Friday, June 29, 2012

Speedbumps

It's been a busy week. Just the normal things, but somehow it ate up all my writing time. So now I feel worn out and guilty.

Luckily, I was able to get some writing in while I was waiting for an oil change yesterday.

Long hand.

I found myself dashing off sentences without worrying that they were perfect. Which is fine for a rough draft.  I think that is something I have forgotten. I need to just get it all on paper first. I can tweak and polish later.

The plan was to have a finished rough draft of book 1 by the end of June. Unless I can pound out the back of the the story today and tomorrow, that isn't going to happen.

But I can try.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gleaning the free-loads

I have to admit that I love free ebooks. However, I've run across some real stinkers. I downloaded a whole pile of free ones recently and I'm just now getting around to reading them all.

When I'm looking through, I read the blurb and the reviews. The bad ones must either they get all their reviews from friends or I've just got weird taste. Sometimes, even if they aren't exactly to my taste, I download in an effort to read outside my comfort zone. However, lately the ones I've picked were more than a little out there.

I'm trying to comment constructively on the ones I don't like. That's what I'd like from reviewers that don't care for my book. There's a difference between a well written book that doesn't appeal to me and a badly written book. I try to make that differentiation.

I had to intersperse some library books - a palate cleanser, if you will - between all the self-pubs. A couple favorite authors to soothe my ruffled imagination. I spent a few days lost in another Juliet Marillier. Wow. That woman writes stuff that transports me. I fall into those novels and they stay with me for days. Sigh.

But I did find a gem in the dross. Natural Causes by James Oswald was very good. There were a few typos and a misplaced word or two, but the writing was good enough that those few problems were easy to ignore.

Happy to find a good one. I'll go mining again soon.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fruit flies and garlic

It's fruit fly season. Ugh.

I don't know who told me, or maybe I read it somewhere, but this homemade trap works very well.

Take a small jar (mine is from a local mustard), put in some fruit  (I have peach skins in mine), add a little water and a couple squirts of dish soap. That will kill off the flies that get in. Make a lid with wax paper and a rubber band. Poke a few small holes in the top. I use the tip of a mechanical pencil. If the holes are too small the flies can't get in. If they're too large the flies can get back out.

When the ingredients get moldy or fermenty just dump and replace.

I harvested my garlic.

This isn't the tidiest braid, but it's my first. I finally found an explanation on the web about how to do it. It isn't really a braid. And knotting garlic stems isn't all that easy. But I'm very pleased with how sturdy it is. Last year I cut the greens much too short and had to tie them all together with string.

We're set for garlic for awhile now!


Friday, June 22, 2012

American Translation?

This photo came out of Clipart when I searched for "Scotland". Haven't a clue what body of water it is, but wow, isn't it gorgeous.

I am reading an ebook set in Scotland. It was a free download. Here and there I have come across mention of an editor Americanizing a book for distribution in the US and I wondered why. The book I am reading now hasn't been and I really don't think it needs to be. There is a word here and there that throws me off. But it enhances the feel of the story.

Some words are easy enough to figure out. "She gundled in her purse for her keys." Haven't a clue what gundled means, but it's pretty obvious she's rooting around in her purse.

The author called one character a "Ned". I guess it's a character from a well known story. The way it was presented gave a good sense of what was intended.

I'm enjoying it just as it is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beans, berries and flowers

The purple beans are starting to form. The flowers are lovely. You can see the tiny bean with the remains of the blossom on the end of it. I'm pretty sure this is a purple Italian bean. I need to keep an eye on them and harvest regularly. That type of bean gets very fibrous if you let it get too old. Green beans are a great vegetable. You can pick them at about any size. If they get too big and stringy, shell them and just eat the beans inside.

The blackberries are in the first stages of ripening. They change to red and fill out some before darkening to black. When they are totally black, shiny and soft - they're ready.

The gladiolas are in full bloom. I'm not sure where these came from, but they are gorgeous. The edging varies a bit, some darker, some lighter, but they all have a yellow throat. Really stunning in a vase.

Monday, June 18, 2012

As you know, Jim....

Dialog can kill a book for me. And it can also redeem it.

I was slogging through a story the other day and the dialog made me want to scream. Not only was it stilted and unrealistic, it was boring.

It boiled down to: "Hello my dear mother, I have missed you these 10 years that I have been wandering the world and having many adventures."

Wow.

First of all, no one speaks that way. Secondly, this is not the place to give the reader that information. Loading a conversation like that can be done, but it has to be handled delicately.

I read a fantasy in a very mannered society and they did speak very formally. But it suited every other aspect of the world. A line like: "Oh, my dear Mother I have missed you." Would have worked because of the way the society was constructed.

The other part that makes it unpalatable is that it is delivered coldly. You can almost hear it in a monotone cadence. You can't tell if the speaker is excited, annoyed, overwhelmed. People never speak in full sentences. They interrupt and go off on tangents.

"Mother!" he said pulling the old woman into his arms.
"Son, you've come back," she sobbed. "After all these years, I feared you were dead."
"Nearly, a time or two," he said with a grim smile, "but my luck has prevailed."

As opposed to:
"Mother," he said calmly, giving her a tight nod.
"You've come back," she replied with a cool tone. "After all these years, I thought you were dead."
"My luck prevailed," he said with a smug smile.


OK, still a little stiff, but you know he's been away a long time and that many things have happened. Almost the same conversation, but very different tones.

The author doesn't need to bludgeon the reader with information. We don't need to know right there that it's been exactly 10 years. All that info needs to be jotted down into your bible so it can come out in appropriate places. It's more enticing to leave a breadcrumb trail not a runway.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Princess Week 2012

My family has a new tradition. It started 3 years ago when my sister wanted something fun for her birthday. We dubbed it Princess Week and planned all sorts of fun things - tubing in the river, horseback riding, massages, dinners out. Our other sister and 2 nieces flew it for it. We had a blast.

Each year is a different person and that changes the activities a bit.

This year I am Princess. And this post was written ahead of time, because I am out, having a blast!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mother Nature isn't happy.

Storms and flooding, drought and fire, oh my.

When I lived in Grand Junction, CO, the old timers used to tell me how much the weather had changed. They blamed it on a variety of things - putting a highway through the canyon and the golf courses were the most common scapegoats.

The city had 4 golf courses, I think, and all that irrigated land was changing the desert. That area averages 8 inches of rain A YEAR. In case that doesn't mean anything to you, here in NC the average is 42 inches. Not a lot of rain. It's high desert, very dry.

When I moved there they told me the average high temps were in the low 90s. And that's a dry heat, so it feels cooler. That summer we had 5 weeks in a row over 100 degrees. When you bake stone that long, it doesn't cool down much at night. Most houses only had swamp coolers. And they only cool the air to about 10 degrees below the ambient temp. After work I hung out in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket until my body temperature came down. Then I would go home and take cold baths.

They were going into the 5th year of a drought while I was there. I don't think that has eased.

When I moved to NC, I heard similar stories. "This isn't a normal year," they said. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. One year I lost plants to drought and the next year to flood.

Climatologists say it isn't changing soon. I think we all need to learn some new skills. And maybe put in a storm cellar.

Monday, June 11, 2012

How Much?

There's a lot of discussion on the internet of late about pricing ebooks. I don't have any answers, in fact I probably have more questions.

When I was painting and trying to get work into galleries I had the same problem. How do you put a price on a painting? One theory was that you looked at it as a product. How much do you need to live? How many paintings can you produce in a year? Divide that and that's what it should cost.

Right.

That assumes you can sell all the paintings. I did the shows and the fairs and sent off slides to galleries and competitions. Sales are not guaranteed.

The same goes for books. You can forecast all the sales you want, but you can't guarantee anything.

And the other side of the coin is - what do readers want to pay for books? As a reader I would love for the price of books to come down. I promise I will buy lots more!

However, the flood of cheap and free books on the market has tainted it. I downloaded a bunch of free books and I have to say, a lot of them have problems. So now readers expect the cheap books to be bad books. They don't want to weed through the dreck to find the pearls. And I can't blame them. It's time consuming. Sometimes the reviews are a little too generous. I can get past the occasional typo or missing word, but most of them are just out too soon.

I priced my ebook at $2.99. It was priced higher based on some articles I read about not underpricing your work. But then I read an article that most readers had seen so many books at the 2.99 price that they wouldn't go higher.

I'm waiting for the dust to settle. I think 2.99 for self-pubbed ebooks is reasonable. If I see a rational reason to raise it, I might on another book.

Print books are a whole other thing. The cost pretty much dictates the price. But I've seen some arguments there, too.

It's all very confusing and trends are changing and I just want to wait it out and see where the chips lie.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

How did it get to be Thursday?

Geez o Pete this week just evaporated!

I've got a to-do list as long as your arm and I'm just not making any in roads!

The books I ordered from CreateSpace arrived on Tuesday (Happy Dance!). I bought mailers on Wednesday. The first pile is off - on its way to unsuspecting friends and relatives. Yay.

I finally broke through the dam of old plot lines on the WIP. With nary a blink I deleted scene after scene that no longer applied. Whew. Now I just need to lay in the new plot lines and tie it all together. My original plan was to have a rough draft by June. I think that is still doable.

For some bizarre reason, my fingers want to add an 'A' to the middle of woards that doan't have them. Curious.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Garden Report

First the fruit. As if to counter the big disappointment of losing all the apricots and plums, the bluberries, grapes and apples are looking fabulous this year.
The apple tree is full of fruit. I have been pretty diligent with spraying the Surround. The fruit looks pretty good so far.
The grapes just keep going! I can't believe how many bunches there are. They are all different sizes, so I'm not sure how the ripening process goes.
The blueberries are ripening one by one. So every day I pick a handful. For the size of the bushes, I'm impressed by the output!
This frying pepper is working hard! The "fruit" is almost as big as the plant.

It may look like the garden is mulched, but that's just because it flooded again and all the mulch in the path neatly redistributed itself all over.
And the Brussels sprouts are starting to form in the crooks of the branches. I've never had much luck with them, but I just keep trying.

Things are hopping. I am harvesting a little something every day!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Breaking up the team

I've seen it happen in all sorts of stories. They separate the buddies. Kirk and Spock, Richard and Kahlan, Han and Chewbacca, Alec and Seregil - the magic is in their relationship, their banter, they way they save each other's lives. So when you separate them, often the story loses a little interest for me.

Now there's always going to be the secret quest, or a kidnapping here and there to spice things up. But I think it's very important to bring the characters back together as soon as possible. I'm working through that now. It made sense to separate them at the time, but now I see I've fallen into that same old trap. I need to get them back together pronto.