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Life and Times of 1950s Las Vegas, NV by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

While researching our latest book, Desert Ice, we spent a significant amount of time at the UNLV Library’s Oral History Center. Histories were recorded and transcribed from people who lived and worked there during several eras and cataloged for easy access.

Participants that were interviewed talked about their memories of growing up in Vegas. My husband and I were particularly interested in the normal life of people living there:  school, social events, work, travel, etc.

Several women talked about their homes, backyard parties, school and fashion. Many mentioned their clothes in the 50’s. Some were teenagers in the 1950s talked about their poodle skirts, white blouses with Peter Pan collars and Bunny Shoes. Growing up in the 50’s but in New York, I hadn’t heard of Bunny Shoes, so I investigated and sure enough, it was a popular style of shoe in Vegas and in some parts of the west. They insisted the shoes were comfortable and were sad to see them go out of fashion.

pajama-bagaMany also talked about their bedrooms, how they shared their room with sisters, cousins, even aunts visiting and staying for a while. Pajama pillows were a big thing then, they came in many shapes: clowns, bears, dogs, just about any design. Entertaining their girlfriends in their bedroom was the social thing to do.

Television was late getting to the area, so much time was spent listening to the radio or phonograph records. Local talent and visiting performers were consistently on the radio as well as school groups and community organizations. Once TV began, many mentioned the Howdy Dowdy Show, Lassie, The Mickey Mouse Club, and Gunsmoke.

I was surprised how similar my life was to these ladies who also grew up in the 50s separated by thousands of miles. I grew up in a urban Long Island, New York.

The hours we spent at the Oral History Center was rewarding in getting the feel for the life and time of 1955 Vegas.

What’s Next aka the Battling Plots

Midnight drearyWhen I finished writing Framed to Death, the first thing I did…okay the second after celebrating typing The End…was start working on the outline for book five in the Scrap This series. I always enjoy the first week after completing a book as I’m contemplating the different twists that could occur in Faith’s life. What will happen in her personal life? How about her professional life? How about her role/standing in the community with her role as the go-to-girl when someone has been wrongly accused? How does Faith, or someone in Eden, have ties to victim in the book? Will Faith’s sleuthing cause friction and heartaches in her relationships? These are usually the first questions I ask before I start working on the motivation for the crime, and the suspects in the story. I have to know what’s going on with Faith’s life, and in her community, first and from that point brainstorm a few ideas on what the catalyst for the crime.

I have tried plotting a book by deciding on how the murder would happen and where (plus, I always have two strong suspects but I don’t know which one it will be until the end of book), but the story didn’t really come together It felt too clinical, as I was relating everything to the murder and it took away the personal feel that I love about traditional/cozy mysteries. For me, I needed an underlying theme to focus on for the book to have the necessary ‘heart’ to connect Faith, and the reader, to the story.

It’s always a fabulous day when I have all the answers to my questions and can start outlining the book. I had found just the perfect idea for the book and started working on the outline, happy with how the plot and subplot were interconnecting. There was a bump or two I still needed to smooth out, but I knew I’d work it out once I started writing the actual book. My wonderful editor returned Framed to Death so I put the new book aside and began work on Framed (I must say I love…capital LOVE…editing time).

As I drove to the grocery store on Friday, a scene popped into my head for the new book. Usually that is wonderful, but this time the scene had nothing to do with the book I planned to write. This was a new idea. A different setting. Different key secondary characters. Different theme. Different motive. Different future, and hope, for Faith. And today on my way home from the auto repair place, I ‘saw’ the murder with two different scenarios on the when and how it could happen in the story. What is an author to do? And, also had to admit to myself that the new idea worked so much better with the working title.

Dare I start on this new path rather than stick with the old? I have a plan. It’s a good plan. But, this new one excites me with the future it holds for Faith, the simple…yet complexity…of the motivation of the killer, and most importantly the opportunity to show a truth I believe in strongly. Can I be brave enough to write this new idea? I put a little bit of me into every book, I believe every writer does, but I’ve always made sure what I included wasn’t too personal and didn’t give away too much of me.

Maybe it’s time I did?

Maybe, it’s time I did.

Stay in the Now

So far, 2015 has been a little overwhelming for me (in a good way). I decided at the end of last year to expand my horizons a little and silence the annoying voice in my head that liked to say I couldn’t do something. Or, it just wasn’t in me to figure out a new skill. I was really tired of it so started doing some new things and working on some skills I did have. And that voice had also made me second guess myself that resulted in me pulling out two threads from Embellished to Death. I loved them and believed added so much to the story but I worried about it…one changed a lot for my heroine and required a new mindset for her. Fortunately, my wonderful editor knew I was holding back something and encouraged me to go with my instinct and write it. I’m so glad I did. EMBELLISHED front under 2mbThose two elements…Bob (Ted’s brother) and Garrison’s (Bob’s life partner) appearance in the book added a richness to the book and I really enjoyed seeing them together on the page. I must admit they are my favorite couple in the Scrap This series. The other element in the book shook up my heroine’s world and while I was worried about it happening in Embellished, when I finished writing Framed to Death (#4) I was so happy I finally ignored the “you can’t” voice. I enjoyed seeing Faith grow on the page. It’s nice seeing her also silencing her own “I can’t’ voice.

To work on silencing mine, I took a sewing class at the end of last year and did pretty well I must say. I then decided to take an online course on taxes, did a good job, and then got a job preparing taxes. I know this might sound strange but I actually enjoy it.. What makes me the proudest was that I overcame the voice saying I wouldn’t be able to do it, and forged ahead even during the class segments when I started doubting myself. So twice last year I won against the “You can’t” voice that liked to derail my plans and vision.

contest 012While Framed to Death (the fourth in the Scrap This Series) is with beta readers, I’ve been working on a book that has been in my mind and heart for the last few years. I’ve been wanting to do it but the “You can’t” voice had overcome me and convinced me the book was a little more than I could write. There are elements of paranormal and mystery in the story, but the hardest one to get just right is the uniqueness of the spirit of not only the people in Appalachia but also Appalachia in and of itself.

This year I stopped listening to the voice saying I can’t and have dusted off the manuscript and began working on it again. I had completed half the book when I let the ‘I can’ts’ convince me I couldn’t adequately tell the story in my own head. If I can’t tell the story who can? And it’s a story I need to tell. It’s been with me for a few years and won’t leave. That tells me it wants out and into a book. The story has grown over the years and I’m confident I can do it. I’ve made some major changes to the original plot and I’m loving how the book is coming together. I don’t know what will happen when I complete this manuscript, but I’m proud that I’m writing ahead and not letting me stop myself from trying. I decide to live in the now writing moment and will consider the book’s future when I’m done. I realized that at times I’m so concerned at what will come next, what could happen, that I don’t enjoy where I’m at now so my motto for this year is “Stay in the now.”

National Library Week

library weel 2014This week is National Library Week, and the theme is Lives Change @ Your Library. The American Library Association encourages everyone to share what the library means to you.

The library has always been one of my favorite places, and I know without a doubt, my life wouldn’t be what it is today without the library. Books have always been where I found hope, family, friends, and at times even salvation. The library wasn’t just a place where I could check out books and take them home, but a place where I knew I could find myself and grow.

One of my very first memories was going into the bookmobile when I lived in Tuscon, Arizona. I was four-years-old and amazed by all the books the bus had in it. Even better, I was able to check out two books and take them home. The book I loved most was about a ladybug who went, of all places, to the library. I can’t remember the name of the book or any other details. All I remember is the ladybug, her carrying books, the library she visited, and that I loved…capital L O V E, loved that book. I started reading at 4, and have loved doing so ever since.

Libraries are where I’ve expanded my reading interests. It’s easy to get comfortable even and stick with a preferred genre. I find using the library makes it easier for me to be more spontaneous with the worlds I experience. Sometimes when I go to the library, I’ll pick a row at random and walk down it. My goal is to check out one book from those shelves.

When I get bogged down with a large to-do list and have to take off reading time, I find I miss it. I miss it like a friend I haven’t been able to see for a while. I yearn to pick up a book. I feel an overwhelming desire to read. I need to go into a world that isn’t mine…real or fictional. It’s like a taking a small vacation (one that doesn’t cost much). I love going to new and different places, ones I might not get to otherwise.

But the best thing about reading is what I learn. The challenges, direct and indirect, that I’m faced with when seeing through another writer’s eyes. I experience worldviews that aren’t my own. I come away with a new perspective, or at a better understanding of the view not my own, one I wouldn’t have considered with just going on my own personal experiences and knowledge. It’s not just non-fiction where I learn and stretch myself, but also fiction. What I love most appreciate about libraries is the ability to step outside of myself and “become” someone else for a short while.  

SRP Heroine Interview: Allison Campbell from Killer Image

killerimageWelcome Allison Campbell to the Self-Rescue Princess. I’m so happy you’re able to stop by and chat with me.

1. Please tell us a little bit about what is currently going on in your life?

As Philadelphia’s premier image consultant, I help others reinvent themselves, but I guess you could say that my most successful transformation was my own after a scandal nearly ruined me years ago. Now I move in a world of powerful executives, wealthy, eccentric ex-wives and twisted ethics.

Not long ago, my latest Main Line client, Maggie McBride, the fifteen-year-old Goth daughter of a White House hopeful, was accused of the ritualistic murder of a local divorce attorney, and I had to fight to prove her innocence when no one else would. But unraveling the truth brought specters from my own past. And in a place where image is everything, the ability to distinguish what was real from the facade was probably the only thing that kept me alive.

2. What made you decide to take on such a risky endeavor?

My client was accused of murder, and no one – not even her parents – seemed willing to fight for her. Maggie McBride is no easy kid to deal with, and the circumstances were incriminating, so I understand why she was an easy target. But I couldn’t stand by and watch her life be ruined if there was a chance she was innocent. And something happened in my past, something that I would rather not talk about right now, that made me worry even more. Let’s just say I wasn’t going to let another teen get hurt on my watch.

Sometimes we reach a point when it’s not enough to worry or talk about something, we have to make a choice. I had reached that crossroad. I had to act.

3. Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?

Lord, no. I’m an image consultant on the Main Line of Philadelphia. At worst, I figured I might have to break up an argument between two people fighting over a parking spot outside of Bloomingdale’s. Bringing a murderer to justice? No, I never imagined that.

4. Who would you say is the least pleased about your additional career choice of amateur sleuthing? Or is detective work your only career?

Who isn’t displeased? Let’s see, there’s my former husband (and best friend), Jason — I think he’s a wee bit proud of me, but also terrified that I will put my nose where it doesn’t belong again at some point in the future. There’s my former-mother-in-law, Mia, who worries about my safety. And, of course, my business manager, Vaughn, who, like all good business managers, would prefer that we focus on clients and stop chasing after bad guys. But Vaughn and I are not so different, so I think underneath it all, Vaughn wants to see justice done, too.

Jason and I are . . . well, let’s just say that he may have the most reason to be concerned. We’ll leave it at that.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Oh, Christina, surely you’ve read my book, From the Outside In! And, if you have, you know from Chapter Seven (“Putting Your Best Pump Forward”), that you should only divulge weaknesses that can be considered strengths. You know, things like, “I can’t leave a task undone,” or “I work too hard – all of the time.”

But to go off script, one thing my work with Maggie McBride taught me is that I’m too rigid. Jason would back that up. I have a tendency to want things neat and tidy, and I don’t just mean my house. I want to be in control. And because of what happened with Violet, because of mistakes in my past and some pretty rough relationships, I like to keep things simple. But life gets messy, things change. That’s really hard for me to accept. Sometimes you have to roll with it.

My strengths? I’m good at reading people, and, even though sometimes I wish it weren’t so, I care about people. Deeply. I realized at a pretty young age that I have a gift for seeing beneath the surface, understanding what makes people tick. And I think this gift makes me a good image consultant. I’m pretty good at recognizing the beauty in people even when they can’t see it themselves. And as for detective work? Well, this trait comes in handy for sleuthing, too.

6. Describe what being a self-rescue princess (a strong, confident woman) means to you.

Digging deep and being strong when it matters most. I don’t think a self-rescue princess needs to be physically tough, but she needs to have strength of character – she needs to be smart, decisive and brave when circumstances demand it. This doesn’t mean she can’t be caring, loyal, or loving. Or flawed. We’ve all met women who kick butt when they need to, regardless of age or education. And they do it in different ways (not just nabbing the criminals). Think of the women you know. Maybe there’s a woman caring for an elderly parent, a single mom fighting to create a better life for her and her children, a professional who puts the needs of her clients before her own, or an activist who works tirelessly for a cause. Real-life self-rescue princesses are people we see every day. They are strong women who choose to make the world a better place through action.

7. What one advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?

Don’t let society dictate who you become. So many girls start out as creative, carefree and confident kids and later succumb to the dictates of our society, believing that their worth is determined based on someone else’s ideals or, just as bad, the media’s portrayal of beauty. Stop. Realize you are beautiful for who you are and what you do, not what you look like – and strive to be the best person you can be.

8. What was one lesson you learned during this challenging time in your life?

Oh, Christina, there were so many life lessons learned. For one, never underestimate a group of divorcees with a mission. And two, heels may look good, but they are not the best footwear for chasing murderers. I’ve become a fan of sensible shoes.

9. If your story or life had a theme song, what would it be?

Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

10. Do you plan on dabbling in amateur sleuthing in the future, or have you hung up your detective hat?

Well, my back and neck still smart from the last adventure, so I’d like to say I’m done, but something tells me there may be another case (or two) to solve in the near future!

Release Day – Designed to Death

great escape tour banner DESIGNED TO DEATH small180Designed to Death officially releases today. I always get anxious and a little scattered when a new book comes out. This is the time when I’m trying to balance home, writing and marketing. I’m always making sure I spend time on these areas but when a new book comes out, it’s almost like a new baby where I want to just look at it and show “the baby” off to everyone.

Today also starts my blog tour with Great Escapes Book Tours (Lori is fabulous!). I talk about writing, reading, crafting, and about my new release the second book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery Series.

The stops on my tour:

September 10Chloe Gets A Clue Review, Interview & Giveaway
September 11A Blue Million Books Interview
September 12Mommasez… Review, Guest Post & Giveaway
September 13StoreyBook Reviews Review & Giveaway
September 15Cozy Up With Kathy Interview
September 16Mochas, Mysteries and More Guest Post
September 17Queen of All She Reads Review, Guest Post & Giveaway
September 18Books Are Life – Vita Libri Review & Giveaway
September 19Brooke Blogs Review & Guest Post
September 20rantin’ ravin’ and reading Review & Guest Post

I’ll also be making a couple of stops during this month:

September 16 – Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers http://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

September 24-  Dru’s Book Musing http://notesfromme.wordpress.com

Managing Your Writing Business. Part 6. Financial

Today, I’m posting the last part of my talk on managing your writing business. It’s a subject most don’t like talking about, but one we all have to manage and take into consideration.

6. Financial

a. Budget for your Business. It’s important to sit down and figure out the amount you believe is necessary to grow and maintain your business. This is one of the areas, if not the key element for most, that will break a writing business from the start and create stress not just in your business but in your personal life as well. It’s important to take your family’s needs into considerate when creating your budget.

The best advice on budgeting for business was given to me by my husband. Truthfully, it stung a little at first but once I was able to think on it at the business,  and not emotional level, it made perfect sense and took away stress from spending money on my business.

The advice given: Only spend the amount you wouldn’t mind losing/not earning back. Don’t spend more than you are comfortable with not having for other expenses in your life. Make business/writing expense part of your household budget.  Don’t treat what you spend as an investment that will give you a return. There is a chance you won’t make back what you spend (depending on the amount) and spending money needed in other areas with the hope you’ll earn it back will only create a lot of stress and hardship.

 b. Income – If you place your books on consignments with bookstores or other venues, make sure to check in with them. Every quarter, month, or week (this will depend on when you get reports and how often you’d like to check) evaluate how the book(s) are doing. What can you do to increase income?

1. increase marketing

2. other sources of writing income (articles, freelance, etc.)

3. if writing in more than one genre, is it better to concentrate on one over the other

c. Expenses –

Take a look at what’s been spent during the month/week. Are you within budget? Over budget? If over budget, what can be cut from the upcoming months in your writing expenses to bring you back under budget? Or, if no places to cut what will need to  be cut from other budget items in your household? Or how can you make up the shortfall with other income opportunities?

d. Taxes

Keep all business receipts. I have file folders for my income and expenses. If you’re not sure if an expense is deductible, contact a tax professional. I know I’m not giving much advice in this area besides file your taxes and if you have any questions consult a tax professional. I know enough to get mine done (and have a professional I can contact with questions)  and enough to know I shouldn’t be giving detailed advice on this subject.

And this concludes my mini-series on managing your business. I do have one final thing I’d like to say…

CLOSING NOTE: Another important part of the writing business (and possibly every business) is to forgive yourself. There will be choices you’ll cringe at later, or time you wished you spent better. Let it go. If you haven’t accomplished all you wanted (or needed) to do, let it go. Start fresh. Don’t spend time brow-beating yourself about what wasn’t done, that time is better spent beating up on your characters.

What works today won’t work tomorrow as life constantly changes on us. Learn to adapt. Learn to forgive yourself. And remember to take time out to have fun and recharge.