Monday, December 31, 2012

A summary of what I did in 2012

Sometimes I feel like I'm really not getting much done. And then I look at my list. I was surprised by how far I've come in just one year. It may not seem like a lot to some people, but I'm pleased with the progress - slow and steady! And I feel like I've learned a lot from each step. Of course, I have to add in the meetings with my critique group. We try for every 2 weeks. It's good to have a deadline. And it's good to look for mistakes in someone else's work. I think once I see a problem in someone else's work I can then see it in mine.


January
Published Catburglar on SW and KDP
Sent White Lies out to readers

February
Submitted A Loss of Standards to a contest and a magazine (rejected by both)
Published White Lies on KDP Select - exclusive for 90 days

March
Made Catburglar free (289 downloads to date)
White Lies free promo on KDP - 492 downloads
Interviewed on Kris Wampler's blog

April
Published A Loss of Standards on Smashwords and KDP
White Lies free promo on KDP - 68 downloads
Posted White Lies on Wise Grey Owl website

May
Published White Lies on Smashwords and CreateSpace (print)

June
Goodreads Giveaway of White Lies - 607 signed up, 81 added "to read", 5 given away - got 3 reviews

August
Blog's 1st anniversary - a whole year of consistently blogging

September
Truth's Enigma rewrite to readers for feedback
First payment received from KDP

October
Submitted Home Inspection to a magazine (rejected)
Started rewrite on Unintended Consequences

November
Sold a drawing off the blog!
Put White Lies up on ACX (an audio book creation site)
Put Truth's Enigma on back burner to simmer while I finish Unintended Consequences
Entered White Lies in a self-published book contest on Underground Book Reviews

December
First reading at the Asheville Public Library West Branch - sold 1 book!
Submitted Keep Moving to a magazine
White Lies is now for sale in my local bookstore - Malaprops

And according to my notes on Goodreads I read 37 books.



Friday, December 28, 2012

Another rejection

I'm OK with rejections. I learned it in my first drawing class as a kid. But this one was a little different.

I sent a flash to Every Day Fiction and they rejected it. The critique they sent was very helpful. And unusual. I don't always know the reasons why they don't want the story. This will help me tweak it for the next round. BUT - the part of the rejection that really got to me was about formatting. Somehow, somewhere between my cleanly formatted Word doc and the editor's eyes, my story turned into a sold block of words.

Yikes!

Did they think I was an idiot? Or trying something avant gard? Sheesh. Where did my formatting go?

They said things like - It would have been easier to read if the story was broken into paragraphs.

No, no, no...I didn't do that! I wanted to email right back begging their forgiveness for such a grievous error. I would never have submitted it that way...but somehow I did. It upsets me more than the rejection itself, that I did something stupid. It's like I got to the art show and my painting was upside down.

Luckily, with the rest of the comments, it was clear that they rejected the story based on other reasons. So despite me looking like an idiot, I received a thoughtful critique from them. I'm sure they see worse, but that isn't a distraction I care to throw in the way!

So, that is my latest lesson in online submission. I need to double check how they are submitted.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I'm Local!



White Lies is now available in print at my local independent bookstore, Malaprops. It is so exciting to see it on the shelves! Malaprops has a special section for local authors. There are a lot of writers in the area. It's always been artsy, back to F. Scott Ftizgerald and Thomas Wolfe.

Can you tell it was a brutally cold day when we went there?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Too Dark

I am allowing myself to not finish reading books I don't like. It still feels wrong. Once I start reading a book, I feel like I should finish.

Lately I have been picking up books will nilly. I am pushing the envelope of my usual type of book. Sometimes it works. I just finished reading a mystery set in the 1740's. It was very interesting. However, this other one...just did not work for me.

First of all, the language. I'm not a prud. I don't mind swear words. But this felt especially crude.

Secondly the sex was nasty. Not sexy nasty - slave / humiliating nasty. That almost stopped me there. But I kept reading past that bit. Maybe it was just in there to prove a point. OK. As a statement about a bad character, that'll work. Unfortunately, no, there was a whole lot more.

Third, did not like the protagonist. So when he had icky sex that was a little too explicit, in a sticky - smelly sort of way, it lost me. I didn't like him or his friends or his world. I had no idea what his goal was. And since I wasn't feeling very kind toward him, the icky sex thrown in made me like him even less. Which made me wonder about the choice of putting that scene in there. It underscored the point that he had made bad choices in the past and apparently was going to continue to do that.

I guess that's just my taste.

The book was traditionally published, so someone somewhere thought this had a good sized audience. I wonder what that was? The protagonist is gay. So do they think gay audiences want to read about a man making bad choices? Or do they think straight audience was to see a gay man make bad choices?

I have read lots of books with gay protagonists. Doesn't matter to me as long as the story is well done. And that includes the sex scenes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A sense of place.

In the book I was reading, a man develops an unreasonable fondness for a path as he contemplates a possible marriage. It struck me that there is a strong sense of place in the simplest things.

The other day I was walking and saw something that struck a note. In a backyard there was an Adirondack chair near an old garage. I felt such a sense of longing. Which confused me. The yard was dark and unkempt and the garage needed a coat of paint. Why would I want that? Then it occurred to me that something about the scene reminded me of my childhood home.

 It wasn't the backyard I was envious of, it was the memory of a safe and loving childhood. A memory of a time when my biggest responsibility was making my bed. When the only danger was falling out of trees or skinning a knee during tag. A time of well worn traditions, holidays and routines - school on the weekdays, summer at the Jersey shore, Easter egg hunts and Christmases when all the relatives came to us.

I can remember those strange little things from the house where I grew up: the bumpy roots of the huge oak in our backyard, the shape of the flagstones on the front path, the best way to ride your bike around the old slabs of slate sidewalk heaved up by tree roots.

On fall mornings I would walk to school with a cousin or a friend and we would shush through ankle deep piles of fallen leaves.

One spring, when I was very young, I picked a bunch of the daffodils that lined the driveway. Holding them upside down they became ladies in ballgowns and I danced them all over the backyard.

I was lucky. I had a great time growing up. So I totally understood the man's sudden fondness for a path that lead to his sweetheart's house. Another tool for the writer's toolbox.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quiet One



In my last job, as a bookkeeper for a moving and storage company, one of the salesmen nicknamed me Quiet One. It was a pleasant, anonymous, back room, part-time job. I went in, did my thing and left. I enjoy working with numbers, but they do take some concentration. I tend to just put my head down and work. 
When I commented to my very gregarious boss that because I was quiet people often thought that—
“You’re timid.” She cut me off. 
I was stunned. Timid? Me? Surely not. Suddenly I wanted to start listing all my adventures.
I left home at eighteen and just kept going. I’ve driven coast to coast a handful of times, alone. I lived alone in Boston, LA, and smaller cities. I’ve studied martial arts. I've been in earthquakes and sandstorms and hurricanes. I drove through the Rockies in a white-out blizzard. I’ve, I’ve… and then it occurred to me that telling them defeated the purpose. They saw me as a quiet, introverted, soft spoken spinster. What I needed to do was understand why I was projecting that image.
Over the years I have tinkered with various careers, personal philosophies, diets and locations. My family jokes that I inherited all the wanderlust from both sides. I always pull Tarot cards that say I am seeking. I am of the firm belief that you can achieve anything with enough research and hard work. I was a travel agent when I decided that I wanted to work in the film industry. It was a little over a year later that I was in a soundstage in Studio City painting a brightly patterned floor for a children’s game show.
So how could these people think I was timid? 
Many years ago, I worked for a summer as a camp counselor in Vermont. One morning, as I tried to get through breakfast with the noise of 120 adolescent girls crashing around our small eating hall, another counselor approached me. She was well loved by the campers, very athletic and outgoing. I admired her for her high energy and easy way with the girls. She asked if she could sit by me, because I was so calm. She needed a respite from the chaos. She wasn’t the first to make that comment. I am usually a very calm person. But not timid!
When I was studying theatre design, one of my classmates asked me about my husband and children. When I told him I was single, no kids, he was amazed. He said I seemed like I was married. I like to interpret that as seeming content with myself. 
Just after learning to ski, I was recounting a story of falls and mishaps to my roommate, a ski coach. I told him how I had lost control of the skis. His response was, “I’d like to see you out of control.” My life was lurching along in freeform at that time. I wondered why he thought I was so very much in control of things. Calm, content, controlled, those perceptions, wrong as they might be, were all fine and good. But for Pete’s sake, I am not timid.
Maybe I was just quiescent. I was in between adventures, resting. I was daydreaming and planning and perhaps not enough in the present. Not timid, simply elsewhere, going through the motions to get me through the day. I was passive, observing the people around me without much interaction.
It was a shock to them when I sold my house and moved to a place I’d never been before. Not something a timid woman would ordinarily do, I suppose. However, it was something I have done many times. They didn’t know me, only made assumptions from the surface. Maybe they thought I snapped from all the repressed actions they expected of me. Hard to say since I've lost touch with them. I wonder if I will always be just Quiet One to them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

First reading done!

Whew!

This is a picture of Michael Havelin, author of the Ben Bones series, and me at our first reading. There were about 7 people in the audience, which was a good number for my first event. I wasn't insanely nervous. I didn't plan much, thinking that I would interact with the audience, if there was one. Oops. Not the best plan.

I am a quiet audience member myself. I don't jabber at the speaker...not sure why I expected that to happen. So now I need a plan for the next one.

Thanks to David Pereda for stopping by and giving me some advice.

And thanks to Jim Weikart for filming it. It's very weird watching myself, but helpful!

I'm learning and things will only get better!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cultural Confusion

Let me say first of all that I am not a member of the Twitter-verse. I don't get it. Little zippy statements flung out into the ozone. Or fights or spam or whatever...my head doesn't fit into 140 character snippets.

And another confession - I did watch American Idol for the Steven Tyler years. He's a nut and I found it interesting.

So on to the cultural confusion - my take on the Tyler-Minaj bruhaha. He said something like: "If Bob Dylan were on American Idol today, Minaj would say - put him in the cornfield."

To my generation, or any fan of the original black and white Twilight Zone, he is referencing the episode with Billy Mummy. It was about a child with awesome mental powers. Whenever he did something horrible, like turn someone into a doll, his mother would turn away and whimper "Put it in the cornfield, Timmy!"

It's been a catchphrase in my house for years. Anything you didn't want to see (like great-aunt Susie's dentures) - put it in the cornfield!

That old TV reference was obviously not in Miss Minaj's wheelhouse. She heard "cornfield" and must have thought plantation slave labor picking the corn... Which is really unfortunate. But then again, what did she think he meant? That she would force Dylan to pick corn? I can't sort that one out.

I have been chatting on a forum about colloquialisms that just don't translate. We were discussing the differences between British, Australian and American English. And here is a pop culture reference that didn't fly. There are just so many ways to be misunderstood!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Donate to a good cause!

Worldbuilders is an organization started by Patrick Rothfuss that helps feed people. They work in conjunction with Heifer International, a really excellent organization.

Click on the link to see the cool things they are auctioning off.

Three copies of White Lies are winging their way to the auction right now.

It's a wonderful way to help others in need. This is the time of year when people want to give gifts. Go over to their website and give to people who truly need it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Reading!

I will be doing a reading at the West Asheville Library with Michael Havelin, author of the Ben Bones mysteries on December 8th from 2 - 4pm.

As soon as I figure out how to put the poster on my blog it'll be here!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking at the business side

I've worked in business for a long time and in lots of different places. Every new place I moved to, I did temp work. So I've seen all sorts of businesses. And my family has always been business oriented, bookkeepers, office managers, CPAs.

When I was working free lance as a scenic artist and submitting my artwork to competitions and galleries, I was also learning the business side of the arts. It was hard. It wasn't something that I wanted to spend my time on. Luckily, I had lots of resources to fall back on. Some things I may have simply absorbed from general conversation in the family - business plans and systems and budgets.

Now that I'm am working on the writing, I still have to look at it as a business. It sometimes is very scary that the business is me! I produce the work and publish it and market it. I'm selling things that were made up in my head. Amazing. And now I am going to be doing some local readings.

In all my other jobs I was never required to tap dance in public. I have to get up in front of a crowd and speak. Whooo! This is going to be another new experience.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A bad movie as a lesson in storytelling

Last night I watched a bad movie. It really doesn't matter which one. It broke a lot of storytelling conventions and as a result ended up as a mishmash of characters and events without a satisfying outcome.

The first problem was that the main character wasn't sympathetic enough. He was a self centered jerk who enjoyed partying a little too much. There were some hints that he wanted to open his own small business, but the way he approached it just showed ignorance and arrogance. Nothing through the movie showed me that he was actually working toward that goal, just talking about it. By the end of the movie I had no idea what he wanted.

The next problem was whose story was it? The main character takes on a sidekick. Who turns out even more selfish and more into partying. Um, am I supposed to care as that kid gets involved in worse and worse situations? Was MC supposed to care? The story sort of wanders back and forth between the 2 of them. Neither one has a significant goal. Neither one achieves anything.

Some of the scenes lasted way too long and told me nothing.

The romantic connection was lame. The woman held out, stuck to her principals. She told him flat out that she didn't want anything to do with his lifestyle. And at the end of the movie, for no apparent reason, gave in. I found that so annoying, on top of all the other disconnects that it made me really hate the whole thing.

Storytelling rules aren't there arbitrarily. They are how a story effects us as people. It's interesting to see what happens when they are ignored.

Friday, November 16, 2012

More artwork and other things

I am posting more artwork today.

This week I took the first steps toward turning White Lies into an audiobook. It looks like it should be an easy process. Hopefully, I will be surprised and it really will be easy!

Thr Self Published Book Contest is still running. You can vote until December 3rd. Here's a link if you haven't voted yet. Underground Book Reviews

I'm working on a story for another flash contest. And I dove back into the next mystery. Things are finally moving along!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First Person POV

I used to hate first person novels. If I opened a book and saw that damning "I" in there, it went right back on the shelf. Perhaps it was too intimate. Or maybe it narrowed the world too much. From the other side, I can't say what my prejudice was based on, because now I am a convert. As long as it is well written, POV doesn't matter.

I think Robin Hobb's Farseer Series may have been the turning point. I love the character narrating the story. Each chapter begins with a page from a diary written by a person who seems to be at the end of his life. Over the course of the novel it becomes evident that it is the diary of the young protagonist. He is trying to write a history of the events that are unfolding in the story. His look backward colors the naivete and impetuousness of his actions. It also adds information that he might not be privy to at the time. That is a nice mechanism to get information to the reader without info-dumping.

And if I think back, Zelazny's Amber series is first person. That was a series I burned through. There was a break several books in, when the narrator changed and I was horribly disappointed. I wanted to stay with the original person. I think I lost interest when I lost him. I was too caught up in his personal wants and needs to move on to someone new.

The character narrating has to engage the reader. He/she must be so interesting that we want to stay and listen to his/her story. The good ones that I can think of all have secrets that are slowly discovered. There are complications and conflicts. They must strive to achieve some worthy goal all the time struggling with their own inadequacy. The external world and the internal conflict must be interesting enough to keep the reader caring.

Although a lot of new writers tend to use first person, I think it is harder to pull off.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Last Harvest of Summer 2012

We finally had a hard frost. I gathered up the last of the tender veggies and herbs. In the basket I have frying peppers, bell peppers, basil, parsley, Swiss chard and maybe dill. I also picked a lot of tomatillos, which are hidden underneath.

The parsley and Swiss chard will tough it out for awhile. It'll take much lower temps to do them in. But they won't grow much either.

The frying pepper was almost 5' tall and very prolific. I ended up giving a lot away. The bell pepper only put out a few here and there. I picked 4 or 5 small ones that had just formed.

The tomatillo was a special tiny one. The fruit was about marble size and really sweet. It had a wonderful flavor raw in salads.

I still have some carrots, parsley root, beets, radishes and mustard greens coming along. They will coast along in the cooler temps just fine. My yard doesn't get enough full sun in the winter to merit a full winter garden, but I still try a bit here and there.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Self Published Book Contest

Please vote for my book!

Click on the link below. White Lies is the last book on the list.


Underground Book Reviews

Thanks!

Friday, November 9, 2012

So much to do - so many to do lists

I am a list maker.

When I get busy, I like to make a list and prioritize things. It helps to organize my work flow. This week I felt like I was doing a lot of things, but badly. I don't like feeling rushed. That is why I try to organize my time. Somehow that just wasn't working for me this week.

I have writing to do, bills to pay, people to contact, follow ups... The garden is a mess. We finally had a killing frost and I can pull out all the dead annuals. I missed some blog days.

So I made a list, and then another one. And a list to make a list about some other things.

Sigh.

I may need to sort out the whole month, just to get list making off my list.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Nurse

I am starting an editing service. I have heard of book doctors. That name, to me, has the connotation that something is seriously wrong, like needing surgery or prescription medicine. Something only a doctor can do to make it right. I am leery of anyone who wants to take charge of my writing.

Nurse on the other hand, is something that takes some training, but is also a mindset. I could not be a medical nurse. It's not something that comes easily or naturally to me. But editing does. When I read anything, books, articles, comments in forums, I find myself going over the words - is it clean, clear to the reader? Is the intent coming through properly? Does it make sense? Does it flow?

So I am offering my services for hire. I will be slowly building a page here on the blog until I sort out a website.

The first 10 clients will get an introductory rate of $30/hr for a full read with analysis on plot, characters, pacing and reader experience. I'll also let you place a limit on how many hours you want to pay for and I will fit in whatever comments I can on however much I've managed to read in that time.

Email me for a quote or for more information at asabo_56@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Aftermath

I had planned to write about the latest developments in the garden, but that seemed so petty in comparison to the enormity of the damage from Sandy.

I grew up in NJ. I spent my summers on the shore - Wildwood, Long Beach Island, Sandy Hook. They are irrevocably changed.

It's not just the destruction of a seaside town. As the Weather Channel folks kept saying - "It's the new norm." The coastline has been changed.

The president of an island nation spoke before the UN awhile back. He said that if global warming wasn't reversed his country would cease to exist.

I think that has happened to parts of NJ. The coastline has changed. People from other parts of the country may not realize the impact of this right away. It means we have to change.

The new norm means 100 year storms every year. It means droughts and heatwaves and flooding and superstorms. The world has changed and we need to accept it, adapt to it, or lose it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Storm

Sandy is pounding the east coast as I write this. I have a lot of friends and family in its path. I'm worried about them. And fascinated by the power and size of this storm.

What does it mean that each year we have a bigger storm of "historic proportions"? And each storm is more destructive. The part of me that loves science fiction novels thinks about changes in architecture and infrastructure. What will our cities evolve into when they need to withstand such ferocious pressures?

I'm not a doomsayer. I'm sure we will adapt to new conditions. It might take a storm or two wiping out a city or two for politicians to finally accept the fact that change is needed. Getting a government to move is a slow process. Unfortunately, weather changes are moving faster than that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quail

I looks like we have a new addition to the local wildlife - quail. There are 3 of them and of course we've decided they are mommy, daddy and baby.

They are very well camouflaged. In fact, they may have been around for awhile disguised as mourning doves. They aren't much larger and sport similar colors. It was the call that tipped me off. When I first heard it I thought it sounded somewhere between a catbird and a squirrel. And it was so close. Then I peeked out the window and there was something new walking down the sidewalk.

I don't know if they migrate, so I'm not sure why they suddenly appeared. But I do enjoy the new attraction.

And of course, they're making the cats crazy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Garden in October

Usually we have a quick cold snap, sometimes just a single day, that plunges into the 30's. Then after everything dies, Indian Summer settles in with lovely warm days and cool nights. This year the cold snap didn't hit freezing for me. I may actually get something from the last sowing.

Despite knowing better, I sowed some radishes and scallions in the new raised bed. I already had a few pots of lettuce in the sunroom, so I transplants some of those out to the new bed also. They are predicting a warmer than normal winter. Maybe I will actually get something this year.

The tomatillos are still producing like crazy. I have one tomato that is still hanging on, but it doesn't have any fruit on it. The mustard greens, carrots and beets that I put in the first raised bed are coming along nicely. We've already had some greens. I also found some kolrabi plants that I just couldn't pass up. They got attacked by cabbage worms when I wasn't looking. I think they will survive.

This time of year I am usually gardened out. Maybe it's because I have my fall allergies under control, but I have a little more energy this year.

I'm redesigning the lowered garden. I've decided to do all raised beds. Not sure if it will save me from the voles and moles and chipmunks. Or the invasion of runner grass that makes me crazy. But it is a new experiment.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Another round of rewrites

After looking over the notes from my readers, I need to work on a few things.


For now, I think I need to let Truth's Enigma percolate for a bit. I might even need to outline book 2 before I replot book 1. There are some characters and situations that are too complicated to drop into the back end of book 1. But since I was trying to gear that book toward one character's story, I lumped it all together. 

The problem is that I have lives in my head, not a story. I have people living and growing and cultures and planets and conflict and crime... And I need to weed through a universe of stories to narrow it down into consumable portions.

So I need to lean on some structure. I need to build a scaffold of storytelling and weave the lives in around it. Otherwise it's just an epic of meandering folks with a lot of problems.

While I was waiting for readers to finish, I started replotting Unintended Consequences. I'm at a point with it that the story is really shaping up. I might need to go full steam ahead on that first. You know, strike while the iron's hot? It had a couple of stumbling blocks - one being setting. I finally decided on an imaginary town. I've taken a bit from several towns where I've lived, so it will be anchored in reality. But creating the where helped other things fall into place.

This is another story that has been kicking around for a while. It started as a screenplay when I was dabbling in that. I think the story has merit. The execution had serious problems. But I'm working through that now.

I will probably juggle working on both. With the colder weather coming on I won't need any garden time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More from the waterfall tour

The trees were just starting to turn color and the sky was an incredible blue.


I love the way the sun slants down through the foliage catching one branch or one tree in a spotlight.


Or even one leaf.


It was a perfect day to be out and about.

Monday, October 15, 2012

DuPont State Forest

Last Saturday I went on a waterfall tour. This is a picture of High Falls.

This is Triple Falls, which is a little hard to see, but there are 3 levels.

And this is Bridal Veil Falls.

As you can see it was a fabulous day to be out in the forest. I took some great foliage photos that I will save for next time. Spending a day out in nature is very refreshing for all the senses. Sunshine, bluesky - very rejuevenating!


Friday, October 12, 2012

A new thing to love about One Note

I have been using One Note to organize my snippets and snaps of notes and such for the next mystery story. (Working title is Unintended Consequences) I threw in some character descriptions and some timelines. Then I started adding places and realized I needed a floor plan.

Voila! It has a drawing function!

Geez o Pete, I was like a kid in a candy store. Floor plans! Yummy.

This has helped me think through my setting immensely. Specifically because the town is fictional. It's sort of a combination of some good and bad from several different places.

One of the big problems with this story was its lack of setting. I knew that. Sort of. And I tried to put it in a couple of places - Boston, Asheville...then I decided on the Jersey Pines. Which has a lot of different faces, everything from the blueberry farmers, the salt marshes, trailer trash, old money and of course the Jersey Devil. (I'm just going to skip over Atlantic City and the organized crime stuff. It doesn't fit into this novel.)

This has given me a big step forward in the planning. That scary first chapter is starting to shape up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A story sent out

It's been a very long time since I submitted a story for publication. I started it for a contest. Somehow it morphed and didn't fit the contest parameters anymore. But it did fit a market I knew. So I polished it and sent it out.

When I hit the submit button I was pleased, but that OH MY GOD SOMEONE WILL SEE IT! sensation didn't hit. I think working with my critique group has finally worked that fear out of me. Now it's more of a will they/won't they anticipation. I no longer fear that I'll get an email telling me never to write again.

Self publishing has raised my confidence also. The people who have read White Lies have enjoyed it. The feedback from a wide selection of readers has been positive. That makes me feel like I know what I'm doing.

The turn around could be 3 months, so I might have a bit of a wait to find out if they want it. Of course, I always hope to hear sooner than the stated guidelines.

Part of me wanted to do something different. Part of me sees this as a bit of advertising. Either way, I really hope it gets accepted.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lost Connection

Last week I had Internet problems. Turned out to be a hardware problem, which has been fixed. But I was without for 2 days.

It was a shock. I couldn't get online! I suppose I could have gone to the library, but that wasn't the point. My personal access was denied. I couldn't sit at my desk and roam the globe.

How quickly we adapt and then become reliant on new technology. I sat there stunned, unable to think of what to do. When I should have been working in the garden, mowing the lawn, writing...any number of things that don't involve being online.

A little part of it was panic that I couldn't do my paying-the-bills job which is mostly online. But I think some of it was outrage that my comfortable routine had been disrupted. I couldn't do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it...like check TV Guide for my favorite shows.

I felt absurdly isolated. I could have turned on the TV or the radio for a connection to the outside...but that wasn't quite the same. I can pick and choose when I surf. This story here, this article there, pictures of the ocean, a galaxy, a celeb, a cute kitten video. Me, mine, my taste, my interest, my needs - NOW.

And I wonder why my attention span has shortened.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Where do I start?

I am rewriting a story...from scratch. I know the shape of it. I know where it needs to go. And eventually, I will probably steal a couple of scenes from previous incarnations. But I just can't get started.

They say start as close to the end as possible. OK. I have jettisoned a big chunk of writing that was mostly set up, character introduction, setting, blah, blah, blah. Done. We will start with the first murder. A good place to start for a mystery.

Partly to simplify this one, and partly as an exercise, I am going to keep this in only 1 POV. That's going to be very tough for me. I think I know the character well enough, so that won't be hard. It'll be figuring out how to tell the parts of the story that were in others POVs. But I think this story will work better this way.

So I have all of this swirling around in my head and still no way to start it.

I've let it percolate for a few days. Now I'm ready to get some ink on the page, but nothing is coming out. Ugh. I'll have to throw down some placeholders and scene descriptions and come back to it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The little nasturtium that could

This is a picture of a nasturtium flower in the top of a butterfly bush. It climbed all the way through the bush, probably about 8'. The butterfly bush is on the backside of flower time. And besides, it's purple. So I was very surprised to see an orange flower in the bush. I thought maybe it was an especially orange maple leaf that had fallen. But, no...it's super nasturtium!

Here's a more normal one, lounging on the sidewalk. Although, I don't remember it being striped earlier in the season.
Things change in my yard. Sometimes I think the squirrel is digging up plants and rearranging them. And colors change, too. I have a pink shrub rose that suddenly has a branch of bright red blooms.

Good thing I like surprises.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Frost!?

We had a frost advisory last night! In September! The thermometer tells me it went down to 37. Not a frost, thank goodness, because I left some houseplants outside. But they are not going to be happy.

We turned on the heat for the first time since the spring.

I'm ready for the dry, sunny days in the low 70's that are forecast for this week. But I'm not ready for the freezing nights, yet. It looks like last night will be the coldest of the week. Whew. That gives me some breathing room to figure out where I am going to put all the plants that summered on the patio.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New WIP

Now that Truth's Enigma is out with the first round of readers, I am starting on the next mystery. Or maybe this one is a thriller.

The working title for now is Through the Cracks. But I googled it and found a couple of religious books with that title. I wouldn't want any confusion, so I am rethinking it.

Right now, I am putting all of my notes and thoughts and other random snippets into OneNote. I found it extremely helpful for the world building and backstory on TE. Having all the index cards and scraps of paper consolidated and sorted has helped me re-think some things.

TTC is more complicated than White Lies. I had purposefully shrunk that story for it to be more manageable. And I think I learned what I needed to tackle TE. Now I hope I have learned enough from TE that I can tackle TTC. It's a story that I have rewritten at least 4 times and it still doesn't work. I may need to take it all apart and reassemble completely new. But I think the premise is good. And I already have the ending. It's always the middle that gets a little mushy.

The change from science fiction to mystery helps keep things fresh, I think. I am ready to dive back into this story.

Monday, September 17, 2012

First look at a cover

The WIP is now Truth's Enigma.

Here is the latest version of the cover.


I'm not sold on the series name, yet. Still working that out. But I think the image is done. Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stevia isn't my cup of tea

I am always ready to try new and healthy things. So when stevia came on the market I put it on my list of things to get around to. Finally did.

After I had tried it, I Googled it to make sure it really was as safe as I thought it was. Sure. The South Americans have been using it to sweeten their morning cup of mate for...centuries? It's all good. However, maybe they haven't been using the processed powder in a packet for quite as long.

Some of the information I read surprised me. It can lower your blood sugar and maybe your blood pressure. Hmm. It only took 3 days of blood sugar crashes for me to wake up. Oops! I must be too sensitive to this stuff. I do tend to be a bit hypoglycemic. One packet in my morning coffee and within the hour I was shaky and dizzy.

Guess it's not for me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Artwork Post

Today I loaded a very old painting that was suddenly on my mind. I remembered it incorrectly and thought it might work as a bookcover. Nah.

Click the Artwork tab above to see all the work loaded so far

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Truth's Enigma has left the nest

Finally got the last draft off to readers.

Woo Hoo!

It is the first book in a series that I still don't have a name for. I am so excited to have it done! Or at least done enough to have others read it. I'm sure it will come back with a few inconsistencies and loose ends to tie up. Then comes the punctuation and grammar read thru.

If all goes as planned, I hope to have it up on KDP and Smashwords by the end of the year.

While it is off being consumed, (well maybe perused) I will work on another mystery that has been lurking in the closet. I've written it at least 3 times. Hopefully this last one will be the charm. Since I've learned a lot more about writing since I last worked on it, I may be up to handling it. Apparently it's more complicated than I realized.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are we there yet?

I just finished reading a book that I guess was a memoir. Or skimming, I should say, because I skipped over many sections..

It was not as advertized. The book lurched about from past to present to far past and around again. Snippets of biography were mixed with out of context conversations, reminiscences and philosophical ramblings. I think it might have been more interesting if I was a fan of his. But even still, I didn't get much of him out of it.

One thing he said that made sense to me was about people that are always pining to be elsewhere. He said he felt like they were always looking over his shoulder expecting to see something more important. I have known those people. I try to avoid them now. They never pay attention because they are seeking something. A something that maybe even they aren't aware of.

A lot of the book concerned insecurity and trying to be famous, but also trying to define what he wanted so he would know when he arrived.

I've heard people say that art can be done for it's own sake and doesn't need an audience, but I disagree. Art - in the generic encompassing theatre and art and writing, etc - is communication. It is a way someone says "Stop and look". What is the point of doing that for yourself? Sometimes art is created because you really need to put it on paper, or sing it or carve it, but keeping it in the closet is pointless. It needs to be shared.

I think the level of sharing needs to be defined before you can judge if you have reached your goal. As an artist, do you need a gallery to carry your work? As a writer, do you need a traditional publisher? As a musician, do you need a national tour? And it seems as an actor, the author of the memoir never defined what his goal was because he didn't know what was possible. He was always scrabbling for the next job to make ends meet or get a toehold on the next rung up on the ladder to fame.

When I was trying to make a living by selling my paintings, I started reading an art business magazine. It opened my eyes. Sales, of any kind, is a business. Whether you're selling a book, a vacuum cleaner or a performance. You need to know the industry. Once you do you can decide what level will satisfy you. And it is your responsibility to create a plan to achieve it. Not easy for us creative types but it is possible.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rampant Squash!

Here is a lovely winter squash climbing into the butterfly bush. You can just barely see the 3' fence I put up for it...ha, ha, ha. To the left are Welsh Onions blooming. A lovely, fall blooming chive sort of thing. Very tasty and if you don't cut the heads you'll have it all over the yard. The spiky bits in the foreground are some gladiolas that I keep digging up and they keep coming back anyway.

Since conquering the butterfly bush doesn't seem like enough, the squash has also scaled the azaleas. You can see the rain barrel in the far left. The azaleas are 5-6' tall.

Here's one of the squashes forming. It's called Sweet Mama. It had been resting on the azalea, but I guess it got too heavy. Now it nestles in the chives.

Finding all the squashes in the fall can almost be as much fun as digging potatoes. You don't know how many or where you'll find them.



Friday, August 24, 2012

More Artwork

Today I finally got around to adding a few more pictures of artwork.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Today I listened.

I found this lovely picture on clipart. It doesn't look like my neighborhood, but it does look like a place I'd want to be.

It rained last night so the garden was wet and chilly. By break time this morning, the sun was shining. I felt the need for a walk and stepped out into a clear, cool morning. It was a bit of a surprise.

As I walked up the street I listened.

I feel very lucky to have such a quiet neighborhood. There was the random bark from a dog here or there, a robin, blue jay and on the way back, crows. I heard a motorcycle, and the sounds of construction - saws and drills, but faintly. Other than that it was quiet enough to hear the wind in the trees.

The sky was a cloudless blue, the sun felt good - it was only 66 degrees when I left the house. I could smell the change of season in the air - dried leaves and damp earth.

All in all an excellent walk.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Processing the harvest.

We spent most of Sunday dealing with garden products. I peeled and cored apples from our tree to dry. Also there were tomatoes to dry. And I threw in any fruit leftover from last week - a few cherries and some grapes. Homemade raisins are really amazing.

I am juicing the gnarliest apples. After cutting out the icky bits, of course. My first try at juicing wasn't that good. I don't think the apples were ripe enough. This time I juiced up a pitcher full then boiled it down for cider jelly. Amazing. I didn't achieve jelly, but I have a powerfully flavorful juice to work with. This time around, I think I will try agar. It will be a refrigerator jelly - or rather something I will gobble up in no time flat.

August usually is the start of my garden ennui. I'm overwhelmed by weeds and produce and I end up doing very little. Maybe some allergies come in to play also. This year is different. I've been trying very hard to keep on top of the allergies. Having more energy is a lovely side effect of that. And my produce has been very accommodating in arriving at reasonable intervals.

So, all in all, I've very pleased with where things stand right now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tea from the garden!

This is a picture from July of last year.

I finally got around to drying some herbs for tea. This is something I have wanted to do for years and somehow didn't get to.

It started because the spearmint decided to overrun the compost space. I had to rip out a lot. But as I started to put it in the compost, I had an idea! Maybe it was the overwhelming aroma of spearmint that woke up my brain. I could dry it for tea!

Chamomile and spearmint is a favorite combination of mine. So I tied it up and left it. When it was dry, I put some in a teapot and made tea. And it was yummy!

That sent me off to check the yard for other possibilities. I picked some of the chocolate peppermint. A very powerful mint! Then I picked some lemon basil. WOW. That really holds it's lemony flavor when dried. Makes a fabulous tea. The lemon balm I picked was pale in comparison. I dried some pineapple sage, but haven't tried it yet.

I am making a new list of herbs for next spring's Herb Festival!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When good writers go bad.

I'm not going to name names.

I picked up the latest book in a long series and in a couple of chapters gave up on it. I loved the earlier books. This was about #12, I think. It's a big name author with a big name publisher. The writing was spectacularly bad.

Since I've been in a critique group I have found myself reading much more critically. Awkward sentences and typos stop me flat. And I don't think that's really a good thing, but there you are.

This unnamed novel had all of the newbie mistakes that have critics raving about self published dreck. In one paragraph every sentence started with 'she'. She was, she had, she felt...

Then there was the insanely repetitious description - I'm paraphrasing here: The lamp was on the table. The lamp had a small flame. The flame was too small to light the far corners of the room which were dark.

YAAAHH! I get it! The room was poorly lit. Sheesh. Just get on with it!

And then the dialog.  Ouch. Not only was it horribly awkward, it made the major mistake of summarizing the previous action. So people are telling each other what just happened when they, AND THE READER, already know.

There was a conversation at cross purposes that just about had me tearing my hair out. It didn't further the plot, the characters or the situation. And the repetition made me nuts.
Something like:
"I just arrested the murderer."
"You arrested the murderer?"
"Yes, I found the murderer and arrested him."
"How could you have arrested him?"
"I tracked him down and arrested him."
"But I saw him die."
"No, he's in jail."

You get the jist. The point is that there are 2. And this conversation went on for waaay too long. Which made the characters seem more like Abbott and Costello than the serious characters they should be.

So my question is - how did this get past all those publishing gatekeepers that are supposed to be so astute?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

And the next and the next...

I just checked and I'm actually on schedule. My plan is to get my final draft of Truth's Enigma (new name) to readers by the first week in September, and so far, it looks like it's going to happen. When that sunk in, I realized that would mean I should let the story rest while the readers were reading. Which means I should work on something else.

Holy moly! I'm following my plan and producing stuff! Woo hoo!

When I finished White Lies I was swallowed up by the publishing process. I had to learn KDP, Smashwords and CreateSpace formatting. Design the book cover. Perfect the blurb. Then look into a modicum of marketing. It took awhile before I dug out the tome to start the rewrite. But it was always the plan to go back to the tome.

Now I am finishing up the first book in the series (which I just realized needs a better name than my working title) That's mind blowing. I'm on the road! Or as one writer said (about receiving your first rejection) - I'm off the porch and running with the big dogs.

The next book will probably be another rewrite of a mystery. I've rewritten this story at least 3 times and it still doesn't work. My subconscious must be working on it because every now and then I get an Ah-ha! They must be cousins! It needs to be her story not his! Little details suddenly percolate up in my brain that make perfect sense. Hopefully, I've written them all down. It will be good to get this one sorted out. I think it's a good one, if a bit scary.

I have to say that all I've read about "just keep writing" has made me think differently. Looking at writing as a career where you continue to produce work on a regular basis makes the old butt-in-the-chair seem like a given. And to realize that I've got lots of stories inside me waiting to get on paper is just amazing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The tomatoes are coming in!

The gargantuan tomato!

This may be the biggest tomato I have ever grown - 1 pound 8.7 ounces! Whew! This is the Hungarian Pink that I took a picture of awhile back. All of the tomatoes are coloring up. 

The Italian drying tomato has just about given up the ghost to blight. I will try to find a more resistant one next year. But it has been very prolific. 

There is a new volunteer in the strawberries. I think it might be a plum tomato. Haven't a clue how the seeds got into the strawberry bed. But I let it go since I could use some more plum tomatoes for drying.

The Mortgage Lifter got huge, probably 7'. Then a storm knocked it over and I had to wrestle it back into place. It seems to be recovering in its new configuration. It has given me a couple of ripe tomatoes with a whole pile still green.

The volunteer from the coleus that I potted up took a long break. It is now flowering and fruiting again. The tomatoes are very small, but I don't think it's a cherry. Possibly another plum.

Now when I do my morning rounds of the yard I have 3 kinds of tomatoes, 2 kinds of squash, cucumbers, 2 kinds of string beans and the occasional strawberry to harvest. Lovely.

Monday, August 6, 2012

First Anniversary

It has been one year since I started the blog.

Since last August I have self published a mystery novel and gotten a good ways into the final rewrite of a space opera. I have learned a few more skills both writing and computer.

The traffic is still very light and I'm not sure how much is autobots, but it seems to be increasing a smidge.

Here's to another year of garden reports, reading and writing.

Friday, August 3, 2012

You need to be like...

I just read an article in which Ursula Le Guin confirmed that she had been told by her publisher that her stories needed to be more like Harry Potter. Her response was that it was fear talking and that she wouldn't and couldn't write that way.

Lots of people have talked about the arrogance and stupidity of the publisher. But I'd like to look at it from the artist's side.

My first art teacher taught me to paint like her. Because in reality that's all we can teach someone. It is then up to the student to internalize and personalize that knowledge. In college it became painfully clear that I needed to understand the teacher to get good marks. In other words - paint like them. And that is probably the only way to experience different techniques and view points from which you can create your own toolbox. No one broke that down for me at the time and I grumbled mightily at not being able to just keep plodding along in my own artistic rut.

Writers are told to read a lot. And in workshops we are taught how successful writers write. Again it is up to us to see what makes sense and what fits in our toolbox.

But to tell an established writer that she needs to adopt someone else's style is flat out wrong. I'm a big fan of Ursula Le Guin. She's a wonderful storyteller. I am also a fan of JK Rowling. But there couldn't be two more different writers. And that's wonderful. If Ms. Le Guin started writing Harry Potter knock-offs her fanbase would revolt. That isn't the type of story she writes. And she said so - more power to her.

I think the fallacy here is that we fans don't necessarily want more Harry Potter clones, we want wonderful, big stories with great heart. I think most writers, who are also readers, already know that. And I think that eventually, the market will prove that out.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meandering Protagonists


I just finished reading a book and am halfway through another where the protagonist feels like she is wandering through things. That doesn't grab me.

The one I finished reading was a second book in a trilogy. The first book was very interesting, great world building and good characters. In the second book the author took the protagonist away from everything that was important in the first book. Which was OK at first. But I kept expecting an escape or a rescue so we could get back to all those other people and plotlines I was so invested in. Nope. Also the protagonist seems to be sleepwalking through most of it, more reactive than proactive. And there were a lot of cryptic dreams that I couldn't sort out. On top of all that, the character is degraded, humiliated, tortured and finally maimed. Ugh. Probably won't go looking for the third book.

The one I'm halfway though now might just be aimed at a different audience. It's an old plot - young girl suddenly develops powers she doesn't know how to control. She fears the people who can teach her and spends the whole first part of the book hiding from them. OK. But I don't feel like there is enough that happens in all that hiding and escaping. Only a few characters are developed and they aren't that interesting to me. But again, maybe I'm not the right audience. I assume the second half will be her training, because they finally caught her. I hope that's a little more engaging.

In both stories the main character is reacting to events beyond her control. They seem to be wandering through the story in a daze reacting badly and suffering consequences. I'm not sure what the fix is, what would engage me more. But I know I need to watch out for that in my own stories.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lilies, lizards and monster tomatoes

This is a wonderful bulb I bought in the grocery store. It was just called Mexican Lily. It is a day lily and quite stunning. The flowers are huge and brightly colored. I don't think it's hardy to my zone, so I dig them up every fall. To make that easier, I put them in pots on the patio instead of in the ground.

This is a picture of one of the lizards that lives in the woodpile. Cute little guy. Nice of him to pose.

This is an update on the Hungarian Pink tomato. They are HUGE. And none of them are even starting to change color. I can't imagine how much this one weighs! You can also see that this tomato plant is starting to show signs of blight. I've been spraying with an organic fungicide, but it doesn't seem to be helping.

The drying tomato has almost succumbed to the blight. I hope all the dozens of tomatoes on it manage to ripen before it wheezes over. It's been very prolific! Since it's lost most of the lower leaves, exposing the green tomatoes, I put a little skirt of row cover to shade the fruit. It seems to be helping to avoid sunscald.




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Compositae or Flowers Shaped Like a Daisy

This is one of my favorite types of flowers. When I thought about writing this blog, I figured I go get some pictures from the garden. Then I was surprised at how many examples there were. I have one or two more, but they aren't blooming at the moment.

Here's the classic - a true daisy. I think this is from seed we got as a gift in a pretty pot. I started it indoors and planted it all over. It seems to be spreading.

The tiny white and yellow daisy is Feverfew. This plant is actually growing out of the sidewalk. I bought the original at the Herb Festival and planted it halfway up the hill. This is a volunteer at the bottom of the hill. It came up in the middle of the sprawling not-chamomile.

This echinacea is peeking out from under a forsythia that has gotten larger that I expected. Another one I started from seed and planted all over. I have volunteers all over too. I hope to transplant some of them into better places this fall. A couple are crowding a fussy rosebush and need to be elsewhere.

This sunflower was from an assorted pack of seeds, so I had no idea what color it would be. A real beauty!

These black-eyed susans popped up on the hill this year. I've put plants up there a few times and none seemed to make it. Which is surprising as they are very hardy and usually invasive. With a mild winter and a wet spring I've discovered 3 sturdy plants. I hope they spread.

This lovely plant I bought at the farmer's market. It was marked "Black-eyed Susan". I didn't know it was this color. Another wonderful surprise.

This is a gaillardia. I was expecting a smaller plant. It gets to about 3' and it's very floppy. I guess the ones I see at the nursery are dwarves. Another one I started from seed. But if I'd know it was going to be so tall, I wouldn't have put it in the front of the garden!










Friday, July 20, 2012

WIP Update

I think all the bones are there - front to back. Although a few of the chapters jump a bit too abruptly. I think I may need to write a bridge here or there to smooth the transition. Seems there's a fine line between brevity and too spare.

In thinking about the action, I think there might need to be a few more twists. Some of the writing is left over from the original which I wrote nearly 15 years ago. It might be too direct. Allowing the characters to achieve their goal too easily. I may need to toss in a few more obstructions to heighten the pace.

But I am please to be where I am in mid-July. At this pace, it is highly possible that I can reach my goal of self-pubbing by the end of the year. Amazing.

People have said that they find it freeing to self-publish. The timetables are their own. And things come to market much more swiftly. I agree. I don't have to worry that I haven't hit all of the required points put forth by an agent. And all that waiting, possibly years of it to sell a book.

I have plans for the next and the next and the one after that. Very cool.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hubris or a squirrel

I bragged about all those grapes that were forming...

And now that they were just about ready to pick--they're gone. All the good ones at least.

Got to make a varmint proofing plan for next year.

Bummer.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sometimes I forget to look up

With all the seeding and weeding and looking for bugs, sometimes I forget to look at the trees.



In all the rushing and scheduling, I forget to take a breath and look at the clouds, or the mountains.


Sometimes my head is so full of music and stories and things I need to do that I forget to look around me.


This weekend, I need to look up and around and breathe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rain

A lovely gray, damp, rainy day. I have high hope of getting lots of writing done.

I've been thinking about what draws me into a story. I think it is when I see the story through the character's heart. It doesn't need to be first person. I've read plenty of stories in third person that sucked me in immediately. Perhaps it was a strictly limited 3rd person.

I read somewhere that Harry Potter is an excellent example of limited 3rd person. Everything is seen from his point of view. Various tricks of visions, dreams and eavesdropping are used for any information that Harry doesn't personally witness. I love the Harry Potter books. I fell into them easily and happily.

So I need to think about my characters and see how I can add more heart to each of the scenes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hibiscus and other things

The hibiscus is blooming! I left my fingers in the picture so you'd see how big the flowers are. And such a yummy deep red.

Further along the path is the great sprawling not-chamomile.
I bought this at the herb festival in a little 3' pot. It said chamomile. This is obviously not the one I was expecting. That great mess is one plant! Last year it sprawled all over, crowding out all the other plants around it. Since I can't eat it, and it isn't especially pretty, I cut it all down. And of course it came back. I plan to put it up on the hill where it can sprawl to all its content.

Hopefully, now that the heat wave is subsiding I will be able to get a little more work done in the garden.