KillerRecipes_600I love to eat. After college, I was lucky enough to have spent two years living in France. As a result I developed an extremely discerning palate. I used to love to cook. After my stint as an actor and during my domestic “mommy” years, cooking served as a creative outlet for me.  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was my bible.  No mere meat and potato dinners for my family. Mine were Julia Child’s masterpieces. Over those years I probably prepared thousands of meals (not all gourmet) plus hosting myriad holiday extended family dinners, which is probably why I now find the bloom has gone off that particular rose. These days I express my creativity in my writing but I still love good food, especially French, but also Italian, Japanese, Thai and other ethnicities. I just prefer to let other people do the cooking. Therefore I ferret out gourmet chefs wherever I can find them. The tri-state area where I spent most of my adult life is a gourmand’s paradise, and here in northern California where I’ve lived for the past six years, there is no dearth of fine restaurants.  I cannot indulge this passion as often as I’d like, of course. That would require my book sales to be on a par with those of Michael Connelly or Janet Evanovich—(btw, check out her review of “Slippery Slopes”) I do, however, have a birthday and an anniversary coming up so the foreseeable future is looking bright.  If, however, you are still in the creative cooking phase of your life, let me share a few of the recipes I’ve picked up along the way.

On my website, under Killer Recipes, I have gifted my readers with an appropriate recipe for each of the books in the “Other Deadly Things” series.  Thus the newly revised, recently published “Ablaze” deserves one as well.  What shall it be? The very word “Ablaze” cries out for a hot and fiery dish.  The Devil’s Revenge Hot Wings, especially created for cheating husbands would have worked but it already appears in the “Pink Balloons” section. I wracked my brains for a blazing but not necessarily spicy recipe,—something French, something  flambéd! I turned to my old recipe box which contains recipes from as far back as those years in France and voila! There it was, a recipe I had brought home with me after a visit to a very elegant casino in Lisbon, Portugal.  I had no interest in joining the beautifully attired ladies and gentlemen gambling at the craps and poker tables. I was focused on what was going on at our table as the chef created this magnificent work of art right in front of our eyes.

I welcome you to visit my website http://www.NancyTesler.com – or go directly to http://www.NancyTesler.com/KillerRecipes.html to download some recipes to die for!

…again. That was the question.

My decision to take that leap of faith for the second time was not made without a great deal of intense soul searching,  much hemming and hawing, and a lot of biofeedback inspired positive “self-talk.”  The responses have varied widely. From both sets of children, (three and three) thankfully, an enthusiastic, “Cool. When’s the wedding?” From my friends and relatives, slightly less enthusiasm, i.e., usually a long, pregnant pause followed by a weak “Uh, that’s nice,” or an even weaker, “Really? No kidding,” or worse, from the less diplomatic, “WHY?”ToWed_Tesler

Whatever happened to a simple, “That’s wonderful. Congratulations!”

Truth be told, there’s a reason for their reactions.  I’ve been known, on more than one occasion, to spout such clichés as, “Been there, done that,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” No one who knows me well ever thought they’d hear the words, “I’m getting married,” come out of my mouth again in this lifetime, and that included my new fiancé. I am not the poster child for “happily ever after.” Once I got over having been tossed off the marriage train before it pulled into the last station, I discovered that, like my protagonist, Carrie, in my “Other Deadly Things” series, I liked my independence and my author/identity. I was no longer defined as someone’s wife, no longer walked in anyone’s shadow.  (I am occasionally introduced as Ken, Bob, or Doug’s mom, but my sons are my pride and joy so I can live with that.) I am not lonely. I have a career that keeps me busy if not rich, I’m fortunate to have a loving family and caring friends, and I’ve been living with this man for four years without having once been tempted to kill him off in one of my books. (Well, maybe once, but that was very early on in the relationship.)

Then why, I’m asked, at this stage in your life, change your status? And there’s the name thing, someone pointed out. Will you change your name? Probably not. It’s the name under which I write, and even though it was my ex’s, it is also that of my sons, and I’m used to it. Plus the thought of having to change the name on my driver’s license, my credit cards and other myriad documents requires more energy than I can muster. My fiance’s ego is strong enough that he’s not bothered by this—as a matter of fact he’s encouraged me to keep things as they are in that regard. I kind of like that about him.

Will being married alter my career goals? I can’t see why, but that will be completely up to me. I have found that demands on my time have increased , but that’s only because I’ve never planned a wedding before. (The first time around I was in my senior year of college so that job fell to my mother.)  I have discovered that planning a wedding, even a small one, requires time and thought. And lists, and phone calls, and choices and more choices. But it’s kind of fun and all that will be over in a few months anyway.

So the bottom line is that I’ve changed my mind about marriage. I have no answer as to what in particular triggered the metamorphosis, but isn’t it a woman’s prerogative to change her mind? There are no stars in my eyes as there were the first time around. But that’s okay.  Stars blur your vision. You could say I’ve evolved.  Like Carrie, I’ve gotten over my hang-ups about trust and I’m happy to jettison that old baggage.

Uh-oh. Wait a minute. Did I just say, “like Carrie?” Have I decided to get married because in Book Five, “Slippery Slopes and Other Deadly Things,” Carrie and Ted are on their way to the altar? And the same for Samantha and Doug in “Ablaze?” Have I caught “weddingitis?”

No. I may be involved in my characters’ worlds, but I haven’t totally lost touch with reality. I’m getting married because I’ve come to love and admire this man and he seems to feel the same about me.  I occasionally kiddingly refer to him as, “Honest Abe,” honest to a fault, but I’m really not kidding. He is. This can be a little daunting at times, but given my history, what a refreshing change.

Finally, there’s this.  How stupid would I be to go on saying “no” to a man who genuinely thinks my books are “wonderful,” my cooking (even the occasional failure) is “amazing,” who good-naturedly puts up with sharing our bed with at least two felines, and who tells me that every day is his lucky day because he’s with me. I may be a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them.

****Author’s note:  This guest blog originally appeared on December 12, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

Four years ago, I moved from a small New Jersey town located just a hop, skip and a jump from New York City, to the charming college town (actually city) of Davis, California. There are still things I miss that were readily available to me there, i.e., old friends, Broadway, lobster, clams on the half-shell, Jewish deli, duck sauce in Chinese restaurants, but the weather (especially this year) and the warm friendly people here make up for these losses. And we do have Dungeness crab. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that culture is thriving in Davis and in the surrounding area, so I have not been deprived of my biweekly theater fix. But there is one thing to which I am having great difficulty adjusting.

Not to mince words, Davis water sucks. Who would believe that one should check out water quality before relocating? It’s not just the taste of the water which most people agree is indisputably bad. I’ve partially solved that problem by ignoring all the warnings against drinking the contents of plastic containers  and imbibing bottled water whenever possible. Harder to deal with is how my skin feels after a shower or bath. Slimy. Even worse is what the water does to my hair. No matter what brand of shampoo I use, in the rinse phase my hair forms one humungous clump. Conditioner helps. Pouring bottled water over my head also helps as do other moisturizing hair products, but the whole process is time consuming, sort of like Facebook, another gobbler of my writing hours.

It’s unlike washing your hair anywhere else in the entire country, or even the world. And I speak from experience. I’ve washed my hair in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma (they don’t have much else but they do have really good water in Edmond), San Francisco, Denver, Paris, London, Tokyo——I could go on and on. In none of these places had I ever given a second’s thought as to whether or not this would be a good city in which to wash my hair.

Scary_Hair

The problem is that the water in Davis is ground water extracted from wells which contain a glut of minerals plus sundry other undesirable matter. The infusion of purification chemicals is required in order to make the water safe for human and animal consumption. I met a woman who swears her dog became ill from drinking Davis water but she provided no scientific proof. To my knowledge no animal, canine or otherwise, has actually died from it. My cats drink it. I’ve tried to protect them by filling their kitty fountain with filtered water, but they insist on jumping on the bathroom sink and drinking from the faucet. So far they are surviving.

Most people here use water softeners to prevent the hard water from damaging external pipes. My guess is that this causes what I previously referred to as the sliminess. Also possibly the white residue that coats almost everything including probably, everyone’s internal pipes.

The good citizens of Davis have been wrestling with this situation for more than twenty-five years, and they are finally planning to do something about it. Like the wheels of justice, however, the wheels of change in Davis turn slowly. There’s a plan afoot to join the city of Woodland in building a pipeline to draw water from the Sacramento River. It will be expensive and there are those who continue to argue against it. My conclusion is that those people have lived here so long their taste buds have been permanently damaged, plus they are probably balding and feel no empathy for the hair plight of the rest of us. And I’d be willing to wager these are the same people who voted against fluoridating the water which has no taste and would have benefited the teeth of the children of Davis.

I will not hold my breath, but I look forward to the construction of the aforementioned pipeline and fervently hope that the present drought is short lived, so that if and when that day comes, there will still be water in the Sacramento River.

**Author’s note:  This guest blog originally appeared on January 9, 2014 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

When I made the decision to ePublish my backlist, I knew very little about the process. It all came about after a discussion I’d had with a well-known author in which he suggested that I could probably do very well publishing my backlist as eBooks. I might even make more with my eBooks than he could with his, because he doesn’t own the electronic rights and is entitled to only a small royalty. As popular as this man’s novels are, I’m quite certain that’s not the case, but the conversation did spark my curiosity. This took place in 2011 when some authors like John Locke and Jon Konrath had become household names in the ePub world.

So I diligently read their books and blogs, I attended panels having to do with ePublishing, asked other authors for information and referrals re: formatting, cover art, promotion sites, etc. etc., and went through my original manuscripts page by page, with each traditionally published book on a stand next to my monitor, updating. More than a year later, with the help of my technically proficient cover artist/assistant, I took the plunge. By then, so had a horde of other ambitious authors, both traditional and indie, so monetary success was somewhat harder to come by.

But I digress.

My series has been doing relatively well and I’ve been getting mostly four and five star reviews. Once in a while, however, I get a review that suggests that a particular book needs editing. Editing? Doesn’t this reader realize that the books have all been edited, copyedited and proofread down to the final comma by the original publishers? Are they suggesting there were MISTAKES in my books? I’d read them over and over, including the Kindle versions, until I thought I could recite them backwards. Highly indignant, back I went to check out the Kindle book (er, books) in question.

If only!

Uh-oh. Apparently, I have a thing about dashes. I tend to use them a lot.  I remember my Dell editor mentioning something about my needing to differentiate between em dashes and en dashes, but my copyeditor took care of the problem so I thought little more about it. In the Kindle versions, my multiple uses of two hyphens for an en dash and three for an em dash stand out like misspelled words. Of which, I shudder to admit, there are a few.  Had I actually missed that in the original m.s. I’d written din instead of dine, pallet instead of palate craft fare instead of craft fair? Mea culpa. I had. These are errors  that would not have been picked up by spell check. No matter how many times I’d reread those manuscripts, I hadn’t seen what a good proofreader would have picked up in a New York minute. (Is proofreader hyphenated?)

I was a theater major in college, not an English major although I did have some pretty tough English teachers in high school. Despite their best efforts, and the fact that, except for that pesky word “separate,” I would have won my fifth grade spelling bee, I have been known to make the occasional grammatical and spelling error. The mora lof (oops, also typo errors) my sad story is that even though I had the edited, proofread, and copyedited print book right in front of my eyes, my eyes alone couldn’t be trusted. I SHOULD HAVE HIRED A PROOFREADER!  I am now faced with the dilemma of sending the books back to the formatter to make the changes, an expensive process, or letting the books stay as they are, hoping that the majority of my readers will be forgiving. A conundrum. The perfectionist in me is keeping me awake at night.

Better late than never, I’ve hired a proofreader. Anyone know a bargain basement formatter?

Author’s note:  This guest blog originally appeared on November 14, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

3catsI have three cats. Their mother gave birth to a litter of five in a shed that housed garden equipment in my New Jersey back yard. When I first saw them they looked to be all huge ears and scraggly tails with not much in between. Catching enough mice to feed a family of five is a gargantuan task for a feral mother cat, herself as scrawny as her kittens. So Good Samaritan that I am, I thought I’d help her out.  Big mistake.  Within a few days, Mom, certain her off-spring were in good hands, took off for parts unknown, never to be seen again.

Adoption was out of the question. My house was up for sale and I was planning an out-of-state move. My intention was to trap them and place them in good homes.  I’d lost two other cats several months before, one at age twenty and one at eighteen. They’d both had long and happy lives but losing them was painful and I didn’t want to go through that again.  Cat-trapping, however, isn’t in my job description. It turned out to be a harrowing experience for me as well as the kittens, and two of them escaped. I was soon disabused of the notion that I could find homes for the remaining three. No one wanted these feral nondescript- looking kittens which were already showing signs of neuroses.

I’ve had animals all my life. When I was a child I would bring home stray cats much to the displeasure of my mother, not an animal lover, who often opined that if I didn’t look so much like her she would think the hospital had given her the wrong baby.  Once I had my own place I was never without a dog or a cat or two or four of them at a time. Which is probably why Carrie, in my “Other Deadly Things” series, has three cats and an elephant-sized dog, and Samantha, in my latest book “Ablaze” gets thrown off the NOVA Victim Assistance team when she charges into a burning building to save a dog.

I used to believe that there is something inherently good in people who love animals and that those who don’t are suspect. In my books my protagonists conform to that theory. I’ve found that to be an unfair generalization. As I mentioned, my own mother fell into the latter category and I’ve heard that Hitler liked dogs.

The animals in my books are like the animals in my life. I love them, I have conversations with them and they respond with affection, but so far none of them has saved any lives or performed extraordinary feats. One editor who read “Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things” prior to its publication suggested that I have Carrie’s dog, Horty (named after the elephant in Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who”) solve the murder.  That idea didn’t fly with my Dell editor, for which I was inordinately grateful. I didn’t want to have to rewrite the ending and I liked the one I had.

I ended up bringing the three neurotic cats with me when I moved to California to the tune of two thousand dollars including the desperation hiring of a chauffeured limo at midnight to get us from the SF airport to our destination when the previously hired animal transport didn’t show. They have accepted me but no one else. I am mother and the Pied Piper rolled into one and they’re never happier than when snuggled against me. But the ring of a doorbell sends them scurrying for safety.  The shout of a child has them under the bed for the day. And the sight of my son’s dog had one of them so traumatized he stopped eating. The vet suggested Prozac for life!

Additionally, a very definite hierarchy has emerged. The female is low man (actually low woman) on the totem pole.  Licorice, the largest, is the Alpha cat and is deferred to by the others. He gets the choice spot next to me on my bed and Tootsie Roll, the traumatized male accepts second position just below him. Poor little Buttercup (after Poor Little Buttercup of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) is often banished to the cat tree. Is this sex discrimination or is three a crowd in the feline world as it is in the world of homo sapiens?

None of it matters. To me there is nothing like having pets. They are work and expense but their love for and loyalty to their chosen person never wavers.  Can we say the same for homo sapiens?

Don’t get me wrong. I love all the homo sapiens in my life, sons, daughters-in-laws, friends, guy-friend (who good-naturedly puts up with sharing our bed with crazy cats) and I’m lucky to have it returned.  But there will always be a cat or two or three and maybe a dog again one day in my life. And they will probably find their way into any future books.

Author’s note:  This guest blog originally appeared on October 10, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

If things don’t work out with this author thing, I’m considering becoming a restaurant critic. I’m a food aficionado. Fortunately I don’t have a weight problem so I can indulge my passion. At least I could until I ended up in the hospital with a severe gastritis and my doctor gave me a list of do’s and don’ts. Mostly don’ts which is somewhat comparable to asking a teenager to give up video games. So I’m compromising. Not being a coffee addict, I’ve acceded to decaffeinated although for some inexplicable reason, that too was on the no-no list. Passing up chocolate fondue or mousse has been more difficult but there are other desserts I find tempting.  And I can live without fried foods. Wine was on the “once in a blue moon” list but there, much to the disapproval of the teetotaler with whom I live, my compliance ends.

In my younger years I lived in France not far from Paris, and developed a sophisticated palate, and most particularly a taste for French food and wine. I never made it to the “greats” (money being a factor in those days) but the bistros I frequented were wonderful and mostly within my meager budget. While there, with the help of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and a little recipe book called “Pardon my Foie Gras,” I learned the tricks of the trade and became quite a competent cook. Duck à L’Orange was my pièce de resistance.  But after raising three kids and having prepared thousands of meals over the years, I’ve kind of lost my zeal for all those hours in the kitchen. Not, however, for the gourmet food, so I’ve decided to let others do the creating while I enjoy the fruits of their labors. For holiday dinners I’ve passed the mantle to my middle son who is an excellent cook. He actually grows his own herbs. When I moved from New Jersey to California bringing my spice cabinet with me, he asked me if the spices were older than he was. To be truthful, some of them were.

Recently when I was in New Jersey visiting my eldest son, we had dinner at a highly rated, high-priced newly opened restaurant in an affluent northern New Jersey town. I ordered one of the specials—yup, you guessed it–Duck à L’Orange!  I started with clams on the half-shell, not exciting but an appetizer almost impossible to obtain in the part of California where I now live, so perhaps partly for that reason, I enjoyed them immensely. I downed a glass of a full bodied Barolo and waited for the server to appear, my mouth watering in anticipation. The duck arrived. It was overcooked, stringy, and tough, and the sauce if there ever had been any, had been totally absorbed by the thirsty fowl.  Aware, like all French cooks, that an excellent sauce can cover many a disaster, I asked the server for additional sauce. I never saw him again. Another server offered the dessert menu and ultimately brought the very considerable check.

In my new role as critic, I gave this overpriced restaurant two stars for the food, and one for service. No second chance for this place.  What popped into my author mind, however, as I sat there composing a nasty review in my head, was the customer reviews of my books that post on  Amazon, and the importance of stars in today’s world of internet reviews. Stars have meaning. Four and five star reviews sell books.  While I’ve been fortunate to  have received mostly four and five star reviews for my “Other Deadly Things” mystery series, there has been an occasional three and even a couple of twos. I’d like to believe that those customers are misguided and lacking in taste, but I have to admit that for a very few readers (emphasize few) my writing style or perhaps my sense of humor just isn’t their cup of tea.

3 Star Restaurant RatingBack to Nancy’s Restaurant Guide. Judging from my son’s well-cleaned plate, he seemed satisfied with, if not ecstatic over his Bronzini Pasticciata, as was my grandson with his Saffron Pasta del Mar and his Double Chocolate Something or Other dessert. I remembered that I had enjoyed the clams. Maybe I’d been too harsh. Did I want to be responsible for this restaurant’s closing? Or for the chef losing his job in this horrible economy? It’s possible that he’d been rushed and pressured that night and had a momentary lapse, forgetting about my duck sizzling away on the grill. Or maybe he’d turned the duck watch over to an inexperienced sous-chef. This was an Italian restaurant. Maybe the chef had never prepared a French dish. Maybe he ran out of oranges. Not really acceptable excuses and I’m not giving him a pass, not at that price, but based on the success of the other dishes, in my imaginary guide, I’ve upped him to a three. The server who never brought my sauce, however, remains a solid one.

It’s interesting that when one is on the receiving end of reviews, one becomes a little kinder. Not less discriminating, but more understanding. If I am disappointed in a book I may not finish it, but I don’t write a bad review. But that’s me. As an author, I’m more aware that opinions regarding the same work can vary dramatically depending on the readers own life, his or her genre preference, or on factors I can’t even imagine. Not being a chef, I feel entitled to state my opinion online or in my future guide. What qualifies me to judge a restaurant? Well, I guess the same thing that qualifies my readers to render an opinion on my books.  Like it or not, the star system is here to stay. And there are things to be learned, even from a bad review, so long as it is not written with malicious intent. The Italian chef might have learned that duck is not his forté and he should stick with Italian dishes. I’ve learned that when I updated my series using the original manuscripts instead of the copyedited galleys, I should have hired a proofreader!

I may write that guide someday, hopefully not for the aforementioned reason.  As for all you reviewers who have taken the time to tell us authors what you think about our books, even the reader who criticized me for having  Carrie “send  her Jewish children to Sunday school,” but especially those of you who let us know that you’ve enjoyed our books and that you’ve bought everything we ever wrote, you just keep on doing what you’re doing. You make our day.

P.S.  Jewish children do go to Sunday school. Mine did, kicking and screaming all the way. But that’s another story.

Note:  This guest blog originally appeared on September 12, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

Some years ago, an agent suggested that I write a spec script for one of my favorite TV shows, “Cagney and Lacey.” In preparation, I took a train to Philadelphia and spent days at a museum library that housed old TV scripts, familiarizing myself in depth with the characters and their lives. I can’t remember how many scripts I read that day but I was there when the museum opened and I was still there when it closed. The following day I was back.

Because cults were going to figure prominently in my story, I devoted weeks to doing research, attending multiple workshops of anti-cult organizations and was amazed to discover how many authoritarian cults still exist in our country today.

Shortly after my script was submitted, the head writer invited me to the west coast to pitch story ideas.  I’m on my way, thought I. Fairy Godmother has smiled on me at last.

Wrong! Hollywood being Hollywood, before I had even bought my plane ticket, the network cancelled the show. Disappointed doesn’t begin to cover how I felt. A great opportunity lost. All that effort and research wasted. “Cagney and Lacey” went into the bottom drawer.

Time passed during which my Carrie Carlin amateur sleuth series was published—(Hallelujah, I was on my way again!)–and then dropped when Bertelsmann bought Dell. More disappointment.

But I am resilient, not one to be beaten by that nemesis of authors, rejection. After all, I had survived a divorce. I decided to try my hand at something different. A romance. I was single again. Romance was appealing. Not a light romance, though. A romantic suspense. I am, after all, a mystery writer.

After attending a Halloween parade in Nyack, New York, the germ of an idea began to form. What if a murder was committed amidst the chaos of a costume parade? The killer is masked. No one could identify him or her–unless there was a witness who could not be fooled by the disguise. Out of the bottom drawer came “Cagney and Lacey.” All that effort and research had not been wasted!

“ABLAZE” (fourth title—nothing is simple in this business) is a story about power and greed and about the mind control used in destructive cults by men corrupted by the power they have gained over the souls of their followers. The cult in this book is a conglomerate of many such groups drawn from my imagination, but the methods used to recruit and control its followers are based on my research culled from the experiences of ex-members.

“ABLAZE” is, however, primarily a modern love story about two people deeply attracted to each other but whose inability to work through past experiences keeps them apart.

Writing this book has been a whole new experience for me. I wrote my amateur sleuths in first person. This book cried out for the omniscient narrator. Despite the murders scattered throughout my previous books they are light and humorous in tone. This book is on the dark side. Will my new eBook mystery readers be disappointed? Will they object to the explicit love scenes? Many of them have asked me when the next Carrie will be published. This is not “Other Deadly Things” #6. Changing genres can be scary.

On the other hand, I haven’t totally changed genres. I’ve crossed genres. The book opens with a murder. Romance readers will have to be patient. They will have to wait for the romance to develop. Who knows if they’ll be willing to do that?  My mystery readers might find that there’s too much romance for their tastes. As for me, I grew. I overcame inhibitions—delved into areas where I had heretofore hesitated to venture. So, on the bright side, I might find thousands of new readers. A whole world of cross genre novel writing could be opening up to me. All those hundreds of thousands of romance fans might overwhelm the Internet with posts that go viral clamoring for me to pen the next “Fifty Shades….”

Do I really want to go there? Then again…

authors_wish

Note:  This guest blog originally appeared on August 8, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

Years ago when I was applying to the drama department at Carnegie Mellon University, I auditioned with a monologue from a Thornton Wilder play called “Our Town.” The play was set in small-town America, the likes of which even then, I’d assumed had disappeared from the American landscape. I was wrong. “Our Town” still exists and I was there for four eye-opening days over this past Memorial Day weekend. The town is called Greenville, population about 1600 which swells in the summer when tourists arrive to fish and hike. Greenville is located in central Maine where the temperature in winter can plummet to thirty below on the mountainside at night.

One of three flags ceremoniously folded and
presented to families of the deceased airmen.
Photo credit: Michael Gleason / Bangor Daily News

My reason for being there had to do with the fiftieth anniversary of the crash of a USAF B-52 on Elephant Mountain in late January of 1963. The people of Greenville have commemorated this tragic event for the past twenty years observing memorial services at the site both in January when the crash had occurred, and on every Memorial Day since. I was accompanying one of the two survivors of that crash who had been to the site several times before, but this particular trip held special significance for him.

The crew had been on a terrain avoidance training mission practicing to avoid Russian radar when, due to turbulence and metal fatigue caused by low-altitude flying, the plane’s vertical stabilizer tore from the tail section. Captain Gerald Adler, the plane’s navigator and father of two, ejected, clinging to his ejection seat which bent when he landed in waist high snow on the mountain. His parachute never opened. He is, so far as I’ve been able to determine, the only person to have survived ejecting from a B-52 without parachute deployment.

Unable to get to his survival kit which was wedged in the bent seat, he used his still folded parachute to shield himself from the icy wind and freezing temperature as he sat on that mountain praying for rescue. An interminable twenty hours later his prayers were answered in the form of a red-handlebar mustachioed angel, Senior Master Sergeant, medic Eugene (Slab) Slabinsky who dropped from a hovering helicopter and carried him to safety. Captain Adler had suffered a skull fracture and several broken ribs and ultimately lost his lower left leg from frostbite. He remained in the hospital for fourteen months recovering from his injuries. The residents of Greenville call him a hero. He calls himself “a lucky survivor.”

On May 27th,  fifty years after the crash, in a memorable moment for those of us watching, Jerry Adler and “Slab” Slabinsky, rescuer and rescued embraced as they were reunited. Also on hand were several of the original searchers, more than a dozen family members of the deceased, active and retired military, residents from nearby towns and members of the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club of Greenville.

Photo credit: Associated Press / David Sharp

Although many of the present members of the club had not been involved in the search by snowmobile and snowshoe for survivors, they have kept alive the memory of the catastrophe which cost the lives of seven of the B-52 crew, and touched the lives of nearly everyone in Greenville. On this stormy very cold day in May, after a moving service in the clubhouse, we made our way, by foot and by jeep, up Elephant Mountain to a monument at the site of the crash where debris from the plane is scattered.

I saw no mansions in Greenville; neither did I see any homeless. What I did see was a young soldier take off her parka in the pouring rain to cover Captain Adler and protect him from the elements during the ceremony on the mountain. I saw lots of flag waving but no flag desecration during the Memorial Day parade. I saw and heard a wonderfully dissonant marching band composed of the town’s children. I heard and saw strangers, too many to count, come up to Captain Adler thanking him for his service and conveying how honored they were to meet him. I did not see any protestors. What he and I experienced was incredible kindness and generosity, expressions of love and appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and great respect for those who have served and are serving today.

The residents of Greenville don’t lock their doors. There is relatively no crime to speak of. You might run into a moose that resents your presence when you’re driving up the mountain but that and the snow is probably the greatest hazard you will face. Don’t get me wrong. Greenville isn’t Utopia. Life there can be hard. The bad economy has taken jobs and Mother Nature is often unforgiving. And you probably would be hard-pressed to find a store that carries ball-gowns should you ever require one. But these are hardy folk and they are there for each other and for the country. Many families have one or more sons and/or daughters serving in the military, willing to do their part in defending the rest of us.

I don’t know if there are many more Greenvilles in Maine or anywhere else in our country today, but it is my sincere hope that there are.

 

This guest blog originally appeared on June 14, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a real letter. I write novels so one would think that letter-writing would be embedded in my DNA.  I’m dating myself but I actually remember having a class called Penmanship. When I was in elementary school book reports and themes were written long-hand in cursive. Communication with family or friends who lived in a different city or state was done mostly by writing letters. Only occasionally, even when I was in college, did I make a long distance phone call. That was reserved for emergencies.

Like almost everyone in today’s busy world, however, I‘m part of the problem. I type my novels on a computer and I e-mail. I do write thank-you notes when appropriate, and I send cards for various occasions often including a sentence or two if the person is special to me and I haven’t found the right card. More often than not, I just sign my name. But I have saved letters or rather, my mother saved letters and cards and I inherited them.

Prior to my selling my New Jersey home several years ago, I had to go through the mountain of boxes and paraphernalia that had accumulated in our attic over the many years that we had lived there. In a little black suitcase that I’d taken from my mother’s apartment after her death, I discovered a treasure trove of letters, photographs, and cards for all occasions. Some were letters my siblings and I had written to her from wherever we found ourselves—camp, college, or in later years, Europe. A few were from my children. But the most poignant for me were the letters and cards that my father had sent or given my mother both before and after they were married. Theirs was a love story that ended far too soon.

My father died when I was fourteen so my memory of him has dimmed. I do recall that after his death, people referred to him not only as a gentleman, but as a gentle man. These letters have given me insight into the father that I, as an adult, never had the chance to know, but I now know where my love of writing came from. They say that one person in a relationship always loves a little more than the other which may or may not be true. But in the case of my parents I believe it was my father, or at least he had the greater ability to put his feelings into words. Every card to my mother had a loving note or poem appended and this was true until the day he died.

card_nt

In one letter in their “courting” days he wrote of his attempt to give up smoking, an inconsequential example perhaps, but I’m sure he was doing it to please my mother because in those years the public had not been made aware of the dangers of smoking. (I know how she felt about the habit, though, because she brainwashed my sister and me into believing that women who smoked look like dragons!) Sadly, as disciplined as my dad was, he never succeeded in quitting. He smoked all of his life which undoubtedly contributed to his early death of a heart attack.

And I may be wrong about who loved who more. My mother was a beautiful woman but she never remarried. She wasn’t an easy person to please and that may have been a factor, but I believe the bar had been set too high. No man was ever going to fill my father’s shoes.

We are all individuals but there’s much, along with our physical appearance and talents that I believe we inherit from our parents. In the process of my cleaning out closets, I found a small box on the top shelf of the closet in my bedroom. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t looked on that shelf (or attempted to dust it) since we had bought the house when my children were small. To my surprise, it contained photos and letters from my high school days. In it were twenty very moving letters from a young man I’d met at a house party at Cornell where my sister went to college. We’d dated on and off for several months before I went off to college in Pittsburgh and he went into the military.

Life is funny. Was I destined to find those letters after so many years? What unseen hand had led me to that box? Why didn’t I just toss it? All I can tell you is that today I am living in California and I’m living with this man. I also plan to write letters again. Not often and not to just anyone but I’m sure I must have something memorable to say that’s worth my children getting teary over when I’m gone in the way far off distant future. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just write something wonderful on their birthday cards.

 

Note: This guest blog originally appeared on May 9, 2013 on The Perseverance Press Authors’ Blog, Get It Write.

i_heart_authorsI like authors.  Not just because they are colleagues and write books that I enjoy reading, but because by-and-large, they are good people. Authors help other authors promote their work. Mystery authors are particularly generous in this respect. Vicious as we may be on paper, we seem to lack the killer instinct where our colleagues are concerned. It’s not that the competitive gene is lacking. We’d all like to be as famous as Janet Evanovich or Michael Connelly or John Lescroart but if I became a NY Times best seller tomorrow (are you listening, God?) it wouldn’t impinge on their success one wit. If you like Janet Evanovich, you might like my books but you wouldn’t decide not to buy “Notorious Nineteen” if you had bought my “Slippery Slopes and Other Deadly Things” when she recommended it. We belong to organizations that foster this attitude. Sisters in Crime came into being to help female mystery authors, who were being reviewed less often than their male counterparts, bring their work to the attention of readers.

eBook cover concept

My original eBook concept for
Pink Balloons and
Other Deadly Things

I’ve personally benefited from this generosity of spirit. I’ve had author friends go out of their way to introduce me to a particular publisher or agent or reviewer. Some have briefly put their own work on hold in order to read my latest book and give me a quote for my back cover. But it’s not just personal friends who reach out to help and encourage. (Janet Dawson’s invitation to me to guest blog on this site is one example.) Which brings me to Elle Lothlorien, a bestselling romance author who I met at a recent  mystery writers’ conference. In the process of readying my traditionally published back list for e-publication, I attended her workshop on eBook publishing which included a discussion on eBook cover art. After the session I asked her opinion about a book cover for the first book in my series, “Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things,” on which I’d been working with my cover artist and right arm, Karen Adler. Elle took the time to study it and to explain to me that the design was too busy–it would not work well in the digital world.

Fast forward a couple of months. Taking her advice, Karen had created new covers for each of the five books with which I was extremely pleased. They were already up on Amazon, my redesigned website and my Facebook page – – and were generating sales!

I emailed Elle thanking her for her help and inviting her to “like” my Facebook page.  The email exchange went as follows:

  • EL:  Hi, Nancy. I am so happy to hear from you (and please forgive the unforgivable lateness of this reply; everything fell by the wayside after I had to relaunch on Amazon December 1st).
  • NT:  Just wanted to let you know I finally have my backlist on Kindle.
  • EL:  I am so thrilled for you! I am sure I’m not the only one! Couldn’t be more thrilled for you!
  • NT:  Your advice on cover design was invaluable and I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated your making yourself available to answer questions about this strange new world. I’ve still got much to learn about marketing and follow you as a great example of what to do.
  • EL:  Your cover concepts are delightful and clever! (If you’re interested in more feedback, please let me know. I know better than to offer without being invited.) ….Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help in any way (including cross-promotion)!
    Big, BIG hugs,
    Elle

Another example of author generosity. But “more feedback?” Hmmm. Karen and I loved the covers just as they were, and Elle did say she thought they were “delightful and clever.” Then again, she’d said the cover concepts were delightful and clever.  Hmmm again. After much soul-searching, we decided to subjugate our egos, let go of our “pride of ownership” and open up a phone dialogue. After all, our creativity was being challenged. We wanted to defend our “concept.” Didn’t Elle understand that the covers were telling a story? The cover art of “Pink Balloons” when originally published by Dell made clear that the story was set in suburbia—note, suburban houses in b.g.– it was a mystery—note the gun—but the balloons gave it a “cozy” feel. In our eBook cover, we also told the story but made it simpler than in our first attempt. The body in the water and the police tape on the ladder made clear that this was a murder mystery, but the balloons and the wonky font indicated “cozy.”

tales2sales_2

We were about to get a valuable free lesson in eBook marketing. YOUR COVER DOESN’T HAVE TO TELL THE STORY! IT HAS TO SELL YOUR BOOK! I pass along this little gem with love to any of my fellow authors who, like me, may not yet have quite “gotten it.”

WHAT I LEARNED

The digital world of Kindle and Kobo and Nook is not the same as a bookstore. Our books do not appear on bookshelves for readers to gaze at the full-sized covers and get an idea of the story within. For the digital world we authors have to alter our vocabularies to change the meaning of such words as “ribbon” and “thumbnail.” Ribbons are no longer pretty colorful things with which we wrap gifts or put in our daughter’s hair. Thumbnails are no longer things on the end of our thumbs.

Ribbons are the thumbnail-size string of book covers that float across the bottom of your screen on Amazon. Woe be unto the author whose cover is cluttered with extraneous images. In thumbnail size the reader’s eye will pass it by and settle on the bold, simply designed graphic that “pops.”  In Elle’s Digital Book World blog in which she uses my old and new book covers as examples, (aha!— what she meant by “cross-promotion”) she makes the analogy that if you lined up a bunch of beautiful blondes in a row and threw in one brunette, your eye would be drawn to the brunette, beautiful or not.

Final eBook cover for "Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things"

Final eBook cover for
“Pink Balloons and
Other Deadly Things”
optimized for eBook marketing

“Designing a kick-ass book cover for the Kindle store is one of the most valuable marketing and discoverability opportunities an independently published author is likely to have. When designing an eBook cover, you MUST assume that every potential reader will see it first as a thumbnail on Amazon’s suggestive ribbon and not as a full-sized graphic.” – Elle Lothlorien

Another shock to my system. YOUR BOOK TITLE and YOUR NAME aren’t as important as the graphic! “What?“ That was hard to swallow. The reason is that the title of the book and your name will appear alongside the cover which the reader will see AFTER your cover has grabbed his or her interest. Of course, this advice is for the indie author. It doesn’t apply to a big name author whose name sells the book and whose publisher will design the cover.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Below are my five covers,  the top line Karen’s original designs – the bottom line, her revised designs. tales2sales_6I leave it to you. Which ones grab you? For me, there’s no contest. Thank you, Karen for your patience, your creativity, and all your hard work.  And thank you, Elle, for spreading the word!

I welcome your comments. Please follow me on Facebook and take advantage of my upcoming book promotion—“Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things” free on Amazon from April 3rd through 5th. You can also visit my website – www.nancytesler.com.

 

This guest blog originally appeared on March 18, 2013 on Janet Dawson’s “Got It Write: Janet’s Blog.”

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