Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Write About Frances Folsom Cleveland?

Please help me welcome guest blogger Annette Dunlap! Annette has been a freelance writer for over 30 years.  Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications and North Carolina newspapers, including The Rotarian, the devotional, The Upper Room, the Asheboro Courier-Tribune, and the Charlotte Observer.  Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America’s Youngest First Lady, is her first book.  Her second book, The Gambler’s Daughter, is scheduled for publication in September, 2012.  Annette and her husband, Bill, have four children, two grandchildren, and raise cattle.

"Why did you pick her?" is a question I am asked nearly every time someone hears about my book, "Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America's Youngest First Lady."  It's a fair question.  Frances is not, as one person told me, "in the upper constellation of first ladies": that stratospheric region inhabited by Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dolley Madison and Abigail Adams.  The fact that Frances was considered a hostess on par with Dolley Madison has long been forgotten, and the uncanny parallels with Jackie Kennedy have never been fully drawn.

There are quite a few "firsts" associated with Frances.  In addition to being the nation's youngest first lady, she was the first to marry a sitting president in the White House; the first First Lady to give birth to a baby in the White House; and the first to remarry after her husband died (Jackie Kennedy is the only other first lady to do so).

There are the forgotten "firsts": a kindergarten in the White House for preschool children; the first First Lady to graduate from college; one of the first two female trustees of her alma mater, Wells College.  Frances played a behind the scenes role in finally getting copyright legislation passed to protect American authors, and following the presidential years and the family's settling in Princeton, New Jersey, Frances was instrumental in the founding of the New Jersey College for Women.

Newspaper articles, as well as her letters, reveal a woman of strong and determined character, with an egalitarian streak that endeared her to the public and to the White House staff.  Her husband, Cleveland, who came across in public as gruff and taciturn, actually had a better sense of humor and was an outstanding raconteur in private.  Frances, perhaps because of the demands on her to watch her children and household while Cleveland spent hours in the presidential study, in a fishing boat or on a hunting trip, was friendly enough.  But she also had a stern and unyielding streak that remained with her throughout her life.

Historians refer to Frances as a "transitional" first lady.  Although she continued to maintain a very traditional posture as the White House hostess, she did, in fact, understand the value of parlor politics. She played that game well enough that sometimes even her husband, who believed women should not be in politics, had to support what she was doing.

Annette Dunlap will be selling and signing her books at Book 'Em North Carolina and we hope you'll drop by her table to talk to her about her writing and to purchase a copy of Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America’s Youngest First Lady.  She will also be serving on the panel discussion "Truth is Stranger Than Fiction: Writing the Life Story" at 3:00 pm in the Lewis Auditorium alongside Dr. Charles Beem and Dr. Edna Ellison. We hope you'll attend this exciting discussion!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Path to Writing

Please help me welcome Sylvia A. Witmore to the Book 'Em North Carolina blogspot today! Sylvia will be joining us at Book 'Em in Lumberton, North Carolina on February 25, 2012. We hope you'll come out and see her and about 80 other authors. It's going to be an exciting time. And if you are an aspiring writer, you're sure to find inspiration in Sylvia's tale of publishing success.

I have always been an avid reader of murder/mystery/romantic intrigue books.  I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys while I was still in 1st & 2nd grades.  I skipped two grades in school, graduated at 16, received a year's scholarship to American University in Wash. DC.  I found out early on that I didn't want to write for a newspaper or magazines so I changed it to Creative Writing.  To make a long story short, I was unable to graduate due to illness of my father and I met and married my husband of 40 years before I finished.

We had 3 sons who are all married with children today.  I've always wanted to write and I started writing at night on a Selecttric Typewriter after my sons were in bed.  I worked at Scot Mem Hospital and Home Health for 35 years before retiring.

I started sending them to publishers in 1980 & 1990, but I just kept getting rejection slips.  In 1998 I wrote Wheels of Danger, which is a book about NASCAR that takes place in Rockingham, NC at The Rock where racing was really strong.  An editor in NY sent it back and said that racing was a Southern, redneck sport and would never flourish beyond the south.  Well, look what racing is today.  Nevertheless I wrote a sequel to Wheels called Treacherous Hearts about a female race driver.  This was before Danica Patrick won her race in Japan.

I also wrote a 3rd sequel ECHO OF FOOTSTEPS which takes place in Hamlet, NC where I was raised.  I changed the racetrack then to Arca racing because they are now racing at the track.  In 2008, I received a call from an publishing company, Authorhouse in Blooming, Ind.  The guy there said that he had turned my book about racing to his editor in NY but that's the one who turned me down; now he was working for an editor and told me that his boss loved Indy racing and if my book had not sold, they were interested in it.  I sent it to them and then received a 3 book contract.  Now I have an unlimited contract.  My last 3 books are on Kindle and Nook as well as hard & soft copies through or through the publishing company or me.
All of my books take place in and around North & South Carolina where the characters go to familiar places around here.

I have had six books published in hard cover now and have just finished a 7th one which I will be sending out soon.

I love to keep my reader in suspense; most times they are surprised when the killer is caught.  My writing has really been good therapy since I lost my wonderful husband 2 years ago.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plotting over Lunch

Please help me welcome Dora Hiers, one of the fabulous authors who will be joining us at Book 'Em North Carolina on February 25, 2012. After a successful auditing career, Dora left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom, eventually transitioning to writing heart racing, God-gracing books. Dora belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Carolina Christian Writers. Journey’s End, Dora’s debut inspirational romance, was released with White Rose Publishing in May 2011 in e-book and print formats. Her second book, Journey’s Edge, was awarded 2nd place in the First Coast Romance Writers 2010 Unpublished Beacon Contest, is coming soon with White Rose Publishing.

Since I started writing inspirational romantic suspense, my husband seems almost scared to go to lunch with me. I can’t help but wonder why.
The other day, I met him at Buffalo Wild Wings. He breezes in, slings the fire radio off his belt, does that one-handed flip with the thing, and leans down to plant a kiss on my cheek before sliding onto the opposite bench seat. “Hey.”
“Hi, honey.” I flash my best “happy to see you” smile.
“Ready to order?”
Well, I am, but he just sat down. Doesn’t he need a couple minutes to look over the menu? I shrug. “Sure.”
The waiter brings our drinks, takes our order, and leaves. I’m the type that usually orders the same thing. At Buffalo Wild Wings, it’s always the buffalito. The meal arrives, and I dig into my buffalito. I finish my meal, ready to talk.
“So, honey. I need your help. I need a way to crash a plane.”
His eyebrows practically arch off his head. His gaze darts around the room. He sees a couple local police officers sitting a few tables away, nods, and smiles at them. He leans back and inhales, deep and shaky, lets it out slowly. Takes a long sip of water. “OK. Crashing a plane. Hmmm.”
“Yeah. Or maybe a poison.” I let that swirl around in my head for about thirty seconds. “Yeah, poison might actually work better. Just enough of a drug to make the pilot a little woozy, but not enough to kill him.”
My husband scrunches his face, does another quick glance around the dining room, and hunches his generous body lower in the bench. In the smallest voice he’s capable of (my husband only has one volume: booming), he says, “Poison. OK. Give me this afternoon. I’ll make some phone calls and find you something to work with.”
A head from the booth behind my husband swivels in our direction and frowns. The man leans towards his lunch partner and whispers, begins punching numbers into a cell phone.
My husband grabs the check, bolts to his feet, and holds out a hand. “You ready to go?”
“Sure, honey.” I smile, knowing he’s a busy guy and has a ton of work waiting for him at the office. “Thanks for your help. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
He throws a desperate glance over his shoulder, waves at the police officers, and hustles me out the door.
I love my wonderful hunk of a husband. He's a tremendous help in plotting books. Sometimes just talking things out will loosen up writer's block. And although he may cringe at my weird, out-of-left-field dilemmas, he never complains. Wonder where he’ll want to go to lunch tomorrow?
Journey’s End, Dora’s debut inspirational romance, was released with White Rose Publishing in May 2011 in e-book and print formats. Journey’s Edge, awarded 2nd place in the First Coast Romance Writers 2010 Unpublished Beacon Contest, is coming soon with White Rose Publishing.

Readers can connect with Dora:
Facebook: Dora Hiers AuthorTwitter: @DoraHiers

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Love Reading

Please help me welcome author and publishing industry veteran Chris Roerden, who has edited authors published by St. Martin’s, Berkley Prime Crime, Midnight Ink, Forge, Harlequin, Viking, Rodale, and many others throughout her 45-year career. She’s presented writing workshops throughout North America and is author of the multi-award-winning Don’t Murder Your Mystery and Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. Chris will be appearing at Book 'Em North Carolina on Saturday, February 25, 2012, signing her books and participating in discussions about the publishing industry. We hope you'll join her there!

I was born into a family of five adults, which probably accounts for my learning to read by age four. And because four of those five had learned to cope in their individual ways with the fifth -- a tyrranical bully to be avoided as much as possible -- my own way of coping was to escape in the pages of a book. Any book.

Not surprisingly, in my early years I adored the young adult novels in which the daughter, an only child, had been orphaned and sent off to live with relatives. She found the first set of relations too regimented, the second too laid back, but -- like Goldilocks -- the third family was just right. In my imagination, that’s where I lived.

In reality I trudged home from the small Manhattan branch library-in-a-store with stacks of books of all kinds. The most frequent admonition that my real family gave me, usually at mealtime, was: “Get your nose out of that book.” Though I barely heard those familiar words, I did learn to react quickly depending on their tone.

Many decades later, no longer needing the escape, reading books remains my favorite activity. It’s my reward after a day of reading others’ manuscripts, my private island warmed by the sunshine of my compact fluorescent lamp, my essential life-giving sustenance. Keeping my nose in a book is the nearest thing to my engaging in a contact sport.

Chris Roerden is a 45-year veteran of the publishing industry who has edited authors published by St. Martin’s, Berkley Prime Crime, Midnight Ink, Forge, Harlequin, Viking, Rodale, and many others. She’s presented writing workshops throughout North America and is author of the multi-award-winning Don’t Murder Your Mystery and Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. to download Chris Roerden'sDON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION Part 1, same as
Agatha winner
Then go to apply for a $500 McCloy/MWA scholarship

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Movies Influence Plot and Character Development

Please join me in welcoming Alex J. Cavanaugh! Alex has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games, and he covers those topics on his blog. His first book, CassaStar, was released last fall and is available in trade paperback and all eBook formats. The sequel, CassaFire, comes out next February.

Movies and books - they really do tie together! Besides the fact I can discuss movies anytime, I think writers can learn a lot from watching films. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Two hours isn’t a lot of time to develop characters in a movie. Some filmmakers don’t even try. (Why bother with character development? Just add more special effects!) We all know one-dimensional characters make for a crappy movie though.

However, when a filmmaker does it right, we get to see great characterization in action. Think of all the fine details: facial expressions; body language; dress; residence; personal items; the five senses in action; etc. (These things can fly past on the screen, so we have to watch for them.) All of those aspects go into developing a detailed character and once we learn to look for them, we can add them to our writing.

Plots are similar. Some storylines are so lame and poorly executed, you wonder who green-lit this mess? (Maybe the director has a photo of the producer with a donkey or something?)

I think we can learn just as much from the bad ones as from the good ones. Those plot holes big enough to drive a bus through - how would we fix them? Films that move at a snail’s pace - what could we do to speed things up a bit?

When the plot works on every level, there’s a rhythm. It hits all the right notes and maintains a good pace. While a book doesn’t move as quickly as a movie, we can still create rhythm with our words.

So the next time someone gives you grief about your movie watching habits, tell them it’s research.

You are now free to move about the movie theater!

Alex J. Cavanaugh
CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN Print 9780981621067 eBook 9780982713938

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Part I - Making the Most of Writers Conferences

This week we begin a three-part series on making the most of participating in a Writers' Conference or Book Fair. Part I deals with Things to do BEFORE the Conference, while Part II is DURING the Conference and Part III is AFTER the Conference. This series is directed toward authors and others who are show-cased through signing tables, panel discussions and solo talks. Later, we'll have a series directed at participants attending the Conference.

Things to do BEFORE the Conference

Book 'Em North Carolina is the 10th Book 'Em event held in the country. Others have taken place in Waynesboro, Virginia (where The Book 'Em Foundation was founded), Lebanon, New Hampshire and Charleston, South Carolina. I've had the opportunity to watch authors in action at each of these events. I've seen many who had extremely successful appearances while others just a table away had lackluster sales. What makes the difference between the two very different experiences?

Below are just three tips on what to do BEFORE the Conference, and I'd really like to see everyone's suggestions on things they have tried or seen others do that made the difference.

Publicity. The Book 'Em North Carolina Publicity Committee is releasing periodic press releases about the event, as well as posting regularly on Twitter (@bookemnc) and Facebook (Book 'Em NC Writers Conference), blogging on this site and sending out ezines. Our first ezine is posted here. Authors can also send press releases to their local media announcing their involvement in the event, such as this sample:

Madame Author has announced she will join 75 other authors at Book 'Em North Carolina in Lumberton, NC on February 25, 2012 to show her support of the need to increase literacy rates in communities. She's generously agreed to donate a portion of her book sales at the event for literacy campaigns targeting school-age children as well as adults of all ages. "If you can write well and you can read well," Madame Author says, "your chances of a brighter economic future are greatly increased." For more information, visit

Just substitute those items underlined with your own information - or create your own.

Then tweet, post information on Facebook, and blog about your upcoming appearance. Be sure to friend us and follow us, and retweet or share our messages.

Networking. If you haven't been to our website in awhile, it's worth another visit. We've been steadily adding authors. We originally intended the cut-off date for author registrations to be December 31, 2011, but we've had such tremendous response that we'll be cutting off registrations by September.

Take a look at other author's profiles. If you know others listed, contact them to let them know you'll be participating. Join their Facebook pages, their blogs, or follow them on Twitter. Don't look at other authors as competition; how many times have you seen someone stand in a book store and ponder which of two books to purchase? Readers will generally leave with both books. Instead, begin dialogues with them and see where you can successfully network. It will also help to smooth the way when you arrive at the conference. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned professional, there is always something to be learned from each author you meet.

Find Out How You Can Help. Conferences are always looking for extra hands to help in various areas. For example, L. Diane Wolfe has volunteered to spearhead the Short Story Contests in schools, and she's assembled a team of authors who have agreed to serve as judges: Pamela June Kimmell, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Dr. Edna Ellison, Valerie Connelly, Judy Walter, and Dirk Robertson.

There may be other areas in which you can volunteer, which will also raise your profile even before you get to the conference. One way you can help: volunteer to blog on this website, and we'll publicize it for you. The theme leading up to the start of the school contests is: how has reading or writing impacted your life?

What Not to Do: Don't spam other participants. Don't go through the list and accumulate email addresses, adding them to your mailing list without the authors' permission. It's one thing to send them a polite email, letting them know you will also be participating in the same conference, and adding your website or blogspot. If they want to subscribe, follow you or friend you, they will. But if you're adding other authors' names to your e-list without permission, you have a flaw in your marketing plan.

What Tips Do You Have for Other Authors, Focusing on BEFORE the Conference Begins?

The tips above are from p.m.terrell, the co-founder (along with Waynesboro Police Officer Mark Kearney) of The Book 'Em Foundation. She's the author of Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book, as well as an award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of historical and contemporary suspense/thrillers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Turning to Books

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of twelve books. A versatile writer, her computer books launched two computer companies in the Washington, DC area which still operate nearly 30 years later. She is best known for her historical creative non-fiction, River Passage and Songbirds are Free, about the early days of Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, TN) and her five contemporary suspense/thrillers: Exit 22, Ricochet, The China Conspiracy, Kickback and The Banker's Greed. She is also the author of Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book. A co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation, terrell's passions are literacy and animal welfare. You can read more about her at

I remember my mother reading to me long before I started attending school. She loved books and she loved watching children use their imaginations. Our kitchen table and chairs and a well-placed blanket became a fort. My bed was a Broadway stage. A grove of pine trees became The Secret Garden and our swingset became the location where Rapunzel let down her hair or Snow White lived with the seven dwarfs or the house that was transported to Oz. And when my younger brother joined in, it was a castle fending off invaders or a fort fighting off the Indians.

But it wasn't until I moved to Mississippi in 1967 that I turned my love for reading into a lifelong love of writing.

My father was an FBI Agent who was sent to Mississippi at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a time marred by assassinations - John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi... And the Ku Klux Klan was terrorizing minorities throughout the Deep South.

We arrived there from New Jersey, and I, with my New Jersey accent, immediately discovered I wasn't wanted there. My first teacher told everyone in class that anyone who played with me would get a "whuppin" and I quickly discovered I had little in common with my classmates, anyway. It would be decades later that I'd discover many of the parents of children I knew were under investigation for ties to the KKK.

The principal of our school took note of my lonely existence and encouraged me to write a story. The first one was perhaps four pages long. Under her encouragement and later, with the encouragement of several school teachers, I began to write longer pieces until, in 1971, I completed my first manuscript.

For more than forty years now, writing has been an integral part of my life. For a time, I turned to writing how-to computer books. I left Mississippi in 1977 for Washington, DC. My first computer book was published in 1984, followed quickly by three more.

But perhaps because of my father's work with the FBI, my real passion was in writing crime and suspense. It would take until 2002 for my first suspense/thriller to be published. It did well enough for me to begin the transition away from computers and into writing full-time.

William Tapply brought me light-years ahead of where I'd otherwise be, by mentoring me through the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Course. A year later, Robert Doherty brought me even further by telling me what I needed to know through the Writer's Digest Criticism Service.

I can't imagine not writing. It has opened worlds I would never have otherwise known, places I would never have otherwise visited.

Where has writing taken you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

When You Can't Write, Read

Pamela June Kimmell has attended nearly every Book ‘Em event in Virginia since the first one was held in 2004. Currently living, writing, and painting in Warrenton, Virginia, she has appeared in Lumberton, North Carolina during the Writer's Rally in Robeson series of visiting authors, and she is looking forward to Lumberton’s inaugural Book 'Em event.  In addition to her novel “The Mystery of David’s Bridge”, she co-authored “Pink Jasper:Gems From The Journey” with five other women writers, and edited a poetry anthology called “Cosmic Brownies”.  Her self-illustrated book of childrens short stories will be published in time for Book ‘Em.  She has been the fiction editor for an ezine, is a prolific poet, and has her own line of note cards depicting images of her oil paintings and photographs.

As a writer and artist I have always been aware that moments of writer’s block (or artist’s block) happen to all of us.  Sometimes it lasts just a day but sometimes it lasts a whole lot longer! 

Recurrent melanoma and the resulting one year of immunotherapy via infusion and self-injection wreaked havoc on the creative side of my brain…..I just did not feel like doing anything, much less finishing the sequel to the mystery novel I’d had published in 2006.  I couldn’t even pick up a pencil and sketch or write the shortest of poems.  The “light” was out and I was too sick to even imagine it ever coming back on. 

Instead, I read.  I read everything I could put my hands on.  It took me away from my discomfort and transported me to all kinds of fantastic places.  I’d always been an avid reader of mysteries, suspense and thrillers, but I branched out and read non-fiction and genres I’d never been interested in before.  It was the greatest escapism. 

One important thing taking this “time out” did was buy my brain some time to absorb other people’s ideas for plots and storytelling and in doing so, my own creative process turned back on…..slowly at first but at least the light did return. 

I think people who have experienced similar circumstances in their lives understand that many times they change us permanently.  I know in my case I did change in some ways, but thankfully the desire to write didn’t disappear - it just took a hiatus.  I am writing again and doing some illustrating but to a big extent, I feel I owe my return to those things to my love of reading - one thing that never stopped even though almost everything else in my life at that time had stopped.

It’s all about having faith, hope and persistence!  I will get that sequel to The Mystery of David’s Bridge written although it will be a stand-alone rather than an actual sequel.  I am about to have a book of childrens short stories published which I have illustrated myself, and I intend to dust off an old manuscript I’d set aside years ago and get it finished and published.  Not only did I turn back on the light - I just might be on fire!


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Welcome to Book 'Em North Carolina's Blogspot!

Hello, everyone!

Thank you for dropping by Book 'Em North Carolina's new blogspot.

Book 'Em North Carolina is an innovative Writers Conference and Book Fair whose inaugural event is scheduled for Saturday, February 25, 2012 at Robeson Community College in Lumberton, NC. We'll be bringing together approximately 75 authors under one roof to serve on panel discussions, provide solo talks and readings, and be available one-on-one to speak to fans.

They'll be selling and signing their books all day, and they've graciously agreed to donate a minimum of 40% of their book sales toward literacy campaigns.

Mark Kearney
Book 'Em is an outreach of The Book 'Em Foundation, whose slogan is "Buy a Book and Stop a Crook". The Foundation was co-founded by Waynesboro, Virginia Police Officer Mark Kearney and suspense/thriller author p.m.terrell. The mission of the Foundation is to raise public awareness of the link between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates.

Book 'Em North Carolina is hosted by Robeson Community College, Robeson County Arts Council, Communities In Schools, Friends of the Robeson County Public Library, the City of Lumberton and the Lumberton Visitors Bureau.

It is our goal to raise enough money through this one-day event to help fund an initiative to get books to children ages 1 through 5, to help provide funding to literacy campaigns in the Robeson County Public School system through Communities In Schools, and to help provide funding to adult literacy campaigns through the Robeson County Public Library.

This summer, we are concentrating on registering authors for the event, applying for grants and receiving sponsors.

Alot of exciting things are happening with Book 'Em North Carolina. I hope you'll choose to follow this page so you'll have information about the things we're planning. We will also be asking our registered authors to guest blog for us here.

In the meantime, please visit our website at!