And now for something completely different #bookreviews #augustreviews

Many thanks to Geoff LePard for featuring Willful Avoidance on his blog today. Geoff is an attorney and the author of Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. He is also a popular blogger and founder of the annual Bloggers Bash in London.


Having been away I’ve had time to read. And I’ve read some indie authors so, this being post a review month via Terry Tyler here I thought I’d do that here as well as over on Amazon. In no order that says preference, more that you have to start somewhere:

Willful Avoidance by Jan Twissel

wilful avoidance

Let’s start with the blurb:

Inspired by a true story. . . Maya Bethany awakes as though from a seventeen-year coma to find herself in bed with a stranger—her husband—who is on a course that will ruin not only her life but those of her children as well unless she does something. But what and how and who will help her? Certainly not the flirtatious millionaire she works for. Nor the jaded lawyer who urges her again and again to compromise with the tax man. No, they only complicate her life at a time when…

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Onward Methuselah, Part 2

IMG_2056I didn’t get a chance to read this book until this morning and then, I did not read the whole thing.  It’s almost 500 pages long.  However, just skipping through the chapters I could tell it is an exceedingly comprehensive book on publishing. I wish I’d read it twenty years ago because as they say in Chapter 2, A World Wide Wonderland,  “. . .these days it’s imperative to start assembling an audience long before you’ve written a word.” To someone who’s been writing as long as she can remember that’s like saying “assemble an audience before you’re born.” Sheesh. My first book Flipka was in final edits before I even knew about twitter accounts.


Too late chicka. No audience, no book deal. Mom and Dad don’t count.

The chapter on blogging contains some interesting factoids I did not know, for example, you’re supposed to post pictures of yourself at various stages of life.  Readers love family pictures. Really, what do you think?

I was always a little odd.

I was always a little odd.

If you’re going the traditional route, there’s gobs of information on dealing with agents, how to get a larger advance from a publisher, and how to conduct yourself on television interviews. Ah, not my big worry right now.


Ah, Miss Twissel, did you get the memo about being youthful, attractive and scintillating for your TV debut? You look a bit like Methuselah.

The chapter I spent most of my time reading was Publish Thyself which, as the title suggests, focuses on self-publishing. Here are some things I learnt:

  1. It’s not uncommon for writers to spend up to $50,000 to self-publish if they avail themselves of all the so-called “writer services” available. (so word to the wise)
  2. Upgrade to off-white paper instead of white. It looks more professional and is easier on the eyes.
  3. If you’re listing yourself as the publisher, get a PO box and use it for contact information on the copyright page. (amazing to think people would actually list their home address as contact info but apparently it’s been done.)

Regarding item 1, writer’s services include editing, proofing, layout, cover design formatting, ISBNs, website design, bio help (professionally done head shots), marketing, distribution, etc., etc. The book contains many stories of writers who’ve gone the whole hog versus those who’ve flown by the seat of their pants. In the end success generally came down to perseverance on the part of the author, no matter how much money was spent.

Regarding item 3, to list yourself as a publisher all you need to do (in the US) is register your name as a business with the county clerk.  For about $50 JT Twissel became a business with me, Jan, as the President.  Now if I could only afford an admin.

I want to thank Krista over at  Krista at the Heart of It All, for the recommendation of Silverwood Books.  I did check them out (even saw your book listed!) and they seem exceedingly professional. Their packages seem competitively priced and a good deal but I’ve already gotten fairly far along in the process thanks to my previous publisher.  I will probably go with CreateSpace. Now thanks to Cinda I have a good idea what to look out for and which services to spurge on.  Maybe I’ll actually get started tomorrow. Ya think?

Onward Methuselah, Part 1

Several people (well, at least two) have asked me to keep them abreast of my self-publishing adventure so here goes.

All weekend long I told myself Monday was the day I would finally do something about republishing. I planned to log into my account on CreateSpace and download one of their templates so that I could format my manuscript for print.  If you’ve ever used a template you know they can be tricky. The easiest way is a Select All > Copy and Paste from your doc into the template.  But it certainly isn’t without risks. I was looking at least a couple of days of insuring that the formatting held.

front cover finalThen I had an email from my buddy Cinda MacKinnon who successfully self-published her award-winning debut novel (A Place in the World) a few years back.  She invited me to her house for tea and advice and said she had a couple of great books on the subject of self-publishing. Always a believer that you can never have enough knowledge about a subject, I quickly accepted and I’m glad I did.

I won’t go into the subject of our chit-chat as it involved grandchildren and elderly parents, a common theme for those of us in the “sandwich generation.” Eventually we did get around to self-publishing. This is a book she highly recommended:


Boy was she right. The author rates a bevy of publishers in the “self-pub” market by the following criteria:

  • Shenanigans lurking in legal contracts that could bite you in the butt (this alone would be worth the price of the book)
  • Royalty schemes designed to make publishers more money and you less
  • The quality of books published (as expected, you get what you pay for)

Example of a royalty scheme to be avoided.

According to the author, CreateSpace is in the “Pretty Good” category.

ohnoOh no!!!  Panic struck. Was I about to make the mistake of a life time?  (okay I already made that mistake)

No one wants to settle for Pretty Good when Outstanding might be possible, right?  Only as expected the Outstanding were full service companies, prepared to take your book from editing to print, even throwing in some marketing assistance. My books have already been edited at least three times. All I needed was print and publish, right? (here that pernicious worm creeps to ear and whispers:”maybe not.”)

The other book Cinda recommended, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, covers “How to Write It, Sell It and Market It . . . Successfully.”  I’ll read it tonight and report any interesting insights tomorrow.

th-2So much for day one.  I have to remind myself of this fact: I’m not Methuselah, even though I might feel like him.  Eventually I better get to it – I can see they’re loading up the Ark already.


#ThursdayDoors: Community

Blog-wise, I’m slowing down folks.  I have plenty of excuses but the big one is, I’m getting ready to self-publish and it’s not that easy. No time to trespass for pictures of doors. However, there was no need to go out of my way for this shot:IMG_2031

They aren’t the most spectacular doors in the world but this building is special to me.  For five years I spent every Tuesday morning in the art studio at the back learning to sculpt (click here to see the results).


According to this map of Old Orinda, the building (numbered 17) was constructed in 1925 and served as a high school before earthquake preparedness became such a concern.  Now it’s a place for young and old to learn, exercise and create.

IMG_2036Behind the center is the outdoor theater so I had to take a peak.

Looks like they’re getting ready for the next show:  Love, Sex and the IRS.  Gotta see that one!

Check out other doors over at Norm Frampton’s blog.

Also – check out this video posted by Doug over at Elusive Trope.  I call it Door to the World.  Thanks Doug.

#ThursdayDoors: Young lady with wiener dog


Somehow I think this soon-to-be posh stationary store is targeting a shorter clientele than the tall young lady with the wiener dog, don’t you? When I first moved to this area, Walnut Creek was a sleepy mid-sized town built over farmland previously used for. . . yup, you got it.  Growing nuts.  Hey, it’s California – what did you expect? Now it’s almost a city.

Last month I posted pictures of an outdoor stage being readied for a show. Well, guess what?  My friend and I walked over one Sunday and saw the matinee.


Moments before the show.

On a sizzling day in bright sunshine, you have to stretch your imagination because the climatic scene takes place late at night. The show, Murder on the Nile by Agatha Christie, is a whodunit set entirely on the deck on a cruise ship (the audience is actually sitting in the Nile).  Between scenes we were asked by the director to pretend it was lights out as they played Egyptian music and moved props around the stage.

IMG_1962They handled the issue of intermission by having the character who’d just been shot leap to his feet and yell  “Intermission!”

According to the director’s note, the play was almost blacklisted in London. The reason: the cast included a maid and the Ministry of Labour objected. It’s hard to imagine an Agatha Christie play being offensive to anyone, isn’t it?

Check out other ThursdayDoors over at Norm Frampton’s place. 

Pathetic Gasbags and Extispicy (PG&E)

The other night I’d just exited the shower when the door bell rang. Holy Cow, thought I.  Who rings my bell after Happy Hour? Someone who obviously doesn’t know me.

I grabbed my bathrobe and headed towards the front door, my imagination conjecturing both the good and the bad, although it was probably just some young kid selling magazine subscriptions. Another $15 bucks down the drain for a year’s supply of Popular Mechanic. Instead a bearded man of around seventy stood on my doorstep holding a four foot roll of paper. When he caught me looking out the window he waved the roll at me.

“I’m your neighbor,” he yelled. “The one you called.” 

thI should have told him to come back over at a reasonable hour but foolishly I opened the door. I blame the booze. Did I mention that this is a guy we met briefly a dozen years ago when he was chasing feral cats into our yard?  Since then, he hasn’t said a word to us.

Skipping the pleasantries, he got right to business.

“Two policemen came to my door and told me to be a nice guy and take down the tree.”

IMG_2011He was referring to a 100 foot pine tree hanging over our house showering needles and cones on our car, the roof and the driveway. Entangled in the tree are power lines that feed our neighbors down the hill. The tree, however, isn’t on our property. It’s on property belonging to the man waving a roll of paper at me as I stood naked under my bathrobe dripping water all over the floor.

Now this pine tree is clearly visible from his house. In fact it’s visible from the main road, so visible that we keep getting visits from tree service companies. 


I need Erin Brockovich, folks.

So I googled the property owner. Holy Cow, it turns out we’re living next door to a man who’s been accused many times by the cities of Berkeley and Oakland of being a slum lord.  I left a message on his phone asking him to call us about the tree but I have to tell you, I didn’t expect much.

Then I called our power company (PG&E) thinking they might want to do something. Boy, was I a dope.

After getting the run-around with a customer service rep, I demanded to speak with a supervisor. Here’s how it went.

Me, after explaining the situation: “If the tree goes down it may land on our garage bringing with it live electrical wires.”

PG&E: “Doesn’t matter. The tree is on your neighbor’s property and we can’t do anything unless he calls us.”

Me: “You don’t understand. It’s highly unlikely the guy next door will do anything.  His swimming pool looks like a cesspool.”

PG&E: “Well then, wait for the tree to come down and let your insurance company deal with the mess.”

Me: “What if we’re in the garage?”

PG&E: (pause) “Make sure you keep good records.” 

I guess we should look on the bright side. If we die, our heirs can sue.  

Those of you who are old-timers to the Twissel blog know I’ve already fought my share of battles with soulless bureaucracies like the IRS and the State Tax Board but neither of them told me to keep good records in case their inaction caused my death. 

Thinking our mayor might want to know that PG&E is advising home owners in her town to let the trees and power lines fall down and then have their insurance companies clean up the mess, I sent her an email. She didn’t reply but apparently she did get the message.  

And how about that four foot roll of paper the neighbor’d waved in my face?  It was a property map supposedly proving the tree is on easement and therefore not his responsibility. I think we’re screwed.  What do you think?

Only the Best Hookers for Jesus

tin hats

Babyboy Prez received a time out the other day.  His generals locked away his favorite toy – the lovely box with the red button that only he could push.  And why did Babyboy Prez get a time out?  Because he was furious with the Pope for not recognizing him as the new Messiah and blew the Vatican off the face of the planet.

“I’m so tired of those so called Jesus freaks telling me I’m not a Christian.  What is being Christian folks?  It’s being weak.  It’s being a loser. I say if Jesus was here today he would use those nukes.  He would blast those Muslims off the planet. Wouldn’t he?  Wouldn’t he?  And he’d be the most awesome general.  I’d invite him to Trumphouse and let him sleep in the Lincoln Room with only the best hookers.

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