Romance Writer Rendezvous

Several weeks ago, I received an invitation to participate as a panel judge in a one-page critique “challenge” for the CPRW (Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers).  Delighted, I accepted and prepared myself.

So this past Saturday morning, when I showed up for my assignment, I got quite the mental workout. When I’ve critiqued other writers’ works in the past, I had the benefit of reading it myself. But this exercise involved intense, active listening.

As a moderator read the first page of an anonymous author’s work, the panel gave feedback. All without the benefit of a title, or clue about who submitted the work.

I admit, I was nervous going into this adventure, and it proved even harder than I anticipated. But I learned so much listening and concentrating on these novel beginnings. It reminded me that at heart, all writers are storytellers first, whatever the genre. I also learned romance writing has many faces; some stories scared me, some made me laugh, and a couple of them left me scratching my head in confusion.

Thank you to CPRW for the experience! I enjoyed the seven story beginnings I had the honor to judge. Perhaps, more importantly, all of them made me want to read more for myself. And as writers (and readers), we can’t ask for much more.


Write, Market, Sell and Repeat…

Yesterday I participated in the first Allegheny Regional Festival of Books as one of many featured authors in beautiful downtown Bedford, PA. My daughter, Chelsea volunteered to help me tote books and set up shop in one of four author tents.

Although the skies were overcast, things brightened after greeting friends I’ve met over the years through Pennwriters and making new friends among my fellow tent-mates.

It’s humbling and nerve-wracking preparing for these kinds of events. There is a sense of immense gratitude for the invitation to participate, as well as a foreboding anxiety wondering how things will fare. The little voice that whispers and wonders: Gee, will I sell any books today?

The weather concerned everyone. Outdoor events and rain do not bode well together. But the drizzle faded, the mood brightened, and folks meandered into our tent and bought books.

An hour into the festival, I sold my first book and breathed a sigh of relief. I texted my husband, Todd and shared the news. “I’m not sure how many books I’ll sell today. The weather’s lousy.”

Todd, eternal optimist texted back, “Don’t worry about how many books you sell. That’s not important. Remember, you’re building your brand. That’s why you’re there.”

Excellent advice. I shared his pep-talk with my tent-mates when I spied them glancing at their watches and pacing around to feed their Fitbits steps. I hoped the message comforted those struggling to sell books. And, I felt a strong sense of kinship as I heard the repeated elevator pitches about their work.

So I sold some books, made some friends, and can’t wait to do it again.




Who’s listening?

Eavesdropping. We’ve all done it, or fallen prey to it. But has eavesdropping ever worked for you in a way you never imagined?

Last evening my family and I reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen since I’d published my book, Money Man this past January.  Our friends, kind and supportive folks, peppered me with questions about my book and graciously listened as I rattled on about the publishing process and the challenges we authors face promoting our work.

My brilliant editor, Demi Stevens gave me invaluable advice when I received the first “proof” copies of my book. “Keep one of these copies with you in your purse at all times,” she said. “Whenever anyone asks you about your book, whip out your copy and hand it to them.” Great advice I strived to follow. If you ever saw me slogging around town with my big purse, now you know why.

True to form, I pulled out my book and handed it to our friends to check out. They took turns reading the back cover and handed it back to me.  Meanwhile, seated nearby, a couple appeared to hang on every word of our conversation. I wondered if we needed to adjust our volume.

We finished dinner and settled the bill when the eavesdropping woman approached our table and bent down to speak to me. “Congratulations on your book,” she said. “I found it on Amazon and just ordered it!”

“Wow, thank you,” I said. “I hope you enjoy it.”

“Who was that,” my husband asked?

“I have no idea,” I said.

“Those people were straight-up eavesdropping,” my daughter, Chelsea said.

“Yeah, they were,” I said.  “Best advertising ever.”

The Private Detective?

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived at a local hair salon to pick up my daughter from her appointment. According to Yelp, it’s classified as a $$$$ Hair Salon and Spa. Not too shabby. I was surprised when an older man sitting across from me piped up with, “Nice day to be in the barbershop, right?”

“Uhm, sure,” I said. ‘Barbershop’ is not how I’d classify this establishment, but who cared? Immediately I grabbed my phone and scanned for something to entertain myself as I waited.

Now, we’ve all experienced the feeling someone is staring at you as you do your best to ignore them. And I was getting this vibe from the dude who thought he was in a barbershop. Soon, I’d run the gamut of phone entertainment options and perused the magazines displayed on the table in front of me.

No sooner had I looked up from Martha Stewart’s Living, when staring barbershop guy approached with his arm outstretched.

“Do you mind if I give you my card,” he asked? “In case you ever need it. I’m a private detective.”

My first thought: Great. I look like someone who needs a private detective. My second thought: Eh, what the hell?

“Ha! Well, I’m a writer,” I said. “We should talk.” I chuckled and took his card.

He then proceeded to fill me in on a double-murder case he’s investigating–which also included international child trafficking, a state-police cover-up, and a slew of other sketchy characters.

Well, you don’t say? And people ask me where I get my writing ideas?

Confession from a serial shopper.

I’ll tell you a secret. I love to shop at the big box stores. There’s something liberating about buying the stuff you love in gigantic quantities. I mean, who wants to run out of toilet paper? Or dryer sheets? Or frozen chicken breasts; aptly dubbed  ‘chicken bricks’ by my husband.

One thing I disagree with, however, is their packaging. It’s wonderful to get a great price on mass quantities of products you use on a regular basis, but do they have to make it so damn difficult to actually unleash the products?

I understand they package some of these products, like razor blades, multi-packs of deodorant, and the ginormous plastic bag of chicken breasts the way they do for a reason, but I’m not sure what that might be. In fact, it’s often so difficult to open some of these multi-pack containers, I have named this dilemma “adult-proof packaging.”

The other day, my husband approached me carrying a plastic encased supply of razor blades; which even at the big box stores, cost a fortune. He waved them in front of me and said, “Do you have any scissors I can borrow to open this?” He then proceeded to grab my cuticle scissors and attempted to open the razor blades.

Of course, being me, I grabbed the tiny scissors from his hand, screaming, “NO!!! Not those scissors!” I then reached into my vanity drawer and produced sturdy scissors more suited for this job. Eventually, after a great deal of sawing, pulling and tearing, the razor blades were freed from their plastic prison.

Now, let me tell you my next beef: Trying to fit that empty package casing into my tiny bathroom trashcan. It doesn’t work.




Welcome to Sandy’s Snarky Snippets!

Welcome! In my blog posts I hope to engage and entertain with observations and anecdotes about my writing and my life. I am a writer, wife, mother, and animal lover who enjoys cooking, reading, gardening and doling out unsolicited advice to my adult children.

In January 2018, I published my first novel, Money Man, a dark comedic look into one man’s journey to find a new career path. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think.