it. I mean, it’s full of Hopi Indian legends, polygamists, aliens, super-wealthy and politically powerful Mormons and more iconic scenery than you can stuff into 350 pages—so what’s not to love?

But I’m sort of ADD and I wrote that book a while back so, for me, that was then. What is now, though, what has me wiggling in my seat with anticipation, is the NEXT thing in our lives. The Puppy Stork is winging her way to our house, bringing us a bouncing baby bundle of puppy love. We’re scheduled to pick up our 8-week old Weimeraner girl in mid-May.

We lost our last Boxer in 2011 and we’ve been a lonely, sad, dogless couple since then. We ached for a new dog but knew we were destined for a nomadic and pretty chaotic life until we pulled the plug on gainful day jobs and both became stay-at-homes. We made the choice to wait and it’s been a long, desolate trudge, both to the end of the paycheck producing situation and through the puppy drought.

I cringe to compare puppies and babies. When I had my daughters, I lived in rural Nebraska and the references to me and heifers didn’t make me grin. Dogs aren’t people so I’m not a dog mom. But dogs are a specialness all to themselves. At the same time better but not quite on par with people and the love for pets is deep and real. So, yeah, this has some of the same heart-tugs as bringing a baby home.

And as with having babies, I suppose I’ve blocked some of the less desirable details. After all, I did have more than one baby, so I’m obviously pretty good at selective memory.

I’m remembering the good parts of puppies. I can’t wait to cuddle and laugh at puppy antics. I am anticipating bonding and having that loyal, loving companion. I’m not focused so much on the housetraining. The books make it sound so easy. They sleep, they wake up, you run them outside to their spot, they go, you praise them, play with them, there are no accidents, they go back to sleep, you repeat the cycle. In two weeks, they’re reliably trained.

It’s a vague memory from my last puppy, but I think I followed the books. I don’t remember it being that easy.

Then there’s the crate training. Again, the book says it will be a lark. Puppies like their crates. It’s safe and quiet and homey. They will sleep in them all night. No problem. But I think I remember nighttime crying. Shoe loss, furniture damage, holes in the yard, barking. All of these issues are dispatched with positive and preventative training. I find it easy to believe the promises of the puppy book and truly believe our puppy will be nothing but pure joy and will grow into a well-trained, neurosis-free, perfect companion.

But then, I write fiction.

Speaking of which—Tattered Legacy, the third book in the Nora Abbott Mystery Series is available now at your favorite book venue. There are no puppies in it, but there is an aging golden retriever. And lots of mystery and murder and Hopi, polygamists, aliens, rich Mormons and Moab’s amazing landscapes.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Check out these fantastic new releases!

“A great mystery and a romp into the fantasy world 
that is dark, frightening, and a whole lot of fun.”

“Crackerjack entertainment: taut, gritty 
and full of devilish twists.”—KIRKUS REVIEWS

"A compelling mystery full of near-misses
 and scientific wisecracks."—LIBRARY JOURNAL

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dying for Charity

by Tj O'Connor, Author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and the upcoming, Dying to Tell
Since I’ve made the transition from being a writer to an author—the difference is an imaginary line between being unpublished and published (or so I’m told)—I’ve been fortunate to have experiences and meet people I never would have before. As a consultant, life revolves around problem solving. I generally meet very interesting people under the worst of circumstances—they have a problem and they need help … now. In ninety-five percent of the cases it’s a pure business arrangement, with no opportunity for friendship or camaraderie. But as an author, I’ve had the privilege of meeting the most extraordinary people without a cry for help. Most often it’s simply because we share a vocation and love of books—a small, friendly club of authors. How novel. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
Still, I’m an unknown, and except the few who recognize an email or Facebook post here and there, no one has heard of me. In my prior government life, that was how I wanted it—anonymity meant I was below the radar. As an author, anonymity can be fatal.
Yet despite this veil of “who are you again?” I received an invitation from an amazing charity to be one of five authors to speak at a fundraiser this month—The Children’s Specialized Hospital Friends, in Summit, New Jersey.
Who, me? Are you sure you have the right Tj O’Connor? To my amazement, they did.
And so, on April 30th from 11 am to 3 pm, I will share the spotlight with four talented authors to help The Children’s Specialized Hospital Friends. I’ll be speaking along with Marta McDowell, author of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Jerry Parr and Carolyn Parr who wrote, Inside the Secret Service; and Jennifer Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. And all of us will be serving up “A Literary Luncheon” at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, New Jersey, to help raise funds for this charity.
Here’s a little taste of what this hospital and charity are all about (from the hospital’s website):
Children’s Specialized Hospital is a non-profit rehabilitation hospital that serves over 20,000 children annually in 12 sites throughout New Jersey. The hospital serves children affected by traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, complications from premature birth, autism, developmental delays and life changing illnesses. The hospital’s patients come from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and of course New Jersey. Renowned therapeutic programs include physical, speech, and occupational therapy; psychology services; neurodevelopmental physician services; recreational therapy and child life, and a full complement of support services. Read more about the Children’s Specialized Hospital at
So, if you are in the New Jersey area, or have friends or colleagues in the area, ask them to check out this event and consider joining us. If they can’t make the luncheon, perhaps they will consider a small donation or consider passing this blog and flier along to others who might wish to support us.



Invite you to
Thursday, April 30, 2015
11:00am to 3:00pm
Canoe Brook Country Club
Summit, New Jersey
Guest Authors
Marta McDowell Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life
TJ O’Connor Dying to Know
Jerry Parr with Carolyn Parr Inside the Secret Service
Jennifer Smith The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Ticket price for luncheon and program is $50.00
For more information or to purchase tickets please contact Marilyn Zocca
All proceeds to benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital’s “Friday Night Fever”

And here’s a bonus … for the first twenty people who donate at least $50 to the Children’s Specialized Hospital charity because of this blog, I’ll send them a signed copy of Dying to Know or Dying for the Past (their choice) as a thank you from me. If they have read the books and have a favorite charity, I’ll donate the books in their name to the charity. All they have to do is email me with confirmation of the donation and reference this blog and the catch phrase, “Dying Is Overrated. Giving To Charity Is Not” and the book will be in the mail.
So come on, all my author and writer pals, pass the word along. We get a lot from writing, and I’m not talking about royalties (at least I can’t talk about royalties …) Let’s share a little of the jazz we all get from belonging to this small club of authors and book lovers.
End Note:  In full disclosure, this invitation did not come from any sudden fame or notoriety. Two dear friends, Tom and Gail S., who joined me for my book launch party last year, arranged my invitation. Tom is a great writer in his own right seeking publication. Gail, his wife, is a mover-and-shaker and the Fund Raising Chair for the Children’s Specialized Hospital Friends. Thanks to both of you for this opportunity and for your continued support and friendship.
Tj O’CONNOR IS THE AUTHOR OF DYING FOR THE PAST and DYING TO KNOW, available in books stores and e-books from Midnight Ink. His third paranormal mystery, DYING TO TELL, will be released January 2016. He is currently working on a traditional mystery and a new thriller. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying for the Past and Dying To Know are the first of eight novels to be published.  Learn more about Tj’s world at and on Facebook at

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Wait

--by Linda O. Johnston

It's early April now.  My next new series begins in May--the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, starting with BITE THE BISCUIT.  And so I'm waiting.

Not that I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs.  In fact, that would be quite difficult considering how much I use my computer.

First, I'm busily writing the second book in the series, since the manuscript is due soon.

Plus, I'm here on the Internet a lot, blogging here and elsewhere and using social media to get out there and promote not only the new series but my Superstition Mysteries, also with Midnight Ink, as well as other things I write.  I'll be doing a blog tour for BITE THE BISCUIT as well.

I'm also trying to learn more about promoting.  Even though I've been at this for a long time, I know there's a lot more I could be doing.  I even recently joined Twitter, then sat in on presentations about how to use it at the recent California Dreamin' Conference presented by the four Southern California chapters of the Romance Writers of America.  I did some traveling between then and now, though, so I haven't yet been able to attempt the stuff I learned.  So far, I'm mostly observing the Twitter feeds.

I'm active on Facebook, and like the way things are presented there.  Plus, I like to get out there in person and promote my writing that way.  For example, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books occurs later this month, and I'll be there signing my mysteries and representing various groups I belong to, such as the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Then there's Malice Domestic, which I'm attending at the end of April and beginning of May.  If I don't get a blog posted here on time, on the first Monday of the month, you'll hopefully understand why!

In any event, BITE THE BISCUIT is on its way.  And I'm really looking forward to its launch.