Saturday, September 27, 2014

Come see me!

If you'll be in Tryon, NC, on October 5, come see me and my merry band of fellow Tryon Writers share our poetry and prose at TFAC's gorgeous amphitheater at 3 p.m. We hope to see you there!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tryon writer trio hits Hub City

Norman Powers, Lee Stockdale, and Suki McMinn (Photo by Corey McNabb)
When I moved to Tryon, North Carolina, in 2011, I had no idea I was settling into a place with such a rich literary history. Yes, people talk about the fact that F. Scott Fitzgerald used to come and stay here, and that he even wrote about Tryon, allegedly scribbling a poem about Missildine’s Drug Store on a napkin while sipping something sweet. But the area’s history is also filled with many other literary types, and it continues to attract all kinds of writers.
So when I ventured into Spartanburg’s Hub City Bookshop in upstate South Carolina—the very unusual and hip indie bookstore where customers can fund the nonprofit Hub City publishing and creative writing education by merely buying books while enjoying a latte-- I hoped being a Tryon writer might give this newly published novelist some gravitas with Betsy Teter, Hub City’s founder and executive director. And I was right.
I told Betsy about my book, Drop Dead Gorgeous by Suki McMinn (my pen name), and she asked me about other Tryon writers. By the time I left the bookstore, we’d planned what I dubbed a Tryonfest at Hub City—a reading and book signing featuring three Tryon writers.
I’d offered Betsy a list of local writers I knew had books out, and she selected Norman Powers of Landrum (not exactly Tryon, but close enough!) and Lee Stockdale of Tryon to share my event.
I’d never met Norman, but had seen him speak about his latest book, Lily’s Game, at Lanier Library’s Brown Bag Lunch a few months before. I called and introduced myself, and he was happy to accept my request to be a part of Hub City’s Tryonfest.
Lee Stockdale, author of Murder of Law and already a friend, was equally enthusiastic about the idea and declared me a marketing genius. (Writers are known to exaggerate from time to time.)
I wouldn’t say I was a genius, but it did turn out to be a smart move to associate myself with other local authors.  One thing I’ve learned about the community of Tryon is it is extremely generous when it comes to supporting the arts and local artists.
The Tryon Daily Bulletin ran the article I submitted to promote Hub City’s Tryonfest, and I started pimping the event all over social media—Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs. Another local writer, Pam Stone, shared my little promo with her Facebook peeps, perfectly proving my point about how special folks are around here.
And then when the time came for the actual event, nearly every seat in the bookstore was filled with a body from Tryon. Several were fellow writers, and most were at least Facebook friends if not actual friends. I was truly touched to see so much support from our little community.
Norman, Lee, and I each talked a little about our books and read a passage, and we sold and signed a respectable number of books. I honestly have no idea if it was a big event by Hub City standards, but it was a big deal to me.
I’m proud to say I’m a Tryon writer, and look forward to learning more about what that means. Thank you to Norman and Lee, and to Betsy Teter at Hub City for hosting us, and to all the writers and book lovers in this town and surrounding area who go out of their way to show their support. F. Scott Fitzgerald was right. This place is special.
Yes, we're proud of our books. Hey, those things don't write themselves, you know. (Photo by Corey McNabb)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

If a pop culture archeologist digs you up, does that make you a relic?

I was surprised to hear from Marc Tyler Nobleman when he first emailed me asking if I was one of the women in a music video for Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.
Before responding, I googled him and was happy to find a guy who didn’t seem at all like a creepy stalker, but rather like a very hip writer and journalist who just happens to love 80s music videos. He grew up admiring the beautiful women portrayed in what I consider a unique art form at a time when music videos ruled the airwaves of MTV and VH1.
He’d already published a series of interviews called The Girl in the Video, and found such a following that he decided to do a second series, which led him to me.
When I started answering Marc’s questions, I was happily transported back in time to 1989 and an era I danced through in spike heels and tight black dresses, arms linked with fun model friends, and with a boyfriend about to make television sitcom history.
Was it as fun as it sounds? You bet.

I know I seem to be depressed and drinking, but I was actually very happy.
Click here to read the interviews of six gorgeous women who could call Billy Joel their sweet boss-daddy for a day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Poppin' Cherries

Once I’d established myself as a fanfiction writer on, I found that one of my pet projects was luring new writers out of their shell. I started there on five years ago as a brand spanking new writer, unsure of myself and timidly posting my first stories. Once I found my footing though, you couldn’t shut me up, and after posting seventy stories, I still love it.

I entered many contests on and placed in several, tying for first place in a couple and winning second place in some. There were also quite a few in which I didn’t win anything except new readers, which is about as good as gold to a writer.

I’ve also been asked to judge a lot of contests, and I’ve said yes every time I was asked. I hosted one as well with my friend, Thyra10, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, virtually jumping up and down every time we’d get an entry. I don’t mean we literally jumped up and down; I mean we jumped up and down in an internetty kind of way, separated physically by an ocean and a handful of countries.

One of my favorite contests in which I was a judge was the Poppin’ Cherries contest. Writers could only enter if they were virgin writers and had never posted a story on This was when I first felt that groove of leading a new writer to water and watching her take her first glorious sip. I’d found joy in writing, and I wanted others to do the same. And some did, I’m happy to say.

Night Orchid was a regular reviewer of my stories. She was bawdy and funny, and I looked forward to her comments every time I posted a chapter. She sent me a message one day and said she had tinkered with a story idea, and asked if she sent it to me, would I use it to write a story. She wasn’t a writer herself, but wanted to see her idea in print.

I tweaked it a tiny bit—just a few minor edits, and returned it to her saying she had already written it and I insisting she post it. When she did, she filled my message box with gushing remarks about how great it felt to be a writer. She got some very nice reviews, and experienced a kind of pride she hadn’t expected. I knew just how she felt, of course, as I’d been there myself not too long before.

Night Orchid never posted another story because shortly after that she died. I’d never met her in person and only knew her real name was Jaime, but a friend who knew her in the real world delivered the news to our little virtual world, and I cried over the loss of her. I’d considered her a real friend in spite of the limitations of our online relationship. And I was glad I’d had a hand in her becoming a writer. I still go back and read her messages to remind myself how happy she was about her accomplishment.

At the same time I was coaxing Night Orchid into the writing spotlight, I was handed the reins to a weekly writing challenge our community had been enjoying for a year or so. The weekly prompts had inspired many of my own stories, and I took the responsibility seriously. I’ve been posting the weekly challenges for four years now, and am proud to say my prompts have inspired many fanfiction writers. I’m particularly proud of the virgin writers who have written and shared their work for the first time.

Now I have a book out and I’m writing more books, shopping others to agents and publishers, entering more writing contests. While promoting my book, I was asked to give a talk at a local women’s group about writing. After I told the story of my entry into what is now my favorite way to pass time—how I took a little women’s writing workshop and then discovered fanfiction and started posting stories, one of the women raised her hand and asked if we could have a writing workshop in our town.

I hadn’t thought of it, but it was an excellent idea. Now I’m no longer the timid new writer, but the teacher, helping a group of new writers find their voice and hopefully a new joy in their lives. Will they go on to write books, publish stories? I don’t know, but I’ve already gotten my reward from Night Orchid. Whatever else comes will be the cherry on top.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The heartbreak of Malaprop's

As a new independent author, I’m learning how to get my books into stores as well as to sell them online. I do my own publicity and scheduling, and have set up several book signings by contacting local bookstores and event coordinators.

When my book was first published, I heard from an author friend that Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina, was unfriendly to independent authors, and my heart sank. I grew up in Asheville, and I love the shop. Located in downtown Asheville, it’s a prime example of a very cool little indie bookstore, and I knew I could muster some sales there through social media and local press since I’m from Asheville and still have family and friends in the area. I live an hour away.

I went into the store, armed with my book, and was greeted by a very friendly young woman who gave me a brochure on their consignment policy and the email address of the event manager.

I read the brochure and was struck by two things: a $25 fee to set up a consignment account and a policy preventing books printed through CreateSpace from being consigned. (Their online policy omits the no-CreateSpace line, by the way.)

I had never heard of a fee to set up an account, and I even asked another indie bookstore owner in a nearby town if this was the norm, and she’d never heard of it either and couldn’t imagine what the fee was for. Malaprop’s brochure says: “These fees allow us to accept professionally-produced, self-published books from our local authors.” That line explains nothing, of course, and particularly not why other bookstores have no fee and Malaprop’s does have one. What exactly does it pay for? They get a cut of the sales when the books are sold. What would a fee on top of that be for?

I was also puzzled by the policy that prevents books printed through CreateSpace from being consigned. CreateSpace is Amazon’s self-publishing print-on-demand company. When my original publisher had to close their doors, they recommended that I self-publish the second edition of my book through Amazon and CreateSpace, and so I did. I can’t imagine an easier process. Even though I consider myself to be techno-challenged, CreateSpace made it easy for me to publish my book. And it was free. They keep a portion of the sales, and I have to do nothing beyond setting up the book except spend the money once it’s transferred into my bank account every month.

I’d imagine a great deal of self-published books are printed through CreateSpace only because Amazon is so huge in the print-on-demand business, and I wondered why the Malaprop’s policy excluded CreateSpace books.

I sent an email to the Malaprop’s event coordinator, got no response, and so called as well. She was very nice on the phone, but confirmed that Malaprop’s would not take my book on consignment, and therefore I could not have a book signing at their store. When I asked her about their no-CreateSpace policy, she explained that Amazon was not friendly to independent bookstores (ironic, coming from a bookstore not friendly to independent authors), and suggested I publish my next book with Lightening Source. She said Malaprop’s doesn’t do business with Amazon, and I thought that an odd thing to say since by consigning my books, they’d be doing business only with me, and not with Amazon. She also listed a handful of other local indie bookstores that would likely be more receptive to my book, which I found to be very helpful.

Fairly befuddled, I googled Lightening Source and CreateSpace, and studied the differences, both from an author’s perspective and a bookstore’s. From what I read, CreateSpace is a bit better for authors, and Lightening Source is a bit better for bookstores.

Lightening Source charges fees to authors that CreateSpace doesn’t (including a $37.50 setup fee, which might have been the inspiration for Malaprop’s setup fee?). I looked further for evidence that would justify the Malaprop’s policy, and found that CreateSpace’s fee for wholesale and retail distribution channels is $25, and Lightening Source’s is $12, which might have been a factor in the Malaprop’s logic except for the fact that in a consignment situation, there’s no setting up those channels. The author just walks into the store with a handful of books in her hot little hand and plops them down. No fees.

So, why, you might ask, am I whining about Malaprop’s? Why don’t I just move on and set up signings at bookstores who want me? Well, I have. And I will continue to do just that. But I wanted to get this little injustice off my chest, and I wanted to explain to other local authors who might have heard the rumors about Malaprop’s being unfriendly to independent authors that yes, indeed they are. I hope someday that won’t be the case, that they’ll make their policies more author-friendly like other area bookstores. My hopes for a signing there were dashed by a policy I don’t understand. And yours might be as well unless you’ve used Lightening Source to print your books and don’t mind forking over $25 for no good reason.
How I look signing books at stores that welcome local authors: happy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Going viral

My friend’s blog post has gone viral. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone for whom this happened. I know people who are famous and they get a zillion hits all the time on their websites and blogs, but this is the first time I’ve known someone who was going about her business in comfortable obscurity when suddenly the magnifying glass of the internet appeared above her and hovered there for a bit.

My friend, whom I’ll call Zara, has been generous and honest with me in sharing the details of her experience, which is why I’m giving her a fake name for this blog post.

On a normal day, her blog gets up to two or three hundred hits. But this post, which was written seven months ago, got 500,000 in four days. It started one morning when she noticed it had 2000. Within hours, that number rose quickly.

As Zara’s new readership grew, so did the number of comments on her blog. Most were very friendly, chatting about the content of her blog, which was funny and sexy, but she also got a few trolls. One woman demanded Zara delete her entire blog because of punctuation mistakes, but the woman’s rude comment got deleted instead.

I should back up here and say that English isn’t Zara’s first language. I think it’s her third (out of five), and the fact that she writes in it amazes me. I struggle with just one language, and admire anyone who would attempt to write in anything other than her native tongue.

Sometimes Zara and I edit each other’s fiction, and I’ve grown to rely on and value her input when I write. When I edit her work, I love seeing the language from a fresh perspective, and often think some of her mistakes shouldn’t be fixed, as they add a certain charm to her work that I could never achieve.

I can’t count the number of times I find myself trying to explain things like why we can see far and wide, but not wide and far. We think long and hard but not hard and long. Some things are neither here nor there, but never neither there nor here. Sometimes Zara’s leading man will look his lover in the eye when he should be looking into her eyes. One of my favorites was when Zara’s hero was running to catch up with his love interest. He ran until he was out of breath, and when he finally caught up to her he was “smiling between his pants.”

I haven’t had a man smile between his pants at me for a long time, and gosh, I miss it.

Zara asked me to edit her blog post—the one that 500,000 people have now read. I guess the trolls got to her and she was feeling insecure about her writing. I did as she asked, of course, but when I sent the blog post back with all my edits I also counseled her not to change a thing.

Would I correct Borat’s English? Yakov Smirnoff’s? How about Latka’s on Taxi? Would Charo be as adorable if her English were perfect?

Writing something correctly isn’t always better. Who am I to argue with half a million people? They like her blog. Do they like the content or her language misuse? Can’t it be both? And does it really matter?

While we ponder this, Zara’s fans are piling up, having come from wide and far, and my opinions on her language use are neither there nor here. The fact is, she has become an internet phenomenon in a matter of days, and that takes my breath away and makes me smile between my pants. Go, Zara, go.