Friday, October 24, 2014

"Notes from Nadir" 4 Years Later

On October 21, 2010, the first eBook edition of Notes from Nadir was published on Kindle. Written as a series of blogs, Notes from Nadir made its online debut on March 3, 2010. My blog gradually began to attract readers. They seemed interested in reading the forthcoming novel that Notes from Nadir would later become.

Last year I published the second edition of “Notes” and even with a book tour, sales and reviews weren’t happening. The problem may be the title – nadir isn’t a common word. So, if you’re curious, and haven’t already gone to Dictionary.com to check it out, here’s the official description along with a hint about what Notes from Nadir is all about.

If noon is zenith then nadir is 6:30. And it was 6:29 and counting down. Way down. Merriam-Webster defines it as: "The lowest point." Nadir – it was the place where I was inevitably going. Lots of stuff got me headed in that downward direction. Decisions made too late. Unmade calls. Calls made that weren't answered. Missed connections. Being at the right place at the wrong time. Excuses. I was caught in the web of my own cause and effect and the resulting karma was ripening. Ripening of karma meant that payment was due pronto. And who paid for my own karma? Me. No checks accepted. No credit cards. And there sure as heck weren't any I.O.U's.

Only one place left to go. Back east. Back to a place I no longer called home. Back to a mom I hadn't lived with or seen in many years. She had a new house in a quiet semi-retirement community. She had a spare room. Two-car garage. Free internet. And a few conditions…

Chapter 5 – Arriving in Nadir

In the morning, I awoke before sunup, knowing that it was my last day on the road. I didn't want to hang around a motel room when I still had a few hundred miles to go. Soon I'd cross the Mississippi River and be in another state. I'd see things that hadn't been seen in years: Hardee's, Sunoco, Steak 'n Shake, and White Castle.
Driving into the rising sun. Crossing into a state that had a top speed of 65. I saw more snow. When I was partially through the state, I stopped and got gas. It was definitely colder and I stepped over some snow to get to the pump. Being almost "home" was starting to suck.
The end stretch of the 2,000-mile journey led through flatlands and farmlands with intermittent groves of trees to eradicate the geographical monotony. How dull and colorless compared to the dramatic scenery of Arizona and New Mexico. Those miles rolled by as I reluctantly headed east to a "home" I had never seen since Mom moved to her one-story dwelling eight years ago.
The miles vanished. My arrival was imminent. I glanced at traffic heading west and recalled how it was when I was driving in that direction—full of hope. Now, I was full of despair, full of failure. Each mile led me closer to the "cornfield with lights" as my father, who had escaped before me, referred to it.
I changed to a smaller two-lane road that would lead me to within a mile of Mom's new house. I had long ago memorized her address and she'd told me which streets to take and how easy it was to find. The new subdivision was called Hampton Lake and it was for older people. She'd sent me some pictures of her house and it was as generic as any modern one-story frame house with neutral colors and a few windows offset by some shrubbery and trees. Passed a place where I used to work and saw it had been replaced with a mart type store. Couldn't help noticing the traffic signals were the old fashioned kind that were strung on wires rather than posts that extended across the intersection like they did in L.A.
I took a wrong turn and had to go another mile in some suburban/country area before I found the right street. I drove slower than normal until I saw the large wooden Hampton Lake sign. Next to it was an American flag. As I drove to the end of the cul de sac I had reached the End Point of my journey.

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35983

Monday, September 22, 2014

Out of the Blue: A Novel – Revised + New Excerpt

Copyright 2014
By Lisa Maliga

Most of my newly revised novel, Out of the Blue, occurs in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Back then, a person could board an airplane with a large bottle of shampoo in their carry on bags. Back in the era where in-flight movies were shown on a pull-down screen and they shut the lights off in the cabin. Back when they issued silverware with meals, and you didn't have to pay extra for dinner as it was part of the cost. Those days when people smoked on airplanes, although they were confined to the back seats.

Customs consisted of being asked why I was in England, how much money I had, they didn’t bother to look, and a kindly older gentleman wished me a “happy holiday!”

I visited Cornwall and saw Pendennis Castle. In Falmouth, I was surprised to see supermarket cashiers sitting down on the job. Traveling to a small Cornish town, I discovered the local Jigsaw Puzzle Club met every Tuesday afternoon in the library's upstairs reading room.

As London was too expensive, I took a train to the Cotswolds. There I stumbled upon a small country inn that served as a model for the Windrush Arms Hotel.

I’ve contemplated rewriting this book for over a year and only got around to it this summer. This book has romantic elements, but I feel it’s more suited to the coming of age/contemporary fiction categories. Out of the Blue contains scenes that convey why Sylvia’s attracted to older men, and we see another side to Mrs. Gardner.

Here’s a scene that describes main character Sylvia Gardner’s burgeoning obsession with the English actor:

Having more information on Alexander, she was relieved that she could see his current flick, Up In the Air. It was playing in a second run movie theatre on the other side of town.
She made the trek to the Eastside Theatre, a white brick building surrounded by an empty parking lot. Weeds sprouted from cracks near the edge of the sidewalk. At noon on Sunday, the movie house looked deserted.
Sylvia pulled her car into a space and got out. The humidity was the same as the temperature. Her nervousness accelerated her own perspiration; she was seeing a feature film starring her newly beloved. 
Up In the Air was about the adventures of a turn-of-the-century English balloonist who wanted to fly over the Himalayas. 
She gave her two bucks to the guy behind the box office window. A hefty woman at the concession stand stared into space. The enticing popcorn boiled from the trapdoor inside the machine, the sound and scent permeating the lobby.
Inside the cool, dark theatre, third row back. She rested her bare legs on the seat in front of her and waited for the event. Minutes later, he appeared. In the cinema, she encountered Alexander Thorpe looming several feet high. The stereo amplified his timbre. His British accent sounded overly proper to her ears. Amidst the lightly populated movie house she sat, her infatuation moving and speaking on screen expressly for her. The sight of him enraptured her. Flying above a pristine landscape in a brightly colored balloon, she soared along with him. Alexander Thorpe, the man who had appeared out of the blue.
Sylvia was bathed in the reflected light from the screen and watched him glide past the Swiss Alps as he watched the magnificent scenery. She envisioned herself onboard. For a fraction of a second, she really was there, her feet touching the basket’s bottom, his hand reaching for hers. They were about to look into each other’s eyes when she was back in the third row of the Richport cinema keeping cool on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Her fixation intensified over the months. In October, she was working a few hours overtime at the drugstore. Her increased wages were not enough to allow her to make a down payment on a plane ticket to London, but if she saved her money, then the likelihood of meeting the actor would increase. She realized the Englishman was not going to stop by Jenson’s Drugstore and purchase a pack of Marlboro’s and a Playboy. The only way to find the man was to journey to his homeland. Sylvia kept her desire to herself, for who would understand her burgeoning obsession with an actor of some renown? A man old enough to be her father; a man she had never met?
  
Official Description:

It all began in the summer of 1979 …

Sylvia Gardner is a na├»ve library clerk who lives with her dysfunctional mother in Richport, Illinois. Vivian tells her daughter not to trust men because they only want to use her. After being dumped by her first boyfriend, Sylvia falls in love with an English actor after watching him on a PBS drama. Researching Alexander Thorpe’s life and career for two years, she saves her money so she can visit him in his Cotswolds village. She stays at the Windrush Arms Hotel, soon discovering they share a secret connection.

Complications ensue when Harry Livingstone, the hotel’s drunken proprietor, takes a fancy to the young American. As in her dreams, Sylvia and Alexander get together – but with unexpected results.

Amazon Kindle version: Out of the Blue
Amazon Kindle UK version: Out of the Blue
PAPERBACK version: Out of the Blue
Barnes & Noble version: Out of the Blue
iTunes version: Out of the Blue
Smashwords version: Out of the Blue


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Magical Cakes of Love: (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2) – Plus Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2014

In Magical Cakes of Love, there is romance and mystery as one of Yolanda’s regular customers has gone missing. For those of you who’ve read The Great Brownie Taste-off, you’ll know that Yolanda Carter always refers to her customers as appreciated guests. In the second book, appreciated guest Captain Angus, a homeless man who enjoys her brownies and cupcakes twice a day, mysteriously vanishes. As the story unfolds, the lead investigator thinks that either Yolanda or her best friend, Teagan Mishkin, might know more about the missing man’s whereabouts. Way more as they’re his suspects.

Here’s the official description:

With the successful launch of Yolanda’s Yummery in the trendy Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, Yolanda Carter is on a roll. Her fame is starting to grow as news spreads about all her delicious desserts. An accompanying Beverage Bar will open in three weeks. She’s involved in a budding romance with sophisticated British tea baron, Nigel Garvey. Life is sweet.

Complications arise when Captain Angus, a regular homeless customer, disappears…and Yolanda becomes a suspect. 

Someone is framing Yolanda for the crime. Lead investigator Detective Churchill is certain that she murdered the captain. Best friend Teagan Mishkin is also a suspect and wants to clear both their names. Will Yolanda’s relationships be derailed by the daily disasters she’s encountering? Can those Magical Cakes of Love save her and the yummery?

This is a clean romance/cozy mystery, and not only was it fun to write, the cover was a joy to photograph. Yes, I had to go to the yummery to pick up one of those Decadent Chocolate Magical Cakes of Love and take almost 100 pictures of it. The day was warm and sunny with a high of 85 and even though I’m cold blooded I had to lower the temperature of the air conditioning unit from a comfortable 78 down to 70 degrees.

It was difficult to avoid sampling the cake, and I thought about cutting a slice and putting it on some fine china but I did that after I finished taking and previewing the pictures.
I’d like to stress that Yolanda doesn’t ordinarily make wedding cakes but in this book she makes an exception, as a favor to a good friend’s sister who’ll soon be tying the knot.  Here is part of that scene:

Excerpt from Chapter 2

Suddenly a shorter woman with dyed black hair pulled into a stubby ponytail walked in, looking around. She wore a shapeless mauve sundress paired with black sneakers. “So this is the yummery,” Rosemary said. “Kinda on the small side…” She walked over to the display case and saw only three Magical Cakes of Love and barely a dozen brownies. “Did we come at a bad time?” Rosemary asked, her forehead wrinkling.
“Rosemary! So nice to see the bride-to-be,” Yolanda said to the disgruntled woman. “Well, no, you came at the end of the day. I was just going to put everything in the fridge, but I made sure to save you a Decadent Chocolate and a Fancy Vanilla Buttercream Magical Cake of Love to test.” She gestured, moving towards the back of the store. “Let’s go back to my office and we’ll sample them.”
Thirty minutes later and they were still in Yolanda’s office with the two cakes cut into several slices, and the chocolate cake had fewer of them.
“Now I tried on 128 wedding dresses before I found the perfect one…” Rosemary commented, taking another bite of the chocolate cake slice on a paper plate. “It was a nightmare trying to get one in my petite size and style because I wanted the Sweetheart Serenade model. It’s ecru lace with puffed sleeves edged with rhinestones and pearls and a silk crinoline skirt with a detachable eighteen-foot lace train edged with pearls…oh you’d think I was looking for something unusual!” She sighed and rolled her big watery blue-gray eyes. Rosemary pulled out her iPhone and punched the screen a few times. “Here’s the winning dress…” She turned the phone’s screen so it faced Yolanda and a blurry shot of some off white creampuff meringue of a wedding dress was seen.
“That looks nice,” Yolanda stated diplomatically, glad when the phone was removed from her line of vision.
“Well it should. And let me tell you about the sixty-one punch recipes before the right one … and I think the florist is going to be changing again soon…” She enjoyed another bite of her cake, paused, and took another. She sighed loudly. “You’d think people could handle brides changing their minds occasionally.”


Smashwords: Magical Cakes of Love

The Great Brownie Taste-off is FREE

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Introducing…The Great Brownie Taste-off!

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2014

I've discovered something funny about writing romance books – I like 'em sweet. Literally. In my first, Sweet Dreams, the cover art shows an original photograph of brightly colored [and incredibly sweet and fruity] French macarons. These sandwich-type cookies are small and delicate but oh so worth it! Subtle hint: try one…or a few!

But how do I go from macarons to the classic and better known dessert of brownies? Well, I didn't plan it. In fact, I thought I was writing the first book of the romance series, which is about cakes, not brownies. Even though I was following a detailed outline, the brownie angle took over and so I went with it. The first book of the Yolanda's Yummery series establishes how this yummery [bakery] came into existence.

Here's what The Great Brownie Taste-off is about…

Yolanda Carter comes from a family of artisans and lives in her deceased grandparent's cottage in Sherman Oaks, California. She works at a small cat shelter but dreams of owning a bakery. Her friend from high school, Teagan Mishkin, knows that Yolanda needs money and suggests better paying work as a cocktail waitress. The interview takes an unexpected turn and she stumbles across a scheme to close down the cat shelter.

The plan Yolanda concocts may be the only way to save the shelter. Helped by her parents, coworkers and friends, a rising young blogger also takes an interest in her plight. Will she bake the best brownies of her life?

BONUS ~ Includes the winning brownie recipe!

FREE at B&N Nook: The Great Brownie Taste-off
FREE at Smashwords: The Great Brownie Taste-off
FREE at Kobo: The Great Brownie Taste-off


This book is now available in paperback format at Amazon: The Great Brownie Taste-off

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Paid Blog Tours are a Waste of Time & Money

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2014

I've done two virtual blog tours. Both were for different contemporary fiction titles. Tours lasted for 14 days and they were with two different blog tour companies.

The second blog tour company has been around longer than the first, but longevity doesn’t mean scrupulousness. For my second tour, my optimism was shattered after receiving the interview questions. On five out of seven questionnaires, I was asked what inspired me to write my book?

Guess the blog owners didn't tax themselves when it came to thinking up questions. Copying the questionnaires in a Word document, I read the rest of the prosaic queries. Then it struck me: not one single question pertained to my book. They'd all gotten free copies of it, had seen the cover, had received the blurb, and had ample time to read or at least skim it. Yet there was absolutely no level of interest in a novel that took me years to write and rewrite and have edited. I also checked out the various bloggers' sites and noticed that most of them had a boilerplate template where they asked the same questions repeatedly and only the answers differed.

While I was aware that many of the bloggers preferred romance/YA novels and its subgenres, I also knew that a contemporary novel wasn’t that far of a stretch for blog owners to promote. As the second tour company allegedly had an extensive list of bloggers I thought that they would be able to effectively match up my book to blogs that were also contemporary fiction-friendly.

Yeah, right.

Another problem was the size of the blogs: some had as few as 20 followers while others had more than 2000. But how accurate was that? I'd once sent a nonfiction book to a blogger to review who had 500 followers. Sales of my book increased and there were also several comments on the book review and giveaway. But that never happened to me on either novel tour. Admittedly, I probably wasn’t giving enough of an incentive [bribe] for readers other than free PDF copies of my novels. No Amazon or B&N gift cards, no free Kindles or Nooks, nothing of any "value" other than my eBooks.

I was told to provide three excerpts and some of the interviewers asked for other excerpts making the total seven plus one blog topic of my own choosing. As the second tour progressed, I began seeing the excerpts repeating themselves. In some cases, bloggers were adding two excerpts instead of just one.

Blog tours are coordinated several weeks in advance, yet more than once during the first tour, I had to contact the blog tour owner and ask why my scheduled interview/excerpt/review hadn't been posted.

Instead of opting for a review-only tour, I went for tours that featured interviews, excerpts, and reviews. The first time I garnered four reviews, but in my second foray in virtual booktourland I received one generic review.

I'll admit it: twice I made time-killing mistakes. I spent a few hours answering the questions. I wanted to be sure they weren't repetitive, which is tricky when faced with many similar questions. I opted for lighthearted answers to keep the content enjoyable for the reader. As a "veteran" of one blog tour with little upsurge in eBook sales, I wasn’t expecting anything different the second time around. As the tour limped on, I knew I was right but not in a good way.

I was paying to give any available blogger the tour company lined up free material. My writing was helping promote their blog. It was getting them page views, ad revenue and touted their own books and/or products. They got fresh content that only required them to format each post. Aside from the money and time spent on the blog tours, the sheer lack of interest became apparent -- a blogger/reviewer often won't bother to read your book. There are reviewers who'll read an entire book and write a lucid review—but I have no idea what percentage that covers—it's just the luck of the draw. Weeks after the second tour was over, I happened to look up my book to see how it was doing on Google. Randomly clicking a link to a blog where I'd contributed an excerpt, I saw the page was now blank -- the blog owner had removed the post.

And that summarizes how I feel about doing a third paid virtual book tour…it's not an option I would consider again.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Notes from Nadir ~ Manic Monday Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2013



eBook cover
It’s 2009. Lisa Hansen is impacted by the great recession and can’t focus on her writing career. She has to make the tough decision to stay in Los Angeles or return to her former Midwestern home. Not having seen her mother in over a decade, she moves back in with her in a suburban semi-retirement community. Confronted with long forgotten memories, Lisa finds it difficult to adjust to life in Nadir. She works a couple of dead end jobs, and meets Gordon, a sexy British bakery owner. An opportunity to freelance for him and work as a writer/photographer at The Factory ensures a better income. But how long will she be confined in a lifestyle that she has long outgrown? “Notes from Nadir” is an alternatively poignant and amusing story of life’s unforeseen journeys, sorrows, and rewards.

Where is Nadir?
Merriam-Webster defines nadir as "the lowest point." And that is where Nadir is located. It’s not a place that is found on any map. No GPS will guide anyone there. Nadir is a state of mind.


Notes from Nadir is approx. 88,000 words/292 pages. The release date is Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Both eBook and paperback versions will be available on or around that date.

Chapter 47 ~ Manic Monday

[This is a brief excerpt from the chapter].

Right before lunch one of the Packers came over and announced: "Bakery donuts downstairs in the warehouse … main door!"
On a Monday? Rita smiled and turned to me, "That's great! They sometimes donate donuts from the bakery down the street. It's really a great place…" she got up and was heading for the stairs a lot faster than I'd seen her move since I began working there.
I followed her; I could walk faster than her as I didn't wear a size 18. I knew her size because she saw a pair of large black pants on my cart and said they'd fit her and placed a bid on them. She didn't win them as some other fatso from Nebraska did.
Near the main door I saw a big flimsy pink cardboard box on top of a dilapidated table. It was surrounded by red shirted employees.
Most of the warehouse employees didn't wear gloves. They spent the day handling pee-stained rugs and bedding, cast off toys and games, old electronics, mildewed books, filthy furniture with chewed up legs and torn upholstery; all manner of junk. And they were pawing through the donut selection. Not a napkin or paper towel in sight. But that didn't stop Rita or any of the other workers. A toothless worker wearing a faded, almost pink shirt decorated with holes, licked his fingers. Free food, free dessert, and free germs!
Paperback link




Saturday, October 19, 2013

Notes from Nadir: The Second [Expanded] Edition

NOTES FROM NADIR the second edition will be available in eBook and paperback formats on November 5, 2013. 

It has been updated and expanded and is approximately 290 pages/88,000 words.



"Notes from Nadir" is an amusing and poignant look at a Los Angeles-based writer who returns to her Midwestern home due to financial difficulties. Moving back in with Mom in a semi-retirement community, she looks for jobs that pay far less than the wages she earned back in L.A.  From working at a bakery where she hopes to get to know the boss a little better, to finding a job at an online auction site, the author introduces us to a wacky assortment of characters. Along the way, she deals with Mom's declining health, unsympathetic relatives, and rediscovers a place she left many years ago when she dreamt of becoming a screenwriter. The narrator struggles with being in Nadir, both the place and the state of mind. 

A new excerpt will be posted next week.
eBook cover
Paperback cover

If you would like an ARC [PDF] so that you can post a review on your blog or on an online bookstore, please send me an email at: Lisa_Maliga@msn.com 



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