Dying for the right swimsuit?

Hello All,

The topic today: the hidden and not-so-hidden angst of ladies swimwear.

Please welcome author Susie Black to Write Despite. Susie is a ladies swimwear sales executive, who has cultivated a serious side gig as a mystery writer. Her debut novel, Death by Sample Size, was published this year by The Wild Rose Press.

As a ladies apparel expert, Susie’s got a good handle on what women feel when they stare into that fitting room mirror, and her work is the better—and the funnier—for it. She’s even created a choosing-the-right-swimsuit tips primer. Reach out to Susie, if you’d like one.

Let’s hear a little more about Susie’s journey to publication and what she learned as a pioneering woman executive in an industry long dominated by men.

Take it away, Susie:

I had always envisioned a career as a journalist, but life had other plans. Right after my college graduation, our family had an emergency while my apparel sales rep Dad was at a trade show in Atlanta. When no one from the companies he represented could cover for him, dad asked me to help. Despite having absolutely no background or interest in his business, this was my dad, so of course, I said yes. After a half-hour crash course in how to sell ladies’ apparel, dad left me alone to muddle through running the trade show. When dad returned three days later, he was stunned by the huge number of orders I’d written.

To my astonishment, he offered me a job as a sub-rep. Graduate school didn’t appeal to me and the opportunities for women in journalism were few and far between. So, I accepted dad’s offer, and the adventure of a lifetime began. At the beginning of my apparel career as a sales rep in the deep southern states, I was the ONLY woman traveling a territory. I had to prove myself daily to an industry that doubted a woman’s ability to do the job or last more than a season.  I proved all the doubters wrong and broke every glass ceiling.

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered, as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of.

My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write. I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

One thing I learned during my career is that the type of clothes we choose says a lot about how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world. Our wardrobes speak legions about whether we are followers and go by the trends or are we leaders who are the trendsetters. This insight was invaluable when I became an author and was a major influence on the way I write.

As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of the characters in the Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling. Holly Schlivnik, the main character, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. All my stories take place in the fast-paced ladies’ Los Angeles apparel industry. The premise behind my debut cozy, Death by Sample Size, is an apparel industry buying office exec was so universally disliked that when she was murdered, that it wasn’t a question of who wanted her dead, it was a question of who didn’t. 

Things rarely turn out the way you think they will, but I am living proof that things do happen for a reason. Life is indeed a circle. I got into the rag biz because I was destined to write about it

More about susie

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries. 

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 

Looking for more? Reach Susie at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com

You can also find Susie on her social media channels: Twitter

Linkedin

Pinterest

Facebook

Instagram

Pastry, divorce, and some good advice

Hi Friends,

As Arborview’s September 29 publication date draws near, I’m sharing another snippet from the novel. Here, Ellen ponders the state of her life and what—if any—advice she should give to her student Rosa.

Because both Ellen and Rosa are pastry chefs, dessert plays a big role in Arborview. Visit me on Instagram,where I’m sharing snapshots of some of the dishes featured. Please follow, like, and share!

The Kindle version of Arborview is already available as a pre-order on Amazon and elsewhere.

Cheers,
Karen

Here’s today’s excerpt:

This was how she had come to think of herself: a divorced person. She disliked “divorcée,” which Alice liked to throw about suggestively. The word had the faint stink of misogyny, of finger-pointing, the whisper of failure—more so a woman’s than a man’s. Why was that? American men were simply “divorced,” a neutral proclamation. No cutesy French name had been borrowed to designate their failed-marriage status.

And in truth, if Ellen had failed anyone, she had failed herself. This stinging little insight had come to her in Arborview, lying in dappled sunlight, where she was free to look at things and creep near the truth. The truth was she had fallen like a stone to the earth after all these years, and the voice she had learned to ignore had only grown louder. She had abandoned, or at least shelved, herself long before Zach worked up the courage to do it.

She really should tell Rosa: “Don’t worry about what your mother thinks, or your brother, or anyone else. Choose, or the world will do it for you.” This was what the girl needed to hear. 

Publication date announced!

Hi Friends,

At long last I have a publication date for Arborview: Sept. 29.

It’s coming up quickly, and we have a ton of work to do to get ready. Please check here or at www.karenguzman.com for updates, availability, reviews, and other perks.

For fun, I’m going to post some of my favorite passages from the book during the days leading up to publication, hopefully to whet everyone’s appetite for the whole thing.

I’m so grateful to have you all on this journey with me.
–Karen

Baking, and food in general, play a big role in Arborview. The heroine is a pastry chef. Here’s the first excerpt:

From finance professional to published fiction author

Hi Friends,

Please welcome debut author Mark Jones to Write Despite. After “retiring,” Mark has stumbled upon a new career!
–Karen

Take it away, Mark:

My first novel with the Wild Rose PressPeculiar Activities, includes a dedication to one of my high school literature teachers. I enjoyed writing in high school, especially when our school district created an “English” track course with an emphasis on it.

Still, writing was not something that followed me into college or my banking career, or later, my work in the world of higher education finance.

Then after thirty-three years, I retired from the financial services and budgeting departments at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Oklahoma…and thoughts of writing returned.

I developed a concept for a mystery/detective/international intrigue story and began putting my thoughts on paper. Two writing classes at a local career tech center, plus local and state writing conferences, offered a great deal of knowledge, as well as several invaluable contacts.

The Peculiar Activities manuscript then won the mystery category in the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation annual contest in 2019, and it finished as a finalist in the U.K.’s Page Turner Awards in 2020. In February 2021, I signed a contract with the Wild Rose Press, and the book is now in the final stages of production—while I wait for a release date, probably early this fall.

It’s hard to believe this is happening. I think literature teacher will be proud. My suggestion to other aspiring writers? Never give up, have faith in yourselves, and work, work, work. Publishing is a challenging and sometimes harsh business. But keep writing.

Follow Mark to learn more.

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/mejbooksllc

Twitter: @mejbooksllc

Instagram: markjones_author

Pinterest: @mejbooksllc

A debut novel dream comes true

Friends, please welcome Lynn Griffin to Write Despite. Lynn’s debut novel comes out this month, courtesy of The Wild Rose Press. Lynn’s journey to publication has been long, but her dedication and passion—and the courage to finally take the submission plunge—have paid off.

And don’t you love her cover?

Take it away, Lynn:

Thank you for allowing me to share a little bit of me. A granny of five who retired expecting to go trekking across the world, only to find herself with a whole new career. This is the Life of Lynn, a project in the making, which by the way is not the title of my debut novel, which is: Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox. A romance with bite and intrigue.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to start out by taking you back to January 2020, when the new terrible, invisible, big bad wolf began to emerge. (COVID-19.)

I was in Spain and about to come home to the U.K. I’d finished my novel, which certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was complete. I’d already decided it would stay in a dark, dusty corner and cogitate its fate. Just like everything else I’ve ever written. My poor, long suffering but supportive husband couldn’t understand why I not only took my laptop away with me, but also had no intentions of sending my work to a publisher. He said, throwing his hands up to the heavens, “What, after all that effort?”

Well, he hadn’t read it for starters. So, what did he know? Plus, who likes rejection? My response was: “It’s a hobby, a passion, I don’t know. What I do know is that I am a compulsive writer.”

I have always written around my full-time paid jobs. Help pay the bills, bring up the family, but I need to write to give the little devils doing a dance in my head the chance to get out and tell their story. 

The other truth behind this mask is that I’ve never had enough confidence to get going. I guess, for fear of a professional reading it and then dying laughing. I didn’t want to be sued for manslaughter! Plus, who likes rejection?

Anyhow, when I came home from Spain, a friend said something that stuck. Please know this is not a direct quote, but in my head it was pretty much: “Get it out there before you pop your clogs, mate!”

I thought about that for a quite a while and wondered, did I want my epitaph to read: “woulda coulda shoulda?”   

Now here’s the thing. I never believed anything would come of it. But I got my ancient Writers Year handbook and began to research appropriate publishers, then checked that they accepted submissions. Here’s a real tip: There is nothing worse than doing a whole heap of work trying to promote your gorgeous baby, when the publishers are not accepting submissions. Even if you think you are the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, they won’t change their minds. It wastes your time and theirs.

Back to the dreadful process, I had to write the smartest, shiniest interview on earth. That’s what submission are. Interviews. I hate them. And none of the requirements are the same! Plus, they prevent you from writing the stuff you really want to write. It’s also important to note that publishers generally tell you not to send your work anywhere else or let them know if you do!

Anyway. Months passed, and rejection loomed. Then something stirred in my gut, and I decided to nudge this one particular publisher again. I was polite and to the point, especially as they didn’t state, like some do: “If you don’t hear back within three months, clear off.” That’s so harsh. Not taking the time to let you know. Leave you in limbo. Oh, and yes, I know they’re busy. 

Anyhow my email went something like this: 

“Did they receive my enquiry. If they were not interested, could they please let me know so I could move on. Thank you.”

Yup, as simple as that.

I couldn’t believe it when an email bounced back, almost instantly, bearing in mind the time difference, Eastern Standard Time, New York, with something like: “No, didn’t receive, can’t find it, can you resend? President/Editor-in-Chief” 

Can you imagine! Seriously? I didn’t send it? What a plonker. Was it still floating around in the ether? All this time wasted, wondering! And YES, I know my IT skills are rubbish! Hey ho. Of course, I’ll resend. I wasn’t about to argue now, was I?

Another email arrived shortly after – again from the President/Editor-in-Chief : 

“…will pass on to Editor!” Surely that couldn’t be right? I thought it must be a scam. I had to check them out again. But here I am almost twelve months later, contract in hand and a July 21, 2021, release date for my debut novel.

So, that’s part of my story. But there is so much more. I’ve started a blog. Just a little hints and tips along the way, with the aim of supporting and encouraging budding writers. If you are published, you know how hard the journey is. If you don’t already, I encourage you to support other budding writers. If you are new to all of this, please know that I had a dream that before I died, I would get a book out there. If I can do it, then so can you. Have faith in yourself, you can do it, and thank you for reading.

From Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox:

“Harriet felt the tell-tale gust of wind from the ink-black cave. The train was coming. A strand of hair came loose from her plait, flicking her face as debris skittered along the dais. The train was imminent. People throw themselves in front of trains all the time…

Also available through Barnes and Noble.

Follow Lynn on her blog, on Instagram, and on Twitter.

Talking pastry and new novels on Jean Grant’s blog

Hey All,

Please check out my guest appearance on Jean M. Grant’s terrific blog today. Hear more about my forthcoming novel, “Arborview,” and why I LOVE pastry so much; and learn that my desk looks like a mess!

—Karen

A little blog fun, and a release date coming soon…

Hey!

Author DV Stone was kind enough to feature “Arborview” and me on her blog, in a fun feature, today. Take a peek. Looks like I’m going to have a September release! I’m waiting on the date…
Cheers,
Karen

Take a Peek Through the Window with Karen Guzman


‘Stop making excuses and start making plans’

The road to publication took debut author Belinda Scott from a love of reading to writing advanced review copy critiques to, finally, penning her own story. The moral? Follow that dream, even when the path is long and uncertain.

Please welcome Belinda, more formerly known as “Elisabeth,” to Write Despite.

Thank you, Karen, for having me on your blog. I’m really excited to be here. Honestly, it makes me feel like a “real” author. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe I actually wrote a novel. I have been a homeschool mom for the last decade and was a substance abuse counselor before that. I don’t think I’m exactly in the ballpark of what most people think about when they hear the term author—actually, I’m not even what I think about when I hear the word author—yet here I am. 

My path to becoming an author started out with just a love of reading. As a child and teen, our small-town library couldn’t keep up with me. Every week I’d walk out with a stack of books until eventually I’d struggle to find anything I hadn’t read. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were my favorites and sparked my love of mysteries and danger. 

As an adult, I continued to read at the rate of almost a novel per day, and the cost of my reading habit began to rival the car payment. Well, not exactly, but it was expensive. Thankfully, I found an online site that linked reviewers with authors and publishers who needed advance readers. My world opened up, as I found so many new and interesting authors, and my book shortages were no more. I was happy, and my budget was, too.

Through writing reviews, I began to interact with authors and receive personal requests to review new books. I joined ARC teams and eventually was asked to become a beta reader for an independent author. She and I became friends over the course of several novels, and I eventually ended up becoming her amateur content editor. Working with her was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Editing spicy scenes can certainly lead to some hilariously inappropriate conversations. 

My friend encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing my own novel, and when the pandemic caused us all to be shut away with nothing else to do, I gave it a try. Twelve weeks later, Thirteen Scars was born. I started out by sending a query, synopsis, and sample to my top seven publishers. Two sent rejection letters, but then my editor with The Wild Rose Press contacted me asking for a bigger sample and eventually the whole manuscript. A contract followed, and this week I was given my official release date: July 7, 2021.

I am a classic example of how following your dreams can lead you to some surprising places. I had no budget, no connections, and no real knowledge of what I was doing. All I had was an outdated computer and a dream. I never expected to have a published book or to be halfway through writing a second, so for those of you who are still dreaming, I say stop making excuses and start making plans. Tackle those dreams and see where they take you!

Connect with Belinda:

https://www.facebook.com/EScottauthor

https://www.instagram.com/escottauthor

Video game wisdom and the road to publication

Breaking into the publishing business is no small feat. Perseverance and strategy are key, but video games—of all things—can offer unexpected insight, as Steven J. Kolbe discovered. Steven’s debut novel, How Everything Turns Away, is forthcoming from The Wild Rose Press. Please welcome Steven to Write Despite. Find him on Instagram @stevenjkolbe.

Some years ago, I became rather discouraged about my writing life. I read voraciously, wrote even more voraciously, and even chose creative writing as my college major. While I published a poem in high school and an interview with a U.S. poet laureate my freshman year of college, my accomplishments dwindled from there. A few years out of college, I began to doubt if this writing thing was going to happen.

Then my wife Susan did me a great favor. She convinced me to get a Wii. Now, I am not a gaming person. I played video games as a kid, but quickly my interests diverged. By middle school, I only played one if a friend really wanted to play—and then they would beat me miserably, of course.

However, as an adult, it was fun to return to the old world of Mario and Luigi, this time with fancy motion-sensor remotes. Around this same time, my friend Geoff, a New Orleans poet, introduced me to a website called Duotrope. This website catalogues different literary journals and magazines. It organizes them by genre, print or online, pay, and, most importantly, acceptance rates. Immediately, I realized my error. All the journals I’d been submitting to had less-than one percent acceptance rates. 

I had a revelation: What if I approached my writing career the same way one approaches a video game—not with the hardest level first, but the easiest? Looking through Duotrope and thinking about Mario Brothers, I had a paradigm shift. I decided to send my recent stories to journals with only high acceptance rates. It worked. I placed nearly all of them within a few months. After that, I took on slightly more selective journals, and so on. 

When it came to finding a home for my debut mystery novel, How Everything Turns Away, I checked out a copy of Writer’s MarketI chose a wide variety of agencies and publishers to send my manuscript to. In this way, I found The Wild Rose Press, an independent publisher with a wide range of authors and a stellar reputation. I began working with Kaycee John, who has been a lifesaver for my manuscript. She gave me copious notes on my sample chapters and has been working with me over the last year to take How Everything Turns Away from a manuscript to a novel.

‘Show Australia Some Love’: anthology aids wildfire victims

Please welcome author Sydney Winward to Write Despite. Sydney was among a spirited and caring cadre of writers from The Wild Rose Press who took part in an amazing fundraiser to benefit the victims of the 2019-20 wildfires in Australia.

It’s always inspiring to see writers–and publishers—using their talents to help others. Please check out the anthologies and lend a hand.

From Sydney:

Hi, Karen. Thanks for having me on your blog! Today’s topic is one filled with heavy loss and grief, and has broken the hearts of many. The Australian wildfires affected many people, even those not living in Australia. To see both people and animals lose their homes is heartbreaking. Thousands of homes burned down. Koalas, kangaroos, and other animals alike couldn’t find shelter or water, not to mention the millions of animals that lost their lives to the fires. It was awful and saddening, with a devastating, continuous impact on the country. It pulled on the heartstrings of not only the Australian people, but the entire world. 

Although most of us couldn’t be out there with the brave firefighters in their efforts to put out the raging wildfires, we found our own way to give back with our own unique skill sets. Stephen B. King, an Australian author at The Wild Rose Press, came up with the idea of putting together an anthology, whose profits would go toward the fires. The idea received such an overwhelming response that there wasn’t enough room to put everyone’s stories into one anthology, and had to be broken into three anthologies.

women’s fiction, thrillers, and mystery

My own story, Born of Fangs, is in volume three, a short paranormal story about two of my favorite characters, Willow and Adam, and the romance they share when love between a vampire and a human is frowned upon. It’s a bonus chapter after Bloodborn that I hoped my readers might enjoy.

I am humbled to be a part of the Australia Burns Anthology project with so many talented and compassionate writers. It warms my heart to have seen many people step up and come together to provide relief for those affected by the Australian fires. It’s amazing to see how much love the human race has for each other and animals!