Central Texas Small Town Fun

Lockhart, Texas is celebrating its 21st annual “A Dickens Christmas” this Friday December 3 and Saturday December 4 on the courthouse square and at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library. It’s small town fun to be sure; all entertainment is free (unless you decide to stay for the Gaslight-Baker comedy “Fruitcakes” Saturday night). Lockhart has a new Best Western motel right near Walmart.

Friday night at 730 the Dickens Christmas Lighted Parade kicks off. Many participants in the festival dress in Victorian costume and stroll the streets.  After the parade, go out to the arts and crafts tents where my sister and I, along with Jody King, will be helping new children’s book author M.G. King sell her picture book Librarian On The Roof only half a block away from where the true life adventure took place. Local musician Fletcher Clark will perform holiday music in the historic Clark Building right after the parade too.

On Saturday, the Kings and I (and Roxanne) will be back selling Librarian On the Roof.  Here’s your chance to meet the author, then go on to get something good  to eat at the food vendors tents or at one of our famous barbecue restaurants or any of Lockhart’s other restaurants including The Baker’s Rack right on the square. All through the day various Lockhart school choirs will sing. The festival also boasts a harpist, ice sculpture, free carriage rides, wiggle waggle train rides, the exotic animal zoo show, street juggling, glass blowing, POLYNESIAN DANCERS, a petting zoo, magic show, fencing demonstrations, gymnastics and martial arts demonstrations, and lots of stuff to buy. And there’s a Dickens Tea at the First Christian Church.

It ends with the lighting of the yule log in front of the library at 7. Before that, the winners of the Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story contest will be formally announced.

If you have never seen the Caldwell County Courthouse, this is a great chance to walk around on the lawn. If you have never seen the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, it’s open to you this Saturday.

Come on down. Lockhart is an easy drive east of Austin. It’s close to Bastrop, San Marcos, Luling, Martindale, Gonzales, and even San Antonio. We’ve got our Victorian dresses to show off, not to mention all the neat old houses near downtown.

So you want to be a Kindle writer

So, you want to be a Kindle writer. 

First step, write a good book. Doesn’t have to be a great book but it does have to be good. Be sure you have done the best job you can do, get second and third opinions on it, proofread it several times (and get someone else to do it for you too), and then make some decisions.

Do you really want to self-publish your book and do it with Kindle, or do you want to take your chances with traditional publishing?  Be aware that self-publishing (at this time, anyhow) can close some doors for you with traditional publishers and even readers.

If you are young and have never submitted any of your writing for publication, you’d be better off going the traditional publishing route. You will learn a lot about publishing by submitting to agents or publishers, and you will have more time to refine your work as you wait. And you may get that contract.

If you are middle aged or older and have had experience submitting to publishers and want to take a chance, then Kindle self-publishing might be exactly right for you. I decided it was absolutely right for me. But be advised that any sort of self-publishing may get you very few readers (but then that can also happen with a physical book in the local bookstores as well).

The next step if you want to publish on Kindle is to read all the instructions. They are available for everyone at amazon.com under self-publishing Kindle books. Read each category carefully, and pay special attention to the formatting information. Also, go into the discussion forums. Read the complaints. Read the compliments. Read the answers to the problems that come up during publication and afterwards. Give yourself several months to process this information. Google Kindle publishing for forums independent of amazon.com and read in them too. Then…

The next step if you’re seriously considering Kindle self-publication is to buy yourself a Kindle. I’m not kidding.  Buy the Kindle and then buy a few self-published books. See how good they are (or aren’t) and what they look like. This is what your book will look like. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, then go another route, maybe print on demand or Smashwords or blurb.com.

Next time I’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of publishing to Kindle.

WHAT I’VE READ THIS WEEK–Voyage to the Red Planet by Terry Bisson.

My Kindle book is a romance titled The Cowboy’s Baby. www.amazon.com/The-Cowboys-Baby-ebook/dp/B003UYUVZC.

Find Gretchen Rix on  facebook, and follow me on Twitter at  http://twitter.com/GretchenRix.  Check  out my interview on Kindle Author from November 9.

NOTE TO ME–This photo of Fort Davis makes me think of Daniel’s saloon in Arroyo.

Scare The Dickens Out of Us

The Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story writing contest for 2010 is over. We got some great stories.

First place winner is Karen Katchur of Bethlehem, PA  for her story “The Van”.

Second place winner is Steven Utley of Smyrna, TN for his story “Cold Hands”.

Third place winner is Patricia A. Peirson of Winnetka, CA for her story “Coming Home”.

In order, places four through fifteen are John Ankers of Liverpool, UK;  Trace Riles of Ontario, Canada;  Karen S. Swensson, Chris Lovett and Sharon Lyle of  Georgetown, TX; Valerie Whisenand of Glencoe, AR;  Tyler Miller of Cheney, WA;  Jaclyn S. Miller of Mishawaka, IN;  Carl Jonsgma of South Australia;  Steven Dake of Jackson, Michigan;  Bill Goodwin of Hill City, Kansas;  Winona Howe of Riverside, CA;  Aaron Peterson of Santa Rosa, CA;  and A.F. Schwier of Marble Falls, Tx.

First place prize was $1000.00 and a trophy. Second place prize was $500.00 and a ribbon. Third place prize was $250.00 and a ribbon. Fourth through fifteenth prizes were ribbons.

The Junior Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story writing contest winners are as follows.

First place winner is Jerico Espinas of Oshawa in Ontario, Canada.  His story was “The Mark of Ice”.  He received a trophy and $250.00

Second place winner is Jonathan Kim of Allen, Texas.

Third place winner is Rachel Reimer of Manitoba, Canada.

Fourth through tenth place winners are M. Shale Carey of Westminister, MA;  Megan Stevens of Remus, MI;  Alexa Smith of Round Rock, TX;  Thomas Young of Edmond, OK;  Shelly Crouch of Woodville, TX;  Joe Duncko of Canfield, OH;  and Peter Brand of Rochester, NY.  Junior Scare The Dickens Out of Us authors ranged in age from 12-18, with most of them being 12-14 or 17-18.

Second through tenth place winners in the Junior contest received ribbon prizes.

The Scare The Dickens Out of Us and Junior Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story writing contests are entering their third year in 2011. In early January, go to www.clarklibraryfriends.com for the 2011 rules. These contests are privately funded. All entry fees go to to the Friends of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library and are used for library projects.

Lockhart, Texas is a small old town in Central Texas between Austin and San Marcos (or between Austin and Luling depending on your highway) with ties to the Chisholm Trail. Lockhart boasts possibly the most beautiful courthouse in the state and the oldest continuously-in-use library in Texas (also an architectural gem). It is also known as the barbecue capitol of Texas (four bbq restaurants almost within walking distance of each other).

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK–The Revenge of the Houndby Michael Hardwick.

The Cowboy’s Baby continued

“The face of a cat,” Marcia continued as if he had not interrupted. “I was going to say she had the face of a cat. Sort of a small triangle. Sharp. Green eyes. Slightly slanted green eyes. Really neat.

“And maybe she did get fat. Maybe she’s more of your sort of beauty now, if a beauty at all, in fact.” Then Marcia muttered under her breath. “Zaftig! Why not say fat if you mean fat.”

“Can’t be too fat if she’s riding the range on her horses,” Ellison interposed.

Both of them burst into laughter, lightening the tension.

When they stopped Marcia asked, “So, boss, how are we going to get in to see her?”

“Walk up to the front door, I guess,” he said.

“Can’t. You can’t get through the wall.”

“Make an appointment? Maybe through her lawyer?”

“Yeah, if she’ll see you.”

“Too bad that damned cat got away. Well, maybe we can catch …”

Peter burst into the office, eyes wide with panic, arms and legs moving in opposition. When he was at last able to control his windmilling limbs his mouth worked too.

“She took Leon!” he cried, taking huge gulps of air, pointing vigorously out the door the way he’d come.

Ellison knew Leon, of course he did, more than anyone had yet guessed, and he was integrating him into the resort staff this week. Peter tugged at him, but tears and ragged breath notwithstanding, Ellison hadn’t moved.

“Who took him, Peter?” he asked, steadying the boy.

“That old woman took him.”

“What old woman? And why, Peter?”

“The one with the golf balls. She took Leon to get the golf balls back,” he cried.


The Cowboy’s Baby by Gretchen Lee Rix copyrighted 2010. Cover photo by Roxanne Rix. Available at amazon.com as an ebook for Kindle readers and Kindle apps for $2.99. ALERT—This blog entry is the end of Chapter One of  The Cowboy’s Baby. Hope you enjoyed it. www.amazon.com/The-Cowboys-Baby-ebook/dp/B003UYUVZC. Find Gretchen Rix on  facebook, and follow me on Twitter at  http://twitter.com/GretchenRix.  Check  out my interview on Kindle Author from November 9.

Kindle Publishing and Lowered Expectations

My romance novel The Cowboy’s Baby went live on Amazon.com as a Kindle e-book early this July. Self-published.     

I did not make a mistake publishing on Kindle. I am ninety-five percent happy with the way the book looks and one hundred percent happy that the book is available. My expectations for selling the book, however, have taken a slow and steady downward path toward reality.     

First, two caveats. This is my experience, and may not be yours.  Some people have done very,very well with Kindle publishing and some have done modestly well. Then there is everyone else.  Also, my book has only been available for four months; sales could increase (or decrease) at any time and patience is a virtue I suspect many new Kindle authors are learning. (The second caveat was that things could change with more time.)     

I dreamed of selling a hundred books a month. Now I’d be happy (and I mean it) if I sold five books a month. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up. The problem is that no one knows my book is out there (or your book either). And this isn’t a problem that only concerns Kindle writers, books get lost in the glut of brick and mortar bookstores too, but with electronic publishing you can’t physically go into the store and get your book and replace it with the cover facing out.     

So, that’s the really bad side of self-publishing on Kindle. You may only sell twenty-five books.  Total.  Ever.     

But (assuming your book is actually good), is it better to have it out there and available and PUBLISHED, or to keep it in a box under your bed. I decided it was better to be published. And you can fool yourself into thinking you are going to be one of the ones who makes enough money off this to live, for a little while. It’s fun to expect that to begin with. Just make sure you’re not going to be dangerously unhappy when it doesn’t happen.     

So, obviously you  can tell from the above that I’m not selling a lot of books. (Not yet, I say). But trying to sell has been a much needed and interesting education. Unexpected. Some of it has even been fun and I do recommend it.     

Next blog (or the next), I will go into the mechanics of publishing to Kindle (what little I know of it). Best advice is to probably hire someone to do it for you. But you can do it all by yourself, even if you know little to nothing about publishing software.     

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK–Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins.   Saw Unstoppable at the movies. All photos on this blog are by Roxanne Rix.   

Find Gretchen Rix on  facebook, and follow me on Twitter at  http://twitter.com/GretchenRix.  Check  out my interview on Kindle Author from November 9.









The Cowboy’s Baby continued

She sat straighter and began peering over his shoulder. No telling what she was thinking about now. He thought she looked a little guilty. Finally Marcia got up and returned to her own office. No matter, he didn’t really need her for this. And she wasn’t nearly as distracting from far away.

Ellison dialed Mrs. Cassandra Lennon.

Just picking up the phone and calling Mrs. Lennon was too easy a solution, he figured; then the phone rang at her end and he prepared himself to talk. But it only rang once. The tone of the answering machine screeched in his ear. What sort of woman wouldn’t even put a message on her answering machine, he wondered, holding the phone awry,and then hanging up without saying anything.

Marcia came back in, more paperwork in her arms.

“What sort of woman is Mrs. Lennon,” he asked, pushing the phone away.

“Can’t say, really,” Marcia replied. “Never met her.”

Ellison tried a different question. “Why do they call her ‘the cowboy’?” he asked. “And the Sleeping Beauty.”

Ellison waited.

“Well, the Lennon estate is really a ranch now,” Marcia explained. “And Mrs. Lennon does what cowboys do. She takes care of the animals, moves them to better pastures, checks and repairs fences. She’s a cowboy.”

Ellison stroked his chin. All right, he thought. Enough of that.

“Why did they used to call her ‘Sleeping Beauty’?” he asked, trying to think another way around the problem.

Marcia laughed, and then seemed to think her answer through before speaking.

“Well, it’s partly because of the rose bushes at the fence lines and along that wall making it look like the thorn hedges in the fairy tale,” she said. “It’s really a mess. I don’t see how anyone gets through. Of course, that’s the intent.”

Suddenly looking grave, she continued. “And it’s partly because of the nervous breakdown she had after her husband disappeared with their baby when she was in her twenties. Not too many people ever saw her after that. She might as well have been a princess captive in a castle.”

Ellison had already heard about the kidnapping. He started to comment.

Marcia interruped. “And then,” she said, smiling slyly, “maybe they called her the Sleeping Beauty because she was so beautiful.”

“I though nobody’s ever seen her,” he pointed out.

“We just haven’t seen her lately,” Marcia explained. “And I said I hadn’t met her, not that I’d never seen her. Before the kidnapping we saw her plenty.”

“And you say she was beautiful?” he asked.

Marcia really had a most disapproving expression on her face, he noticed. And a cocked eyebrow. He waited, wondering what was coming out of her mouth next. He hoped it wasn’t going to be a ‘you, of all people ‘speech.

Instead, she grinned impishly. “That was then and this is now,” she reminded him. “The lady’s all of thirty-five to forty years old now. I don’t know how much of a beauty anyone would be at that age. And with those problems.

“But she was, once,” she added wistfully. “Slender as one of those silver birch trees you’re always reading about in fantasy novels. And a cloud of hair, so blond it was almost white, and so curly it must have driven that damned husband of hers mad. And the face of an …”

“Angel!” Ellison found himself blurting. “Oh, come on,” he said. “I think I’d find your Sleeping Beauty more of a beauty if she was zaftig and dark, and funny,” he added.

To Be Continued. Copyright 2010 by Gretchen Rix. Blog photos by Roxanne Rix

WHAT I’VE READ THIS WEEK–Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold, a new Miles Vorkosigan novel.

There’s an interview with me at The Kindle Author Blog, plus marketing advice http://kindle-author.blogspot.com/2010/11/top-10-tips-for-promoting-your-book.html

You can now find me on facebook, and follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/GretchenRix

Dodging Bullets by Joe McKinney

DODGING BULLETS put me right into the character of heroin dealer Peto Hurst and wouldn’t let me out even as he totally screwed up what was left of his marginal life by stealing from San Antonio’s Mexican Mafia. He ended up in a cornfield with a pistol to his head and I will never again think of cornfields without thinking of gang murders (thank you Joe McKinney).

I felt like I was a heroin dealer running from worse to worst with my girlfriend at stake (first person viewpoint), my life at stake, everyone’s life at stake, making mistake after mistake and ending up with a slam-bam bloody shootout that either saved the day (or didn’t/no spoilers here). How many times did I say “stake”?

Loved it. And I’m a nice girl too.

Available on Kindle from Amazon.com and from Gutter Books.


 Blog photo by Roxanne Rix.

Facebook/Scare the Dickens/Other

I have just joined Facebook! I haven’t gotten very far, but I have put up Chapter 16 of The Cowboy’s Baby for all of you to read. It’s in the notes (you can tell how much I know about Facebook, right?). And if you want to read more, you can get it as a Kindle e-book at Amazon.com. Plus, pretty soon all of Chapter 1 will be available on this blog. I’m going to use my Facebook page to put up a lot of Roxanne’s neat photos of Texas, too.

The Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story contest is all over (except for selecting the winners). The Junior contest entries went to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library staff more than a week ago for their verdict. The main contest entries that went forward to the final judges were put in the mail Thursday. They will make their decisions in time for Thanksgiving. I will be contacting everybody else beginning November 1.

Getting your story rejected isn’t fun, but it  doesn’t necessarily mean that your story was bad; it might mean we just received too many stories that were much better. Or, maybe you didn’t write about a ghost in this ghost story writing contest! Yes, we did get a few. Don’t let rejection stop you from writing, or from submitting. Check out www.duotrope.com/ for the markets. It’s fun and you learn a lot about publishing.

On another topic. They’re filming a movie in Lockhart this week. It’s something that happens pretty often here (Lockhart’s an unusual-looking town), but I’ve never run into it before. Trailers, trailers everywhere and not a star to see. I didn’t/don’t expect to see the actors, but the movie has Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine. They’ve picked the right week for it—the weather is absolutely gorgeous.

Oh, Oh. Speaking of actors. I’m on Twitter, too and Edward James Olmos just started “following” me! I can’t think of a single celebrity I would like to have on my list more than Olmos.

WHAT I’VE READ THIS WEEK:  Dodging Bullets by Joe McKinney. And The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two A edited by Ben Bova.

Blog photo by Roxanne Rix. This is the Caldwell County courthouse in Lockhart, Texas.