Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Updates on all fronts

First of all...
Our little orphan is thriving. And still trying to help me write. Some days she can be quite a challenge.

The garden is slowly coming back into order. I think it will take me every warm day over the winter to reclaim a garden from the chaos out there now. I've got wild berry bushes taking over the hill, walnut trees that I think the squirrels plant and weeds, weeds, weeds. A lot of work to get done over the next 4-5 months.

My dabbling in genealogy has become obsessive. I have to say that having access to all the information on the Internet is amazing. And the information slowly builds a picture. In some cases tracking one person will give me answers to other questions - like when a son marries and the mother-in-law lives with them. That is one of the only ways to track down a maiden name.

The last census released is from 1940. After that I have to rely on less reliable sources...like Facebook. Although, I have to say that some of the census information is a mess. One bad entry was that the Reis family was listed as Rice. Luckily I had all the names and ages of the kids and wife already, so I knew it was them. Or another time when a Katherine (or Catherine or Kathryn) was listed as Ratherine. It does take some digging. And I am really enjoying it.

My writing has stuttered and stalled around the genealogy. I have not been keeping to my schedule. Maybe it's the change of season, but I just didn't have the energy for it. I have made better progress this past week. And I plan to get back to my schedule of writing every day.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Computer Overload

I got a new computer.

I transferred all the files myself. I am extremely proud of myself for getting that done. Even though it took me two days and a whole lotta grief. I'm still loading odds and ends that I forgot about, like bookmarks.

The new computer has new software. With a learning curve. Things are not where I expect them to be. Some things are gone completely, I think, maybe, but I'm still looking. My picture viewer is different. My Outlook is a monster. I started using Chrome and that's all new too. Sigh.

In other news...

Bertie likes houseplants

Bertie still likes to help me work

Bertie likes to hide.

The black hole of family research continues to eat away my time. I find myself cruising through old newspapers reading stories over 100 years old. It's amazing what you can find. I have discovered that many of my relatives were entrepreneurs. There were a bunch of businesses started - a marble (stone not toy) company, a grocery store, jewelry store and an excavation equipment company.

The search for the relative that came over from Ireland has skidded to a halt. I may need to pay for some of that information, so I've put it on the back burner.

October has been an odd month. I didn't get a lot of writing done, but what I did was more in the way of outlining. It is helping me to see some holes that need fixing. New characters are cropping up and new settings. I'm still putting the pieces together. But I feel like I'm making some progress.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Catching Up

It's a rainy day, perfect for catching up with myself.

I haven't worked on End of the Lines all week. I've been listening to the audiobook recordings for Unintended Consequences. I have to say that hearing it in someone else's voice has me finding all sorts of things to fix. I may have rushed that one a little. I wanted it out of my brain. Other than typos, I don't think I will do any other fixing. I will just acknowledge them as a lesson and move on.

Hopefully, that audiobook will be available by mid-November.

I am still losing way too much time to the genealogy black hole. I am so excited to have found the LDS website. They had Hungarian Baptismal records through 1895, which was very helpful. I found a lot of relatives in there. Now I just need something a little more recent. The language is a barrier. Although Google Translate has worked well enough.

The Irish side isn't faring as well. All civil records were burned up in a fire in the 1920's (I think). That only leaves the parish records. I'm trying to narrow down a town in County Roscommon, but it's a big county.

I won't even mention the garden, which is an absolute jungle at this point.

And the new kitten is doing very well. Although she is still way too rambunctious and bite-y.

So you can see I've had a lot of distractions this month. I am hoping to get back on track with myself this week. I need to allocate time for things and stick to it. Lately I have been sliding past self-imposed deadlines and putting off things that need to be done.

Like getting a hair cut. Which I will do today.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Down the genealogy rabbit hole

This picture was taken at Maroon Lake in Colorado while I was there for my nephew's wedding in June of 2011.

Family.

Seems I have a lot of it. I got bit by the genealogy bug when I saw a free tree-building website. Who knew it was going to result in so many hours in lists and census pages? I am totally sucked in by the search.

My mother's side of the family came from Ireland, 1851, I think. They settled in upstate NY. Luckily they all stayed put and the local paper took note of everything - births, deaths and marriages. Now I need to jump over to Ireland and see if I can trace the family there. I think I have found the great-great-grandfather that came over. Luckily he was a mason, because his last name is insanely common.

My father's side is both harder and easier. He was born in Hungary. I know the village and my grandmother's maiden name. The big problem is that I don't speak Hungarian. And wow is that a hard language. The other problem, their village is tiny. I have doubts about finding any census information. Many records were lost in the wars over there. And I have lost touch with relatives, which were all my grandmother's siblings. Most likely all dead now.

But it is a merry chase trying to find this aunt or that great-uncle and they did what for a living? Amazing. I have had to limit my time because once I start digging, I lose hours!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway is closed

Thank you to everyone who was interested! 1081 people signed up to my giveaway! That is so exciting. I will be mailing out the books early next week to the 4 winners.

And I hope some of the people who didn't win will consider buying the book.

Thank you all!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kitten Update

Our little waif has made herself to home. She is turning the house upside down, terrorizing the older cats and making us laugh every day.

The vet was amazed at how well she's doing. The broken leg is totally healed and Bertie is racing around the house like a flash.

And chewing things up, shedding, sharpening her claws on the furniture... Sheesh, we hadn't planned on a 3rd cat!

The older cats are still hissing at her. Mallory gives her a smack from time to time. Rascal is a little more gentle, just lifting a paw in threat. But she does follow them constantly and has been know to jump an a tail and bite it.

I'm hoping they will get along when she gets a little older and less rambunctious. That's what everyone says.

Fingers crossed.

Just a heads up - the Goodreads Giveaway for Unintended Consequences ends on Saturday.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shake it up!

I had company last week. Aside from having a nice visit, I got a big break from my routine. Every day we did some sightseeing and shopping and eating in restaurants. Wonderful. I didn't realize how much I needed a break from my everyday rut.

Now don't mistake me, I love my rut. But sometimes you just need to be doing something other.

I looked at artwork, heard some live music, walked all over and had a fabulous massage. When I got back into my comfortable rut I was energized and enthusiastic. Yes!

In other news:
I still have a kitten on the keyboard. She's getting a bit more aggressive about it now.

And I have finally approved the last proof for Unintended Consequences.
YAY!

Please email me if you would like to purchase a signed copy. Click on the tab above for details on the book.

And I am hard at work on End of the Lines.

Whew!





Thursday, September 12, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway

I am giving away 4 books on Goodreads. So far 200 people have signed up! That's exciting. The contest ends October 5.

I am awaiting yet another print proof of the book. Hopefully, this time I got everything right. As soon as I OK the proof, the print book will be available on Amazon. With luck, by the end of the week...yeah, I know, I already said that a couple times.

The audiobook is in the works! That's very exciting, too.

Now I am able to dive back into my post-apocalyptical thriller - End of the Lines. The beginning made the rounds of my writing group. That gave me just the right feedback to start putting a little more meat on the bones. I'm seeing gaps and inconsistencies all over the place. But I feel much more solid with the story now.

Here's a cover I was playing with.

Storms and high speed trains are an important part of the book. But that's just a first try. It'll probably morph before I'm done.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Too many things going on

First of all the kitten. Here's a rather scary-eyed photo.
Bertie was 2lbs at last weighing. She is very tired of the "playpen" and wants out. The first time she scaled the wire to escape, I topped it with chicken wire.

The pen is made of rabbit wire. I don't know who designed this particular brand, but even the rabbits figured out that the upper wire is further apart. I witnessed an especially smart rabbit jumping through the upper part to attack my chard. Bertie is just as smart. She found the one section where the chicken wire didn't come down far enough and squeezed through. More jury-rigging on my part was required. Now she still climbs but cannot escape.

The other cats are not pleased with this little invader. They are acting out in strange ways. Rascal decided she needed to sleep on my printer...until I started printing.
Not pleased to have her nap interrupted.

The print version of Unintended Consequences is coming along. I am waiting for the latest proof to arrive. Maybe today. The audiobook is now in the works. That went faster than expected!

The weather has finally turned dryer and cooler. I have been hit by the late summer garden-ennui. Despite not being able to work in the yard most of the summer due to rain, I don't want to now that I can. Needless to say everything needs attention!

I am having a fun time with some genealogy. I'm building a family tree online with one of those websites that helps you research. It's definitely a time-sucker, so I have to schedule it in and stick to it. I can spend hours looking at the census records and scribbling notes. I have discovered that I had female relatives on both sides that were cigar makers! How weird is that?

And I've been thinking and plotting on the new story. I'm taking my time with the worldbuilding. I want to get some things sorted out before I get too far in and need to backtrack.

Whew. Not enough hours in the day anymore!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Update on all fronts

First of all - kitten.
Bertie is being a kitten. She tries to escape her playpen, eats everything I put in front of her and is passionate about string. She beats up the blue bear and the brown mouse. The broken leg does not seem to be hampering her in any way.

The adult cats still hiss at her. In a way, keeping her contained is easing the transition. By the time we can let her out (soon! please!) the other two will have, at the very least, become accustomed to her.

She's getting very frisky.
Every morning, as I eat breakfast, we play a little clip hockey on the desk. Until she decided she could squeeze under the monitor and escape. She's very playful and inquisitive. And hates the playpen. I'm not sure if we can keep her contained another 2 weeks as the vet had suggested.

Next - Unintended Consequences.

The ebook is available from Kindle or Smashwords. The print book is taking a little longer. I am having a lot more trouble with the formatting than I did with White Lies.  And the cover needs to be redone. The requirements for covers has changed. I need to up my game a bit. I'm planning on working through a couple of tutorials for Gimp this afternoon. Hopefully, I will have all the bugs worked out by next week.

Finally - End of the Lines, the work-in-progress


I was very excited to get back into this story. Unfortunately I lost a couple thousand words of work when the external drive died. I read through what I'd written so far and can see some areas that need work. I am also adding a couple viewpoint characters.

I am always torn between tinkering with the completed bits and powering through to the end. Since I have added new characters, I think I need to start working them in. Then maybe I'll try to power through. Get all the bones down before I flesh them out.

Provided a kitten doesn't get in the way.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Free Audiobook

Audible sent me 5 promo codes for a free copy of White Lies. If you would like one, please email me at asabo_56(at)yahoo.com.

I ask that you review the book at Audible when you're done.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kitten Interruptus

I found a kitten.

That may sound like a pretty simple story, but it isn't. First of all, I found her in the crawlspace under the house. The sealed crawlspace... Haven't a clue how she got in there.

I had heard a cat crying on and off for a few days. My neighbor lets her cat out on a leash and it meows sometimes. But this sounded more urgent. Then I thought I heard it in the back yard, but didn't see anything. Finally on Sunday, I heard it again. Insistent. I stood on the porch and listened. It was coming from the vents under the house.

With the help of a skinny, non-claustrophobic neighbor, she was rescued.

I have no idea how long she was under there. She's emaciated. The vet said she thought the kitten was stunted. And that the ear mites, worms, fleas, etc. were sapping her energy. Oh yes, and the broken leg, too.

Of course we kept her. Who can say no to a hurt kitten? Her name is Bertie.

The first couple days Bertie was happy to lie in her box, eat and sleep and cuddle. Now she's feeling better. Now she wants to investigate. Maybe even play with those really big cats. But she is supposed to be confined until the leg heals.

A bored kitten can really be a handful!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Done!

Unintended Consequences is finally up on Kindle and Smashwords. Whew.

The print book is in the works.

One thing I have to share about my second round of publishing - get your ducks in a row first! I spent some time, gathered all the information I would need and things went sooo much more smoothly this time.

I struggled with some formatting issues until I discovered tutorials on YouTube. Wow. There's just about anything you need to know out there.

Onward to the rest of it!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

2 Years!

As of this week, this blog is 2 years old. Wow. That old cliche is true - the older you get the faster time passes.

Or maybe it's because of the way I am spending my time. I am lucky enough to enjoy my whole day. My pay-the-bills job is easy. The people I work with are pleasant and competent...and that means a whole lot to the working environment. In my spare time I write and work in the garden. What could be more enjoyable?

I can remember long boring afternoons as a kid in school, watching the clock and begging for recess to arrive. Or lunch. Or the final bell so I could go home.

I've had jobs where the minutes dragged by. Those were mostly the sit-down jobs. When I worked for the nursery, time went pretty quickly. But again, I was doing work that was fun for me.

What have I learned in 2 years? Mostly that I'm not on display. When I started writing this, I was afraid that people would come to the blog and argue or attack me. How silly. Looking at my numbers, I'll guess it's mostly family that visits. I may have a presence on the web, but I don't have a following as yet.

All the advice I read says to take your time and do it right. I will be publishing my second novel this month. (Fingers crossed!) My writing income is miniscule, but it exists! That's something new. It dribbles in as the writing dribbles out. I will plug along at my own pace, but always making progress.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Almost There

I am doing the final edits on Unintended Consequences after changing the ending. As I go through the chapters, I have to stop myself from skimming because...I know what's going to happen. It's hard to keep focus when I have read this story a million times.

As I read, especially scenes that have survived from the first incarnation, I wonder if I am tired of it because of repetition or because it's a boring scene.

The first final draft went to half of my beta readers. The second final draft went the the rest of them. Now I am on the third and totally final - final draft. And I am wondering if I should float it by a few more readers.

This is the time of the most indecision. Is it the best I can do? Does it convey all the information I want it to? Tone, characters, setting, plot...have I hit all the right buttons?

One of my first readers said the writing was tight. Yay. But now I've added a layer. And changed the end. Did I fatten it too much? Dilute the tension?

Worry, worry, worry.

I don't want to fuss it to death. There's a point where you have to call it done and walk away.

And I expect that to be really soon.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A soggy garden report

It has rained every day for three weeks now. Yes, it's summer and afternoon cloudbursts are common. That's not what we're getting. We're getting 1" and up...every day!

So the plants that like it wet are huge. Those that don't are struggling.

And with all that rain comes dark days. My vegetable garden doesn't get enough sun to begin with. Three weeks of clouds is really hurting it.

The plum tree produced it's first harvest. It looked amazing. Every branch was covered with fruit. I read that the Santa Rosa plum was an over producer and that you should thin the fruit...but I was greedy. Add the wettest summer on record and expect the worst. I think we lost half the crop to mold.

Luckily I decided to transition to raised beds this year. If not, the garden would be gone, washed away.

And the rest of the yard is a jungle because I can't get out there to work, because, ya know, IT'S RAINING!

Sheesh.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

All gone

So my six-year-old external drive wouldn't work. I called my local computer repair guys. They're great. And they usually do a fabulous job. After an anxious weekend...and Monday...and most of Tuesday, I got the call. They can't retrieve anything.

Yikes. I'm not even sure what was on there. I know I've lost a lot of documents for my pay-the-bills job. All of which I can rebuild fairly easily. But I had a lot of my writing on there, too. And some without backups. Some old photos...artwork...sheesh...I just don't know.

The last time this happened to me I became obsessive about backups. That's why I bought the external drive. And somehow the backups stopped. I just put everything on that drive - to keep it safe.

What was I thinking?

Luckily, I was trying out a cloud storage and had put a few things there. And I had my backups from when I was still doing it. So I haven't lost everything completely. But a lot of my recent work is gone.

A part of me is screaming. Another part of me is contrarily happy for the purge. How weird is that?

So I need to make a new plan - lots of backups and stick to it!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Smashwords Promotion

For the month of July, Smashwords is having a promotional discount on books.

A Loss of Standards is free (short story - regularly $.99)

White Lies is discounted 25% to $2.24 (novel - regularly 2.99)

Catburglar is free (a flash - and always is free)

Here's a link to the Smashwords Promotion


Monday, July 1, 2013

Too Much Recapping




I just gave up on a novel because of the excessive recapping. I wanted to yell at the author "I get it!"

It was a multiple POV fantasy with a typical plot. The Hero fell in love along the way to gathering his Band of Stalwarts to defeat the Big Bad. The first book was a bit obvious, on-the-nose and predictable. But it was both a debut novel and the first of a series. I gave the author lots of leeway and plunged into book 2. I was hoping for improvement.

The second book is still very on-the-nose. People tell each other things they should already know. The characters escape a smidge too easily from their troubles and stumble into a haven of safety and fresh baked bread. Repeat...repeat. But what bogged it all down for me was the recapping through internal dialogue.

First the Hero thinks about all the things they've come through. He's worried about his friends and if The Girl loves him. Then we go to The Girl. She thinks about all the things they've come through. She's worried about her friends and if the Hero loves her.  AHHHGGH. This goes on for pages combing over the same ground from the two perspectives when we already lived through it with them!

Recapping should be for the reader's benefit, not to increase word count. And the events weren't that confusing. Especially since the reader witnessed it. It didn't tell me more about the characters or world or plot. In my writer's group I would have told the author to at least trim heavily if not cut completely.

Some books need regular recapping, mysteries for example. The sleuth will often put together clues during recapping. Pulling a solution, a lead or a revelation out of recapping makes it work much better. It gives the reader the breadcrumbs that the sleuth is following. Or if many chapters have passed since we last encountered a character or event, a recap might be needed. But I think they always need a light touch.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Procrastination

I'm having the kind of week where I would rather just sit and stare into space than get any work done.

What can I blame that on?

Allergies?
Insomnia?
Sun spots?

I have lists of things that need to be done. And I skim down those lists looking for the items that require the shortest commitment of time or energy. But I've already done all of those.

When I don't have time to work on my own things, I promise myself I will jump into them as soon as I get a spare minute. But first, I need to fill the bird feeders...or sweep the sidewalk...or check if there are any ripe blueberries.

No, really, as soon as I empty the compost pot and give the cats fresh water and maybe I should check for peapods to pick...

Right after that, I'm sure I'll have time to write, but I'd better check my email and...

Monday, June 17, 2013

How I learned to hate dogs...or is it their owners?

When I was a kid I loved dogs. I read all the Albert Payson Terhune books. I had plans to own a farm and raise dogs. I don't fear dogs, despite being bitten twice. But man...they really can be a bother.

First problem - "Oh he won't hurt you!" says the man or woman who lets their dog run free on the jogging path. Despite my best efforts, a dog that probably outweighs me jumps up at me. I get scratches my arms and I have mud all over my clothes. I was on lunch break. Now I have to go back to work with muddy paw prints on my clothes.

Second problem - I don't want to spend the entire time I am speaking to you trying to keep your dog's snout out of my crotch! Yes, dogs do that. No I don't think it's normal. I find it embarrassing and a total violation of my personal space. How would you feel if I walked into the room and grabbed you there? Sheesh.

Third problem - Make them stop barking! I am surrounded by dogs in my neighborhood. One neighbor has a barky poodle. He ties the dog outside for a while, a couple of times a day. The minute the dog comes out until he goes back in, he barks constantly. Sometimes it's 7am on a Sunday morning.

My side yard matches up with 2 backyards around the corner, so I have 4 dogs over there. Every time I walk into the backyard the dogs bark at me. If I'm weeding the garden, picking strawberries or just having a cup of tea on the patio - they bark. Yesterday, the entire time I was mowing the lawn back there at least one dog was barking at me. I feel invaded. I can't enjoy a quiet moment in my own yard because these dogs are barking at me.

I have met well behaved dogs that leave me alone. I give their owners a lot of credit for training their dogs. But unfortunately that's the minority. So I continue to snap at dog owners who feel it's perfectly all right for their animal to jump on me, sniff me and bark at me. They look at me mystified that I do not enjoy the attention their beloved pet is bestowing on me.

And rumors circulate that Alice hates dogs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A walk in the park


I've been trying to start some new and healthier habits, like walking regularly. I am a list-maker. I have a planning sheet for the week. I put down all the things I need to do and all the things I want to do. The wants usually get left in the dust of the needs.

This week I have been making more realistic lists. Which means a lot of things actually got done! Like walking in the park.

I am lucky to live in a town that has great parks. One of my favorite is right on the river. It has a well used and well maintained walking trail. There are a series of parks along the river. They are sort of linked. Unfortunately there's a space in the middle that isn't a park,  yet. It used to be a junkyard. It's in the remediation stage. Eventually the parks will all be linked up.

Today I managed to get in the car and drive to the park. It shouldn't be hard...but somehow it rarely happens. Something always comes up - work or a garden problem or some other deadline that jumps the list of priorities. Today walking was my priority.

We've had way too much rain lately. The river was high and muddy. But all that rain made the park especially lush. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The sun was hot, but there was a lovely cool breeze. All in all, a very pleasant walk. Hope I can work that into a regular schedule.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Garden Report

We got home in time to seen the whole yard in bloom - peonies, poppies, roses, snapdragons...it was amazing. And what a welcome home. I ran right out and picked this bouquet.

The yard absolutely reeks of honeysuckle. So much that it's giving me a headache.

I didn't hack it back last year. It's like some great wooly beast on the fence. Unfortunately it has infiltrated too many beds and I've got my work cut out for me.

The strawberries were ready to be picked! I've been out twice since I picked these, another couple of baskets each time. This year I will be able to freeze a bunch. Rose made a lovely crumble over the weekend.

The sour cherries are starting to turn red. Got them netted yesterday. The blueberries are plumping up. I hope to get nets on them this weekend. The blackberries are just flowering. The grapes are flowering also. But I have plenty of time to invent a net frame for them. I don't think they'll be ready til late August.

All the radishes bolted, but other than that the vegetable garden looks fine. Peapods are forming, I harvested a handful yesterday. Shell peas are just starting to fill their pods. Tomatoes are flowering.

I had odds and ends of beans in my seed bins, so I put them all together. If they all come up, I'll have wax, purple, Romano and possibly a lima or 2. The rabbit ate a bunch. I replaced those with Romanos...my favorite.

The grass and weeds are out of control on the hill. Once I get the vegetables weeded and mulched I can tackle the ornamentals. I am using Neem on the roses this year. Seems to be helping with aphids and blackspot.

Got my hands full, but I'm full of energy this year, so I expect to whip it all into shape at some point!



Monday, June 3, 2013

France was fabulous!

I stayed in a centuries old farmhouse in the French equivalent of Kansas...only much cooler.



The trip was enhanced by excellent traveling companions and an interpreter. I ate too much and laughed a lot and came home totally refreshed. For two weeks I was out of my own ruts and tossed to the winds. Lots of things shook loose in the process and I return to my writing with new impressions and experiences.



Walking through huge walled courtyards, palaces and chateaus I saw manicured gardens and ancient stone walls covered with lichens and moss. We traveled down narrow streets that once saw men on horseback and carriages passing. Lovely.

Even a friendly lizard or two.

I'm sure this will all surface somehow in my writing. It's so good to go out and see new thing and places and people. But I have to say after all the going and seeing, it's good to get home. Even if the old ruts don't fit anymore...I needed to try new ones!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Vacation!

I am off to France! Woo Hoo!

It has been years since I took a real, far away, vacation. The last big trip was to Hungary in 2005. But that was before I moved to the house in Asheville. Now a trip is trickier, we have pets and a garden and way too much stuff to worry about!

Now is a bad time to be away. I have a book in final edits, almost ready to publish. The audiobook is in the works. It's time to be sowing my warm crop veggies and the cool crop veggies are almost ready to harvest. The strawberries are just coming on. I need to keep spraying the fruit trees with organic pest and fungal preventatives...Yeesh. And with all the rain, the lawn needs mowing again!

Eh. It'll all have to wait.

I'm off to France with my sisters and cousin to visit family in the Loire Valley. So cool. When I get back I will be refreshed, revitalized and ready to go back to my old routines. It's important to jump out of the rut from time to time. I will have new adventures and new information to add to my stories.

Unintended Consequences will rest till I came back. Then I can do a final read through to see how all the tweaks I made, from beta readers suggestions, work in the story. Sometimes a tweak feels right in a chapter, but when you come upon it, with the whole story freshly read, it clanks horribly.

White Lies audiobook should be ready for review in early June.

Once those two are taken care of, I can get back to the first draft of my post-apocalyptical, near-future story - End of the Lines.

So - no blogs for a bit. Oh, did I mention...I'm off to France!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blurbs

I just read a whole lot of bad blurbs.

My favorite was something like: "The introduction starts with..." Wow. That'll sell a lot of books.

When I was learning about queries, the rule of thumb was a formula like this:
To achieve his goal of _____, Hero must do _____ to stop Villain from doing_____. That's the story in a nutshell.

For my novel White Lies that would be - To prove his innocence, Asher must find the killer before he kills again. There's a lot more to it - his addiction problems and destroyed career, the relationships that he has to repair, the deaths of loved ones. But that is all window dressing for the direct action of the book. Once I have that single line finished, I can add the most important breadcrumbs and a splash of setting.

Writing the blurb can help you see any inconsistencies in your story. I wrote a blurb once that I thought was just right. Then I took a good look at it and realized that wasn't the story I had written. You have to cut through all of the backstory and setting and emotion down to the kernel of the story. That blurb clarified the direction of the story that I wanted. I needed to get back there from where I had wandered.

When I'm looking for a story to read, I don't want to hear about set up. "This is the story about a girl whose parents don't understand her." OK. Then what? Who's the hero and what does she need to overcome to achieve her goal. Better yet, what is her goal?

Or - "This story is set in several European capitals with fast paced chase scenes." Ouch. If I wanted a story about chase scenes, I'd be sure to snap that up. Who is running? Who is chasing? Why?

Readers want to meet the characters and ride along. I look through blurbs every day. I love books. I read a couple a week, when I can. The blurbs that get right to the meat of things draw me in - John loves Mary, but..., Sue's husband tried to kill her and she must escape..., David woke in a strange place....

Get to the point. Don't tell me that the story is set in post-Katrina New Orleans where a neighborhood is being revitalized. Tell me that Jane and Bob struggle to rebuild in a neighborhood destroyed by the hurricane.

Boiling a story down to it's simplest definition is hard. It's torturous. But it is the most important thing you can do.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My process

When I write a first draft, I don't worry about word choice or sentence structure. My process is to get all the bones down and flesh them out later. Part of the filling-in is also a taking-away of cliches and over-used words. (Really, just and pretty are my most overused words.) But even then, I am not overly concerned with word usage. Once the story is done, I can do the weeding through and parsing of language.

I have seen a lot of writers ask "How many rewrites?" The correct answer, to me, is: As many as it takes.

Sometimes a story is so flawed that tweaking it just makes it worse. Truth's Enigma is that way for me. The first incarnation was an enormous mess. It had every problem a story can have - too many characters, too many plot lines, no clear arcs. In retrospect, I think I wrote it like a TV show. My characters had various adventures together. That's not the way a novel should be structured. So I whittled away at it. I shifted the POVs, I took out characters and plotlines. The feedback I got from the last incarnation was not favorable. I need to chuck it all and start fresh.

Then there's Unintended Consequences. That was another story that I tweaked over and over. I got very tired of the story, but it still meant something to me. I wanted to fix it. One of its problems was setting. I only had a vague idea of where it was. With that in mind, I started from scratch. I built the setting and let it influence the way the characters grew. The story I will publish doesn't look like the first try, or the various others. I rewrote it many times, but I'm finally pleased with it. My beta readers are, too.

I feel that every story I successfully finish teaches me something new. Truth's Enigma is a huge story in a setting that encompasses a whole galaxy. It will be a series. After the second rewrite, I realized that I might not have the storytelling and writing skills to accomplish it - yet. So I set out to learn new things.

White Lies is a much smaller story. It's a mystery which requires a certain formula. I learned a lot writing it. I went back to Truth's Enigma and did the most recent rewrite which still isn't quite right. So I pulled Unintended Consequences out of the closet. I learned even more writing it. Now I'm working on End of the Lines, a near-future, post-apocalyptical story. And it's teaching me even more. It's a bigger story in a bigger world. If I can get it right, I might be ready to tackle the series.

Keep writing and learning.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A new obsession - Arugula


I am growing arugula this year because I just can't get enough of it.

We discovered an incredible salad - pear, goat cheese, arugula and toasted walnuts. With a splash of fruity balsamic vinegar it's heaven. Add a couple dried cherries and it's even better. The combination of flavors is so complementary, they set each other off in surprising ways. And let's face it, toasted walnuts make everything that much yummier.

We've used strawberries in place of pear and Gorgonzola in place of goat cheese. That worked just as well. The bite of the Gorgonzola and the sweetness of the pear works really well. And strawberries and goat cheese is a wonderful pairing.

So my first experiment with arugula. It came up gangbusters in the sunroom. I transplanted it out into the garden the day before a heavy rain. So far it seems to be doing fine. But small. I want it to get big so I can start harvesting.

It is one occupant of my new raised beds. That bed gets a lot of shade so it is going to be mostly salad greens. So an experiment of plants in an experiment of a raised bed. Looking forward to how it turns out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

That deadline thing

I'm making myself crazy with deadlines again. After all, no one will die if I miss them. In fact, no one but me will even notice.

Deadlines are a good thing to have. Keeps me banging away at the keyboard on a regular basis. I have a 1,000 word a day goal. And I have been keeping to it, except when life happens.

Unintended Consequences is not going to get published as soon as I had hoped. It's nobody's fault. Everything just took longer than I had expected. Each step had people involved and people have lives and commitments and other things going on. So the critiques came back a little slower than I'd hoped. Now I need to do the tweaking with all the ideas and questions that the readers gave me. That'll take awhile. Then it needs a line edit for punctuation and grammar. Another while. Whew. Probably June before this puppy is ready.

Because a big chunk of May I will be in France! Woo hoo.

And the audiobook for White Lies has been delayed also. Sigh. As I said - life gets in the way.

So I am freeing myself of any deadlines right now. It'll happen when it happens. So there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Garden Update

The bleeding heart isn't this big yet, but it's getting there. The forget-me-nots and phlox are blooming. Forsythia is past it's prime and the daffs are about gone.

I planted shelling peas and sugar pod peas on St. Patrick's day and they just came up last weekend. And the onion sets I put in have finally shot up sprouts.

Last week I put in seed for beets, carrots, mustard and scallions. Last night we had torrential rain. I am sooo glad I put the raised beds in. The garden flooded, but the beds were fine. Usually a flood like that means that all my seed is now elsewhere - in the path, the flower bed, on the patio... But the beds are above the flood level.

The strawberries are flowering. Berries in about 4 weeks.

The apricot and plum didn't lose all their flowers to the unseasonably cold weather we had. Two solid weeks of night time temps in the mid-twenties. The Christmas lights I put in the trees were useless for something that long term. A night or two it might have helped. So a few blossoms hadn't opened before the cold snap. I have hopes for them. Now it just depends on whether the rainy weather kept the bees away.

I've got seedlings in the sunroom and out on the patio hardening off. It feels like spring arrived half-spent already. My thermometer hit 80 the other day. So after stalling, now I have to scramble!

Monday, April 15, 2013

I don't want to.

I chose a serene picture for this blog because the topic is a little zen.

I discovered, awhile back, the power of saying things out loud.

One day while doing some especially boring scene painting, I felt like I was going to explode. I think I was painting some steps, repetitious but still a little picky. Scene painting very often happens on stage. Due to scheduling the rehearsals and lighting work and such, scenic artists often have to work late hours. Overnights are common. So I was probably tired on top of it. And I just said it:

I don't want to do this.

And despite the fact that I did do it, probably several days of it, I felt a lot better. Some of that angst was expressed. I got it off my chest and was able to carry on.

It's a lesson I've paid attention to. There are always things we don't want to do, but have to. Once we become adults all sorts of nasty things have to be dealt with, like taxes and flat tires and clogged toilets. There is no law that says we can't state our feelings about it. Saying it aloud, even if no one heard me, helped. Maybe because I knew the work had to be done. It was promised. There was a deadline. That didn't mean I had to suffer in silence.

So the next time you're washing the floor or pulling weeds or going to the dentist, allow yourself to say it out loud - "I don't want to do it!" And see if it doesn't make it easier to get through the chore.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Present Tense


I am grabbing books, willy nilly, off the shelf at the library again. Sometimes I find a gem that way. Unfortunately, this time it fell flat.

The big turn off for this book is that it is in present tense. That really grates on me after awhile. I think it works well for dream sequences and flashbacks. I think in the Farseer books Robin Hobb used present tense for the journal entries that began each chapter. It set the tone and reminded us that someone was telling the story. I love those books, and I think that method worked well.

But I can't read an entire book of it. It makes me unreasonably aware that I am reading. I can't slip into the world and get carried along. I am always aware that someone is slinging words at me.

It might just be that I was taught to expect stories to be past tense. I read them growing up and now I'm too old to adjust. It's a strange affectation to me. The story doesn't need any distractions like that. Especially complicated ones.

I don't understand the sudden love of it. A lot of books I pick up are written that way. And I usually put them right back down. Although, I have to admit I used to feel that way about first person. It's too intimate. Jim Butcher got me to love first person, because I love Harry Dresden. But that's a big gamble. Not only has the story got to dazzle the reader, your narrator has to also. I've read books that draw me in despite not liking a character. That might not happen with first person.

Third person, past tense will always be the most comfortable read for me. First person is acceptable, but has a higher hurdle to cross. Present tense has the highest and ugh I don't think I could ever read first person, present tense.

But that's just me...today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Conflict

Writing advice always pushes conflict. There has to be a problem to make the story interesting. Some stories I've read have so much conflict that I want to yell at the writer "Get on with it already!" So there has to be some but not too much.

I just finished reading a book by an author I love that has too little conflict, I think. The main character takes on herculean tasks and, well, just does them. It's a fish-out-of-water story, the old alternate world trope. Normally, I shy away from them. For that reason, I decided to give this one a try. It felt a little light, so I tried to think through why it didn't work for me.

The person from our world gets pulled into a land of magic. She learns how to use it and rids the world of evil...the end. (But it's only book one, so I'm sure she didn't get all the evil.) There is minor conflict in that she has confrontations with various characters and fights in several battles, but she always wins easily.

That might have made for a good set up towards over confidence. Then she hits the big reversal and realizes her own naivete. But even when she faces off with the Big Bad, she does her thing and they all go home. Yes there are consequences - she's physically depleted and friends die. But even that seems glossed over. She sleeps for a week and has a hearty breakfast.

The death of the sidekick is almost an aside. Oh, yeah, by the way, he's dead. She sheds a tear and carries on. That plus the mass destruction she incurs makes her feel like a psychopath. She destroyed a whole country. And she sheds a tear and carries on. What choice did she have? If she didn't kill them all they'd just keep coming after her, right?

That's an argument for a boatload of other stories. There's always that point where you just want the hero to kill off the villain already! Well, that happened in this book and it was sooo unsatisfying. The goal achieve too easily has a lower satisfaction threshold.

So that brings me back to the whole point of this post. Stories have to have appropriate conflict.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Audiobook delay





This is the cover for the upcoming audiobook. It was a learning experience! But I think it works in comparison to the print cover. The online publishing people are demanding higher quality, which is a good thing. But it means I need to learn new graphic programs. Which is also a good thing, even if I don't have time for it.

There's been a glitch and the recording has been delayed. I'm disappointed in a "now-now-now" kind of way. But it's only about a month and in the scheme of things, that's not much.

I'm very excited to be having the book produced at all!

The actor recording it - Scott David Reeves - has a lovely voice. The piece I heard was very well done. I can't wait to listen to the whole thing.

Hopefully it will be out about mid-May.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why do bunnies bring eggs?

This question has bothered me for some time. Where the heck did the whole Easter bunny and chocolate egg thing come from?

It wasn't until I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods that I understood. It's all based on a pagan spring ritual. I don't remember the goddess's name, but the point was to celebrate birth - babies of all kinds. So baby rabbits, chicks, lambs, etc.

Spring is a time when the trees come back to life and green things shoot out of the ground. Life starts up again. Or over depending on your world view.

After I read that, it all made sense. It has nothing to do with Christianity. It's just one of those trappings of society that got dragged along as a seasonal ritual.

The transition to chocolate was probably more commercial than symbolic. People wanted chicks and bunnies in the spring, but giving live animals as gifts gets complicated. It probably started as chick cookies or bunny buns and eventually morphed into chocolate and marshmallow.

So now we celebrate the arrival of spring with a sugar high!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fruit Trees

The apricot and plum are blooming. And we are having the coldest weather of the winter!

I put lights in the trees this year to see if that might help warm them a little. Last night it went down to 24 degrees. And tonight it is supposed to go almost as low. According to a chart I found, unopened buds should be OK. The fully opened flowers may be killed off. Sigh.

Going on 6 years and we haven't eaten an apricot, yet. Hopefully, some of the buds will survive.

The plum tree only has a handful of flowers open, so I'm not as concerned. I'd say the apricot is about 1/3 open. I will keep my fingers crossed that some of the remaining unopened buds will survive.

The other fruits in the yard are still sleeping. I saw some buds swelling on the blueberries and cherries, but they are just knobby at this point. Thank goodness.

Our mild winter has spoiled me. I am not happy with the cold. And since I was out digging in the garden last week, I am disappointed to be stuck indoors. The high today is forecast to be 39. Definitely not warm enough for me to play outside!

Can't wait for summer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Learning to relax

I once had such a stressful job that I found myself multitasking at all times. Even at home. When I changed jobs, I had to pace myself. Multitasking can lead to mistakes. Or even dropping one thing for another, of which I am often guilty.

Now that I am self employed I can set my own hours and take my time. Somehow that isn't happening. I set goals and milestones and fret about them. Life gets in the way and then I stress out.

But they're just personal goals. No one will die if I don't get this done by Tuesday, or the 1st or whatever. Whew.

I wanted to publish Unintended Consequences by the end of March. Right now it's out to a second round of readers. That's a good thing. When I get it back, I will probably have a few more tweaks for it. Then it will be line edited for grammar and spelling. So it looks more like the end of April than March. Is that such a big deal? It was only an arbitrary date I picked out last year.

It's taken me awhile to condition myself to write every day. Now I feel guilty if I don't get some words on paper every day. Yikes. One more thing to stress about. So last weekend I declared a day off. Since it was a lovely sunny day in the low 70's, I spent the whole day in the garden. Which is also behind in being ready for planting...sheesh.

There's a difference between not working because I don't want to and not working because I need a break. Everyone needs a break from time to time. And now I am going to allow myself that luxury!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Flowers



Crocuses are all in bloom. In my yard they come up by color. The yellow first and the purples last. I don't know why.


 These creamy yellow ones were a lovely treat. I forgot I put them in!



Spring flowers are so rejuvenating. When we moved to this house, I was very excited to see what the previous owners had done in the was of bulbs. I was sorely disappointed. They had a couple of tulips scattered here and there. That's it!


How could they forget daffodils? These baby daffs come up very early. They are so sweet. It just makes you smile.




And of course miniature iris. They are very early also. And so pretty. They only stand about 6-8" I love irises in all shapes and forms. But it is wonderful to have a small dose of them before their larger brethren are even putting up leaves.

Lovely.