Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year and ThankYou!

Happy New Year to all my friends and family!
And a special Thank You to all my readers, reviewers, friends, extended family and strangers who read my books this year.
Here's hoping for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015 for all!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Looking back at 2014

Goodreads says that I read 19 books this year. I think I read more than that, but I've stopped reviewing the books I didn't like. I bought a couple of bundles this year that I still need to work my way through. But I also found some new favorite authors - Nathan Lowell, Chuck Wendig and Brian Staveley. I need to get back to reading more.

My computer died a horrible death in February and I bought a laptop to replace it. I was afraid that I would hate the keyboard, but luckily found one that is very comfortable. In fact, I think I type faster on it. So a happy ending there.
The garden did very well this year. Had a bumper crop of blueberries - almost 7lbs. I couldn't pick the last handful because of a yellow jacket nest under one bush. The veggie garden is now all raised beds. I think that's made a big difference. I'm still doing some rearranging, but I should have a couple more beds for next year.
I published Lethal Seasons in August. I sold a few copies. Buying ads does help sell the book. I started using a bit of marketing. And hopefully a few more people will hear about my books.
I've been working on Dark Deeds which will come out next month. In between, I've started rough drafts on Scattered Seeds with a May 2015 deadline.
Although I haven't sold many books this year, I managed to sell 3 times the number of the year before. A lovely increment, even though it's still miniscule.
In September, I went up to Kingston, NY to visit relatives and research my roots. All of my Irish relatives settled there. The photo is of the Hudson River from Rhinebeck, which is on the other side. Kingston is a working town. My ancestors worked in the shirt factory or the cigar factory, cutting bluestone for sidewalks, for the railroad or on the river. The next generation had some policeman, nurses and teachers. Kingston is still very much a working class town struggling to come out of the recession. It was very good to see that town and walk around it.

All in all a good year - travel, relatives, reading, writing and gardening. Here's hoping for to surpass it all in the coming year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Free Audiobooks!

I have an audiobook giveaway for
White Lies - Book 1 of the Asher Blaine Mysteries
posted on Facebook

Click on the link to check it out!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dark Deeds Cover Reveal

Here it is!
The fabulous cover for the new book.
Dark Deeds will be on sale at the end of January.

Asher's in trouble, again.

He’s about to film his first big movie since he got sober. Messing up now will mean the end of his career. To get ready, he's rented a cottage in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina where they will start filming in a few weeks. Although he’s thousands of miles from his family and friends, he’s looking forward to the challenge.

But on his first day there, the trouble started with a car crash. Then he found a body in the woods.

Or did he?

When the sheriff arrives, it’s nowhere to be seen. He worries that this was some sort of sick practical joke. And then he worries for his own life.

There are more dark deeds brewing in the mountains. An explosion starts a wildfire in the woods behind his cottage. Then a rockslide pushes his car off the road.

Is someone trying to kill him, again?

Sign up for the newsletter for information on sales and upcoming books.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dark Deeds Cover Reveal on Dec 15

On Monday, I will be revealing the cover for Dark Deeds here on the blog. I'm very pleased with the cover. It shows the danger and the whimsy of the Asher Blaine stories. Alex Storer is amazing at translating my incoherent babblings into beautiful artwork.

It was nice to go back and visit with Asher, Ellie, George and the gang. I was able to slide back into that world pretty easily. And I have to admit that it was nice to give him a happy ending. I'm not sure if there will be another book, it's always possible, but not in the immediate future. I have other stories that need to be told.

Next week I will be getting the feedback on the final round of readers. So far the reactions have all been favorable. I will be doing the final rewrite after that and it's off to line editing. Whew!

I am now shooting for a January 30 publication date. It should be available for presales by the beginning of January. The Dark Deeds ebook will be $2.99. I haven't sorted out the print version, yet.

Book 1 of the Asher Blaine series
The White Lies ebook will remain at 99cents at least through January, possibly longer.

Alex is also working on a trailer. More news on that soon. There will also be a giveaway coming up at Goodreads. Lots of things happening. Sign up for the newsletter to hear more about them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Catching up with myself

I say that all the time - I need to catch up with myself. I'm not sure where it is that I have gotten to that I am apparently not all there...hmm. And I just wasted 15 minutes looking for some clipart to jazz up this post. Needless to say, nothing caught my eye.

Dark Deeds is going out to the third and final round of readers today. Whew.

There will be a cover reveal for Dark Deeds on December 15. Alex Storer has done another amazing job. I love the cover. It is the perfect combination of dire events and absurdity that the Asher Blaine books have.

Because of a variety of things, mostly life, I've pushed back the publication date to the end of January. As things come together and I can be sure of a date, I'll post it.

While I am waiting on readers, I started laying down the bones of Scattered Seeds, book 2 in the Changed World Series. It was fun to get back to Wisp and Nick and Angus. I've got about 15 chapters down in a quick and dirty form. That's just to lay out the action. I'll go back to add description, tighten the dialog and sprinkle in the foreshadowing. It's coming along nicely. I can see where I want it to go, but I'm not sure where it'll end, yet.

Lethal Seasons got a short but sweet, 5-star review on Goodreads - "Soooooo good." Gotta say that made my day. So glad to see someone liked it!

I haven't done a book review in awhile. The last few books I've read haven't tickled my fancy, shall we say. One that I read started out fine but then went seriously downhill. It came in a Story Bundle so I don't feel bad about the money spent, there're other goodies to make up for it. I went on Goodreads to see what others were saying. There was already a review that perfectly echoed my own problems with the story. It was nice to see someone else had the same reaction.

I have a pile on the Kindle that I need to get to, but there are only so many hours in a day! I'm rearranging the garden again. Only this time it involves building a wall. So that is taking up time on good-weather days. The family tree stuff snuck out and hijacked me a couple weeks ago. Man that stuff is addicting. I've found a whole new passel of relatives and a bunch of new sites with info. Dangerous! Lost a lot of time to that over Thanksgiving holiday. Oh, and I'm writing two books at the same time.

Have I mentioned my insomnia?

And now I need to get back to writing!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Thing About Writing a Series

This is my first series. As I get underway with book 2, I am learning a lot about planning. I do keep a "bible" of information about the world, the characters, etc. But there are things that I didn't foresee.

In thinking through a scene for book 2, I realized I already set the seeds in the first book. The published one. Which means that although it isn't set in stone, it's already out there. So I should stick with the initial hint. When I went back through book 1, I found that the seeds were vague enough that I could tweak my new scene in the direction I had hoped to go. Whew!

There are a lot of things that I blithely threw out in book 1 that now restricts what I can do in book 2.

I had a vague overview of how the series would proceed. I see now that I need to get a better handle on that before I write myself into the proverbial corner.

Over the past week I have been doing more world building, off the page. I had to do a lot  of research and translate that into my world. You can find the strangest things on the internet. I've been looking into the structure of government and food production factories and how satellites work. A lot of miscellaneous information that may never get on the page. But I need to know it to make educated extrapolations for the story.

I thought I was stuck. The scenes were rambling along aimlessly. Then I did my research. Now I have a whole new arsenal of ideas for shaping this story. I think my reader will appreciate the time spent away from writing.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

5 Tips on Improving Dialog

 Everyone has a strength - description, tension, humor. I've been told that my dialog is done well. It's something that comes more easily for me than other parts of the story. So I think I am a bit more sensitive to bad dialog.

"Because, Jim, bad dialog is sure to be the death of a story."
"What would you say that, Mary?"
"I have been around the world learning new skills and I know that although I have been gone for 10 years that you have waited for me to return and tell you my story."
"Yes, Mary. It has been a long, sad time here."

Ack, cough, blak, bak gak.

1. No one speaks in full sentences. Which sounds more realistic?

"Mike, will you be going out sometime today?"
"I am not sure, Tom. I think I might go out later."

"You going out?" Tom asked.
"Maybe," Mike said with a shrug.

2. Don't leave the emotion out. You can shape a sentence into a tirade or a seduction depending on the person.

"Take a hike," she grumbled, pushing past him.
"Take a hike," she purred, lifting the hem of her skirt.
"Take. A. Hike!" she spat, red faced and panting.

3. Don't repeat the character's name. We don't address people by their names in every sentence.

"Tom, are you seeing Susie today?"
"Nope, Mike, I saw her yesterday."
"I think she's expecting you, Tom."
"Well, I can't make it today, Mike."

4. Let the reader connect the dots. You don't have to lay out the entire scene in dialog.

"He hit me very hard with a baseball bat and broke my elbow," Tom said angrily.

"He had a baseball bat," Tom growled. He was white with pain, but his eyes burned with anger. "Broke my damn elbow."

5. A little accent goes a long way. And if it's an alien, watch the inverted structure.

"Too backwards as the form is, can be confusing reader it is."

Too much accent makes it hard to read. Bizarre sentence structure slows the pace of the story as the reader has to sort out what's being said. I gave up on a series I was enjoying because the sentence structure of one of the aliens was so odd that I couldn't figure out what it was saying. If that's important to the story, make sure someone is around to interpret.

And most important of all - have fun!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Cover for White Lies

A brand new cover for book 1 in the Asher Blaine Mystery series. Book 2 will be out in January 2015. To get ready for the 2nd book, the price for White Lies will drop to .99 through January.

Check here for a cover reveal for book 2 in December.

I would love to hear how people feel about the new cover in comparison to the old cover. I love it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

White Lies New Cover Reveal on Nov 2

Alex Storer has created a wonderful new cover for
White Lies.
Stop by here on the 2nd of November to see it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My TBR Keeps Growing

When I started writing, I found an article by an agent that had the comment, "Don't tell me you started writing because there's nothing you want to read." But I did.

There was a time when my library and local bookstore did not cater to my tastes. This was before the internet and Amazon. I had trouble finding the fantasy and lite science fiction books that I wanted to read. I didn't realize that it was the fault of local gatekeepers. Or maybe the publishers just weren't interested in the type of story I was looking for.

I would go to the library and read through the science fiction section in alphabetical order. I tried a lot of writers that way. I enjoyed some, but not all of them. Of the few I loved, even fewer books were available.

Now I am hip deep. Not only do I have all my trad pub authors to keep track of, I have found a handful of self pub authors that I love reading. If I hadn't joined Goodreads I would have had to start making spreadsheets.

I get emails from Amazon and Goodreads whenever my favorite authors have published new books. I immediately put them on my Wish List. That means I can get rid of all those little stickys on my desk and calendar reminding me when a new book comes out. And I put them in my TBR list on Goodreads.

Now I'm at the other end of the spectrum - too many books to read. And I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dark Deeds Update and a New Cover for White Lies

I am still working on the second draft of Dark Deeds. That puts me a little behind schedule on my self-appointed deadlines. I'm making progress, but life got in the way. All those pesky little things like working for a living and grocery shopping. They eat away at my time for writing.

Sigh. If only I was rich and famous already. Well, maybe just the rich part. (Don't really care about being famous.) Or maybe win the lottery so I can just write all day...

I think I should still be able to get the book out in January. I'm filling in the bones and should be ready for my next round of readers by the end of next week...fingers crossed.

White Lies is getting a new cover!

Since I was going to hire Alex Storer to do the cover for Dark Deeds, I figured that White Lies could use a professional's touch. He did such a fabulous job with Lethal Seasons. And now both of the books in the Asher Blaine Mystery series will have a similar look to them.

The new cover for White Lies will be revealed at the kick off of a 99cent sale, for the ebook, starting November 2nd. A cover reveal for Dark Deeds will be coming in December, I think.

The Lethal Seasons ebook will be going on sale for 99cents for the week of Oct 26 - Nov 1. Get 'em while you can!

And honest reviews are always welcome!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Say It Three Times and It's Yours

I had a Spanish teacher in high school who used to say that. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. My Spanish is horrendous. However, it does work in writing.

Recently I learned, again, that you need to reiterate things for the reader to absorb them. I described my character twice and still got complaints that readers didn't know what he looked like. So obviously I didn't do it well enough, or often enough for it to stick in the reader's brain.

Tagging the description of an attribute to a character seems to help.

His dark hair was tousled from sleep.
His blue eyes flashed with anger.
He lifted a beefy shoulder in a casual shrug.

My unusual looking character didn't get the same complaint. I mention the color of his eyes - pale blue - and his hair - white - repeatedly. Mostly out of the other characters' reactions to him, because he is an unknown quantity in the story.

It's hard to remember to describe characters because I know what they look like. And when I am laying down the bones of the story, plot takes priority. When I go back to fill in description, tone and world-building sometimes take priority. Then I forget to describe the characters.

Being a list-maker, I have a checklist for editing. Character description is on there. As is anything else that's important to the story. In Lethal Seasons the weather is important, so I made sure to mention it regularly.

Guess I need to pay better attention to my checklists.

Lethal Seasons will be going on sale later this month. Sign up for my newsletter to hear about sale dates and news of upcoming books.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Write Faster!

A lot of marketing advice suggests publishing books every three months, or several at the same time. I wish I could put out work that fast.

I am writing faster now than I ever have, but I can't produce a book every three months. Maybe every 6 months. I'm trying.

When I first started writing seriously, I didn't have a plan. I sat down and wrote whatever came to me. Then I tried to stitch it together in some sort of sequence. Most of the time I wasn't even sure of the ending. Needless to say, I did not produce anything publishable.

Then I started learning about the structure of a story. I  studied screenplays for awhile. Then I studied the basic formula for a mystery. The next book I attempted was charted and diagramed to pieces. Still didn't work for me.

I took a story that I really wanted to tell and tossed all the previous versions that had been tweaked into proper formulas. Then I wrote a new, fresh story with those characters. It worked.

It is surprising how much of what I learned stayed in my head. As I wrote, I could see what needed to come next - a twist here, a reversal there, climax, slow down, and voila! A publishable story was done.

My latest lesson is about timelines. I made a list of things to do prior to publication, starting with writing the book. I gave myself word count deadlines - 20,000 words by such a time, 30,000, 40,000 and then bones to the first reader. While the book is in the hands of the first reader (I give my readers 2 weeks) I start the next book. That gets me out of the story completely and helps to make it feel fresh when I come back to it with the first reader's feedback.

One of my books was rewritten so many times that I had to force myself through the final edits. I was so sick of that story, I couldn't wait to send it on it's way. This new system helps me avoid that.

I like to use 3 rounds of reading with several readers on rounds 2 and 3. The first round is to make sure the story works and where the holes are. I flesh it out and send it off to the second round of readers to see if I filled all the holes. Then I go back to the new Work In Progress again. Two weeks later I have more feedback and more rewriting.

The third round is again for content, continuity and pacing. With that feedback, I can usually call the book done and hand it off for a line edit (punctuation, grammar, etc.)

This feels like a good method for me to write quickly. What sorts of systems are you using?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Too Much Fragrance! A Rant

A different kind of air pollution.

Do you know that you can become desensitized to a smell? It is very common to become desensitized to a perfume you wear regularly. That's how people end up walking around smelling like a perfume factory. They can't smell it anymore and have no idea how much they put on. Therefore we have to just deal with it.

My bank smells like cookies baking. A whiff might be nice on occasion, but they obviously can't smell it any more. When I walked in there the other day it made my eyes water and my sinuses flinch. When I left, I could taste it. My clothes smelled like it for hours. It put me in an especially foul mood.

A client of mine uses air fresheners. All of the papers I take from that office reek of it. And I end up smelling like it for awhile after our meetings. Enforced perfume-ation.

I was at a restaurant the other day when a waitress walked by in a cloud of fragrance I call "dryer sheets". I don't think it's a perfume. The smell was strong enough to make me sneeze. Luckily, she wasn't my waitress. However, every time she walked past my table, I was drowned in fragrance. It made for a very unpleasant dining experience.

Is this just an American fixation with smell? What are we masking? Body odor, pet odor, cooking aromas? I would rather put up with an honest smell than the artificial scents that people are constantly spritzing into the air. It fires up my allergies and makes me light-headed. I can avoid a perfume counter in a department store. It's a whole 'nuther problem when I have to wade through smells to get my errands run.

What kind of "air pollution" bugs you?

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I'm off to Boston tomorrow for my nephew's wedding. Not sure how it is possible that he is old enough to get married, but apparently he is. I felt the same way when he graduated college. That's the amazing thing about kids - they keep getting older. I don't.

After the wedding, I am driving to Kingston, NY with my sister. We will reconnect with a few living relatives while I do some genealogy research. Oddly enough, all of my Irish relatives settled there after they came over. And so did a few German relatives through marriage.

My great-great-grandfather came over from County Roscommon in Ireland. His name was James Fitzgerald. And there is my "brick wall" relative, as we hobbyists like to call them. No middle name that I can find and no town of birth. I narrowed it down to 46 families in the county. I may have to wait till I can afford a trip over there to continue that research. Or spend a lot of money, which I don't have right now.

I am hoping to find a few clues in Kingston. The relatives who still live there might have pictures or documents tucked away somewhere. I've got my fingers crossed.

Dark Deeds is resting while the 1st reader is working through it. I've started outlining the 2nd book in the Changed World series. The working title for now will be Scattered Seeds. I've got a lot of ideas for it. And I think I may need to do some research for a couple parts. However, I don't think I will be doing much writing over the next week. I worked hard to get Dark Deeds done on time, so I feel that I deserve this little break. Yay! (Besides, it was on the schedule)

How is your September shaping up? Is it as busy as mine is turning out to be? School, weddings, writings, new books?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

WIP - Dark Deeds Status Report

How can it be September already? Lawns are dotted with fallen leaves. The burning bush down the street is starting to change color. School is back in session. And I have so much to do!

I need deadlines to work to. I like to measure my progress. But sometimes I forget that I created those deadline out of thin air and I can change them. Whew.

Proofing Lethal Seasons took longer than I anticipated. That took away some writing time for Dark Deeds. And then I hit a wall, (figuratively speaking) about where the story was going. I recalculated the work required to catch up and it turned out to be about 2200 words a day, five days a week. Don't know what I was thinking there. Some days 500 words is my max. But I'm chugging along pretty well.

The plan was to have a finished rough draft last week. I might be able to squeak it out this week. I know how it's going to end, I just have to get there.

Sometimes I need to throw down some bad dialog just to get me through a section. Then when I go back to clean it up, very often I will have a clearer sense of where that scene needs to go. I have been stewing about the ending. It hasn't resolved completely, yet. But I have some ideas and I know the final outcome. Putting it on paper will help the characters take over and lead the way.

Today has to be a short report because I need to get writing.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Garden Report - August

Pineapple tomatillos, also known as husk cherries. They are marble-sized and sweet when fully ripe. These have a slight hint of pineapple to them, hence the name. They are a very prolific plant once they start going. I don't think they like cold weather. They have put on amazing growth in the heat of August.

They are ripe when the husk turns tan and papery. Gotta love a veggie that tells you when it's ripe! I like them in salads for a contrast. They are very good with arugula. I am expecting a bumper crop, so I may need to come up with some other uses - relish? Jam?
I actually got some seeds in for fall this year. Not easy when the August Ennui hits. Here are some peapods coming up. I have tries peas in the fall, but they never seem to get enough time. Since you can eat peapods at any size, I think I'll have more luck with them.
Swiss chard is liking the cooler night temperatures. We've been going down into the 50's lately. Lovely weather for sleeping with the windows open. This struggled for a bit, then got crowded by the red mustard I planted next to it. But it looks like I've finally got a dinner's worth.
Heirloom squash. This is called Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato, from Sow True Seed. A different winter squash that caught my interest. It struggled a little because the sunflowers I planted at the corners of the bed got huge and shaded the vines. I cut off some of the lower leaves on the sunflower, and that seemed to do the trick. This looks like it's going to be a little larger than I expected!

The goldfinches are back to feast on the sunflowers. I saw a couple Carolina Wrens at the feeder, too. I put some corn out for the squirrels and chipmunk, hoping to deter them from the ripening apples, and got a surprise visitor. Apparently the bunny likes corn too. (And endive. Knew I should have fenced that sooner!)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Big as a Whale, Loud as Thunder

We are told, as writers, to create interesting metaphors and similes. Avoid clich├ęs at all cost. But I think you can go overboard with that.

I just finished reading a novel that used way too many creative metaphors. At one point it threw me out of the story. I wished that the author said "big" or something similar. It felt too forced for all of the excessive descriptions that filled up the scene. I didn't need a metaphor. I was firmly in the world already.

That's the goal. To ground the reader in your world. If you say: "Her thoughts circled like gulls over a trawler." You reinforce a theme of sea, maybe fishing, boats, waves. If that helps remind the reader that your world is a small fishing village, it's icing on the authorial cake. But if it all feels that way:

"Her thoughts circled like gulls over a trawler. The air was colder than the winter sea in an artic blizzard. She staggered like a drunken sailor across the sand that stuck to her shoes like tar balls thrown up in the ever-churning waves." It slows the action. Even worse, it distracts the reader.

Writing is like painting, you need to concentrate on the focal point. If the entire image is equally embellished, the image becomes bland. In art they talk about negative space. The space outside the image that defines it. So you put emphasis on the dew drop on the pear in the still life and let the plate blur slightly. Unless you want to point out the plate. Then you can blur the fruit. But if everything is clamoring for your attention, you see nothing.

In writing, if you emphasize everything, the reader gets confused. I read a chapter from a work in progress that had the life story of a waiter in it. When I asked what relation he had to the story, the answer was - none. So why did I just spend my time learning all about this guy? Didn't push the plot forward, didn't enhance my understanding of the world, didn't affect the main characters at all. It was an odd little vignette that the writer had come up with for no apparent reason.

That's the way I felt about some of the metaphors in the book I read. They distracted more than they informed. In a couple of cases I would have preferred a plan old adjective like big. Sometimes simple is better.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Life Lessons from Fictional Characters

I've learned some important things from people that aren't real.

Captain Kirk taught me to delegate. He never really did anything (other than romance women and posture at aliens) Scotty fix the engines, Sulu get us out of here. Bones take care of him. Spock find a solution. He had people do what they were good at.

When I found myself in a managerial position, I realized I needed to delegate or clone myself. Since the cloning wasn't going to happen, I had to learn to delegate. Then I remembered Kirk.

Assigning work to people that are good at it, and giving them the responsibility to do it well is an art. It takes a long time to learn. And you have to be lucky enough to have the right people for the work you need to have done. I stumbled along for awhile, but I think ultimately I did it well enough.

I actually had an employee tell me - "I can't be held responsible for my actions!" And he wondered why he ended up with all the scut work.

The Shoemaker and the Elves taught me economics. Aside from the elves and the magic, the story boils down to a simple lesson of quality sells. The shoemaker puts out fine materials to work on the next day. The elves deliver a great pair of shoes. He sells the shoes for a profit which he reinvests in more quality materials, from which the elves create more shoes. From one good product a solid business is grown.

The other important side of the story is that his wife makes clothes for the elves. She sees their need (they're naked) and supplies a solution. Recompense for artistry. A symbiotic relationship. They produce for the shoemaker and he takes care of their needs.

Whenever I am starting a new endeavor I think of them. His success was built one pair of shoes at time. One customer at a time. A slow process that builds over years. Sometimes that's frustrating. Sometimes I hope the elves will arrive in the dark of the night.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Lethal Seasons is Out! And a bad review

Lethal Seasons is now available in print at  Amazon and in ebook just about everywhere! Smashwords has nearly every ebook format available. For more ebook retailer links, click on the Lethal Seasons page.

My very first review of Lethal Seasons was a bad one. Put me in panic mode. Oh no! What should I do now? The correct answer is: nothing. It's out there. Nothing I can do to change a person's opinion. And the review itself was a bit of a mixed bag, I think the reviewer sort of liked the story but really did not like the characters. Which will totally ruin a story for you.

But then I thought, is this a rite of passage? All my other books have gotten good reviews. Not many, but all good. Which I know will always make readers suspicious. When I see a book with only good reviews I wonder if it's all just friends and family. I feel like I need disclaimers on my reviews - This is a total stranger! Really!

So now I have a bad review. And I am oddly proud of it. I handed out the novel and got honest feedback from someone I never met. Obviously, not my target audience...some of what the reviewer disliked will, hopefully appeal to someone else. I am thankful that the reviewer explained why the book didn't appeal.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Reading is very subjective. I created a "shelf" in my Goodreads account called "Not my cup of tea" specifically for books that were well written, but did not appeal to me. I do try to point out why I don't like them so that other readers can decide if those elements are ones they'd enjoy. Tastes vary. As my great-uncle used to say - that's what makes horse racing.

In other news - I ordered my first batch of print books. For all the folks who won the Goodreads Giveaway - thanks for your patience! I hope to have them in hand by next week and in the mail soon after.

And now it's time to get back to work on the next book!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lessons learned while proofing

Look at all the pretty flags...not! Yikes.

Lesson 1 - build in more time for the proofing. The best way to look for errors is to read the book aloud. That takes a lot longer than you think. And when reading, you fall into a rhythm and can easily lose focus or start scanning. So you need to stop, walk around, get a beverage, whatever. Proofing this book took me almost 2 weeks.

Lesson 2 - proof before you format. I thought my final doc was very clean. I was wrong. As a result, when I split it out to format for Smashwords, KDP and CreateSpace, I created 3 different docs that had to be corrected. All of the errors that I found in the print proof had to be fixed in all of them. More time needed for that!

Lesson 3 - keep notes! There were a couple times that formatting went awry and I couldn't figure out what I had done previously to fix it. I created worksheets this time to help keep notes as I went through each format.

Lesson 4 - It's all okay. The longer I worked on it, the more doubtful I became. Is this a good book? I got good feedback, but will people like it? Whew. Just power through and get it done.

Lesson 5 - Take your time. A couple times I was tempted to say - good enough - and rush through a step. But there is no reason for that. I would only cheat myself. The deadlines I set are mine and I can change them if need be. Take a breath, calm down and proceed with care.

These are the things I'm sharing from this round of publishing. One more week till Lethal Seasons is released!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Garden Report

Taking a little breather from the marketing. I am working my way through the print proof for Lethal Seasons now. I started a countdown for Dark Deeds, the sequel to White Lies. The tentative publication date is January 2, 2015.

Last year's carrots. I always miss a couple. I let these go to seed because they are so pretty. They make a nice cut flower. If you let them scatter the seed, you'll have volunteer carrots all over the yard.

This is the Czech Black Hot Pepper. Fairly prolific and very striking in the garden. The ripe peppers are supposed to turn a garnet red. We've eaten a couple black ones, haven't had the patience to wait. They are very mild with a good flavor.

Hungarian Pink Oxheart tomato. A huge, meaty tomato. This is one of the smallest and it weighed in at almost 1/2 a pound. Last year the blight got them all. I am being more careful this year and spraying with an organic fungicide. This is the first ripe one. I'm looking forward to making a lot of sauce with these.

Pattypan squash. I'm not a big fan of zucchini or summer squash, but pattypan has won me over. I think it has a stronger flavor and firmer flesh. This year the garden gave me lots of dill and catnip volunteers. I also planted nasturtiums all over. I am hoping that the combination of strong smelling herbs will keep the squash bugs away. I haven't planted dill in years, but every year I find it coming up all over. I've picked 4 small squash so far. This little guy should be ready to eat by next week.

Ground cherry or tomatillo. This is a tiny tomatillo, about grape-sized, with a sweet flavor reminiscent of pineapple. Yummy in a salad or just snacking. The husks turn tan and papery when the fruit is ready. The last time I grew these they were so prolific I was giving away baskets of them. But they are very hard to start. I tried three times before I got a couple very tiny, very fragile seedlings. They do not like cold weather at all.

The past couple weeks have been rainy and gray. I am worried about the tomatoes getting blight. The drying tomato I like best - Principe Borghese - is very susceptible. But it is also the sweetest, yummiest dried tomato ever. I hope to get a good crop this year. Last year I lost all the tomatoes to blight and was forced to buy dried tomatoes for the first time in years. Very disappointing.

So far it's a good garden year. Fingers crossed that it continues!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lethal Seasons Giveaway ends and exerpt

First of all, here's a wonderful flyer that Alex made for me.

The Goodreads Giveaway ended. I think it was very successful for getting the word out - 913 people signed up for it and 453 people put it in their "to be read" file. I am expecting the first proof of the print book next week. I hope to have copies in hand, to mail to the winners, in another week or so.

And as promised, here is an excerpt from Lethal Seasons:

Wisp could sense the person waiting for him. It was a girl, and she was frightened. Her fear tasted sharp and too long held. She was worn down with the burden of it. He paused in the darkened corridor of his home and pushed his senses out into the surrounding woods. There was no one else in the vicinity of the old factory where he had lived for the past three years. The aging site had been a derelict long before the virus hunted his kind. Thick brick walls and steel beams still stood against the ravages of the weather. But it was the cellars and sub-cellars that he called home.

He continued upstairs to ground level. Twilight softened the harsh angles of debris in the yard. Old pallets and piles of stone, a tumble of bricks where a retaining wall had given way, cans and broken glass and the skeletons of weeds made a labyrinth of unsteady steps to his door. The girl waited where she was told, in the potholed remains of a parking lot. Hulking stacks of crumbling sidewalks took up much of the cracked asphalt. It held a certain symbolism for him. Someone had ripped up the sidewalks and piled them here, perhaps to be recycled. But to him it said that pedestrian traffic was no longer possible in this area. He held it as a totem, hoping it would ensure his solitude.

She was small. Not more than ten or twelve years old. A mental shiver wracked her as she stood alone in the fading light waiting for a meeting with a monster. Wisp regretted the charade, but fear was often his only weapon.

“I am here,” he said stepping into her line of sight.

She jumped. A gasp, cut off, shuddered into a whimper. “Are you the finder?”

“I am.”

“Can you find my brother?”

“What do you offer?”

Her fear was suddenly drowned with loss, with desperation and hopelessness. He could taste the ashes of her grief, the spiky pain of regret. “I have nothing.”

She was a refugee, a fugitive. Her pain was something he understood. This close he could smell her unwashed body. A child, hungry and alone and knowing there was no solace. She trembled with exhaustion. He knew he couldn't refuse her.

“I will help.”

She cried then, the relief so great. It pushed back on her burden of grief, and eased his own pain. She swallowed the tears away, stronger than her years. “What should I do?”

Wisp looked up at the clouds scudding in from the west. A storm was approaching. He smelled rain on the rising wind. The child needed food and rest. They couldn't start out until the morning. “Come.” He reached out a hand to her. “We will prepare.”

Her steps were heavy, the fear rising up. In the half-light, he wondered how much she could see. What startled her the most? His thick white hair falling loose below his shoulders, eyes so pale a blue they were almost white, or was it the tattoo down his neck that marked him as not human? As she touched his hand, he had his answer: just a man. She registered his calloused hands and muscled arms. He was a big, strong stranger, and she feared all the things that could come from that.

“I won't hurt you, child.”

“Lily. I'm Lily,” she spoke in a bruised whisper heavy with tears.

“They call me Wisp.”

She looked up at him in the growing shadows. “Is that your name?”

He bit off his response. My kind have no names. She was too young to know that story. “It will do,” he said gently. “Come. I have food and water.”

He felt her wariness lose ground beneath her hunger. She was too young to be out in the world alone. Too sweet, too innocent. He'd find her brother and send them somewhere safe. Then perhaps it was time for him to move on.
Just a little taste to get you interested! Lethal Seasons ebook is available for preorders at a discounted price of $2.99 at iTunes , Barnes and Noble , and Kobo through August 8, 2014. The price will go to $4.99 on the 9th.
Paperback will be available at Amazon on August 8, 2014.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

And the marketing continues...

Spent most of the morning finishing up a Powerpoint about Lethal Seasons for Slideshare. It's fun. I like doing it. For once, it's graphics I understand. However, I should have paid more attention to what was on the site. All my clever little fades and fly-ins of text didn't work once it was loaded. So I shouldn't have worried about it at all. Oh well, live and learn. The next one will be that much easier.

If you want to check it out go here SlideShare.

Marketing. Well. What can I say? I am reading tons of advice and boiling it all down to what I can handle - skill-wise, time-wise and budget-wise. There are so many options out there, and I haven't a clue which ones will work. This SlideShare thing was one of the new things to try. It's free and very easy- my kind of thing!

I sent out a press-release about the pre-orders to one site. I am curious to see if I get any feedback on that. Hopefully all of these little things piled on top of one another add up to something in the end. I think a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time with a quality product. So fingers crossed and full speed ahead.

Newsletter! Yes, it's true. I have started a newsletter. I will only send one out when I have something new - a new book, a sale, discounts, whatever. So it won't be going out every month. For the few of you who received the first one, I'd love some feedback. And please pass it on to any other Scifi or Mystery fans you know.

Ebook Discounts!
White Lies and Unintended Consequences ebooks are on sale at 50% off at Smashwords.

The Goodreads Giveaway runs through to midnight on July 18. I am giving away 8 books.

And now I get to start formatting Lethal Seasons for all the various publication platforms. This is the trickiest part. I lost my patience on the last book, rushing it out before it was perfect. I will try to be better with this one!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Garden update and giveaway

The gladiolas are blooming. Along with the crepe myrtle, hollyhocks and echinacea.

The blueberries are doing especially well this year. It just amazes me how they get bigger and better each year. Even when I forget about them, they are busily doing their thing. Incredible.

I am picking wax beans and a few tomatoes every day. The shelling peas are on their way out. The peapods are chugging along in 2nd gear. I see a couple of baby patty pan squashes forming. The fava beans are just starting to form pods. All of the tomatoes are doing well this year. After last year's catastrophe I almost didn't do tomatoes. Now I am glad I did. All of them have lots of green fruit forming. Yum. Except the Tumbling Tom in a pot on my stairs - that is already giving me ripe tomatoes. They are either a very large cherry, or a tiny slicer, being about golf ball size

Goodreads Giveaway!
I am running a giveaway on Goodreads for 8 copies of Lethal Seasons. (print only)

Barnes and Noble pre-sales
Lethal Seasons is available for preorder at B&N. The price is discounted to $2.99 prior to publication on August 8

It's a very busy summer this year!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

No more yappy dog!

The neighbors moved away and took their noisy little dog with them. What a relief! I didn't realize how much of an ingrained annoyance it was until he'd been gone a few days. In my lovely, quiet neighborhood, the constant racket of a barking dog is very intrusive. Especially next door. Something inside me relaxed and I realized with shock - no yapping!

The owners of Yappy Dog would tie him outside several times a day for him to get a little fresh air and exercise. (and do whatever else needed to be done) From the minute he was out until they brought him back in he would bark. Yapyapyapyapyapyapyapyapyapyapyap...sometimes for hours. Sometimes at 7am on a Sunday morning. Or midnight on a workday.

I learned to block it out. It wasn't until a visitor of mine snapped, "Shut up!" that I realized I wasn't the only one going nuts.

Tying him out was a solution arrived at after several neighbors complained. Previously they were letting him roam the neighborhood. Before we spoke up, Yappy Dog would wander down the street barking as he went. (What makes a dog bark constantly?) He would also poop on my lawn, which I discovered while mowing. Not a happy discovery. Luckily, Yappy was a small dog.

So I have lovely new neighbors and extra bonus points Yappy Dog is gone.

Otherwise things are very busy. The veggie garden is starting to produce so I am picking something everyday. Lethal Seasons is out to the final reader. Yay. The line edits are nearly done. Once that is wrapped up, I can get back to working on the Asher Blaine sequel.

This is turning out to be a very busy summer.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Trailer and other things

First of all:

Lethal Season's book trailer

Please check this out! I think it is really well done. And you will get a chance to hear Alex's wonderful music. I would appreciate any feedback!

And the other things...

Here's a daisy. They are blooming right now. The yard is out of control, but the vegetable garden is doing really well. I picked nearly a pound of blueberries this week, and there are a lot more to come. The peapods and shelling peas are producing wonderfully. My tomatoes are all full of buds and green fruit. This year looks to be an especially bountiful one. And luckily the raised beds aren't demanding too much of my time.

I don't care if the grass gets too long, but the edibles always take priority. So what little free time I have this summer will go to the vegetable garden and fruit trees.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed and it is all my own fault. I want to do this book launch correctly... But I'm making it up as I go. The big publishers buy advertising and set up book signings, things I can't afford to do. So I am posting where I can and trying to make a little noise about this. And since I am making it up as I go, I can't be sure I'm doing the right thing. But the book isn't published yet, so I shouldn't be worrying yet, but...I am. Whew.

And here's Bertie hanging out, watching me work. Whenever I get too crazy, there's always a little cat ready to jump into my lap and demand attention. All three of them remind me that I am just here to do their bidding, and that always puts things in their proper perspective.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lethal Seasons Cover and Guest Artist Alex Storer

I am very pleased to display this fabulous cover that Alex Storer created for me. When I was first thinking about the cover, I ran across Alex's website. His artwork looked exactly right for this book. Two paintings especially caught my eye. After Hours, because of the mood and energy in it.
And Hope, because it showed a similar futuristic world.

I asked him to stop by and talk about the creative process.

From Alex Storer:
The obvious question when designing a book cover is how can you best represent a story through a single image or design? Fortunately in this case, Alice had a fairly clear idea in her mind of what she wanted, and it was my job to realise this, then refine it.

Being Alice’s first SF novel, part of the task was to present a cover which clearly represents the genre. In addition to the right visual elements, the cover painting also needed a particular atmosphere. Luckily, I got a lot of inspiration out of just the title itself – Lethal Seasons – it has a certain edge to it, and an underlying sense of menace. With this, I knew straight away the sort of lighting and textures I wanted in the painting.

What was essentially a landscape scene ravaged by climate change, needed that extra science fiction slant, somehow integrating or representing the killer virus that lies at the core of the story. We discussed various ideas of how to integrate a DNA helix into the tornado and other means of including viral elements – which is where the idea of framing the image with cells and particles eventually came from. This went through several revisions, before settling on a subtle blend of virus cells and molecules combined with spatters of blood, for a subtle suggestion of the underlying horror of Lethal Seasons.

We felt we reached the right visual approach with this combination – but I also wanted to extend this into the typography, so the title wasn’t merely text sitting over my painting, but an integrated continuation of the design with the broken molecule lattice and other viral elements contaminating the text.

Once the cover was finished, I started working on an idea for a video trailer for the book, using the imagery of the cover set against some of my own music. In the end I composed a new piece of music for it, to better reflect the impending sense of threat and disaster – it wanted to be dark and dramatic, and hopefully something that will draw people in to want to find out more about the book.
Next week I will debut that amazing book trailer that Alex created!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Updates on Lethal Seasons

Cover reveal coming soon!
Woo hoo!

Next week I will reveal the fabulous cover that Alex Storer created for Lethal Seasons. Alex will also be a guest on the blog discussing his artwork and music. I am very excited to have him drop by. I hope you will all be as blown-away by the cover as I was.

Lethal Seasons is about to go into the final edits. I am getting very good feedback on it. Which makes me do the happy dance (see above) and is sooo rewarding. It's one thing to finish a story and think it's good, it's a whole 'nuther kettle of fish to have people like it. And they do!

That doesn't mean its perfect. I have several plot tweaks and such to work on before I hit the PUBLISH button. But it's close! And it looks like I am still on course to publish by August 1st. Whew.

For this book, I am doing some marketing. It's hard work. Something that is not intuitive nor easy for me to do. I am struggling with some of it and dreading a lot of it. But I want people to know about this book. So I am working on it.

 Having a schedule and lists has really helped. I did a countdown starting at 12 weeks. Then I discovered that some reviewers need months to turn around a review. Some won't even look at it until it has a pile of reviews on Amazon. That seemed like a trick question to me...if I already have 25 reviews on Amazon, why do I need theirs? Name recognition, I guess.

Some days I feel like I'm floundering. Press releases, blurbs, bios, links, samples.... Whew. I would so much prefer to be spending that time on the White Lies sequel. But I need to know how to do these things, so I will soldier on!

Oh, and by the way, I changed the blog background. Any comments?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tired of Megalomaniacs and other thoughts

I read all sorts of books. I like character driven ones the most. I used to say that I liked epic fantasy and space opera, but maybe my tastes are changing. I am getting really sick of THE BIG BAD.

I lost interest in Star Trek TNG when the Borg arrived. And a variety of other shows when the evil that cannot be defeated showed up. I like the day to day conflicts. The problems that can be wrapped up with smarts and ethics (and superior firepower).

Megalomaniacs are an especial problem to me. There was a trend in writing to try to personify the villain. A lot of books went into the twisted point of view of the bad guy. After a few too many senseless torture scenes, I gave up. I'm tired of the quest for world domination. Why would a guy want to destroy the world to rule it anyway? I never quite understood that. If it all is blasted nothingness, what's to rule?

While learning to craft a story, I started writing from the villain's POV and realized I did not want to go there. How could I possibly understand a crazy killer? I didn't want to get all caught up in the dark thoughts and nastiness. What I ended up doing was writing from the other side. The reactions to the villain's deeds set the right tone for me.

I have found a bunch of new authors who are writing what I want to read right now. Daniel Abraham is wonderful. His stories are full of rich world building and interesting characters. I think they lean toward epic fantasy, but there are no doomed armies marching out to battle the undefeatable evil.

The real world is depressing enough sometimes, I don't need hopelessness in my favorite escape.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

From flood to drought

It's hot, hot, way too hot for May.

My peas are drooping and the lettuce is burning up. Poor things. Last year I was slogging around in rubber boots in ankle-deep water and this year I'm watering soil so dry it cracked. Except for that four inches of rain we got in one night which flooded the garden.

I am sooo glad I went to raised beds. Even with that, a couple of them were coated in mud (and the patio and the porch). I lost some beet seedlings and maybe some napa cabbage. I wasn't sure if they had come up yet. This year was the easiest for prep that I've ever had. Weeded, tossed in some compost and voila! the beds were ready. Love it.

So I thought I would be ahead of things. Then I decided to tackle the stairs. I didn't anchor them properly the first time and they were always shifting and slipping. We were going to hire someone, but that turned out to be way out of the budget. I can see why. All the digging and hauling, it's very time consuming. But I'm working my muscles, and that's always good. Just wish it wasn't so blasted hot.

Previous incarnation of the steps.
My great-great grandfather was a stone-cutter, so maybe it's in the blood. I am doing a much bigger job of it this time. Which I think will be the third or fourth time I've built these damn things. There were 19 steps to the top of the hill where the rest of the backyard is level. I call it the terrace. The steps are turning out great. I made them deeper, and less tall which will make for more steps in the long run. I will need to redesign the plantings along the side. It's a lot of work. But it'll look so nice when it's all done.

And then I can finally carry the lawn mower up to the terrace, which hasn't been mowed since June of last year. Ugh.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lethal Seasons coming August 1!

Fingers crossed that I have allowed myself enough time to finish the book! But I am being bold and declaring August 1 to be my publication date for Lethal Seasons, book 1 in the Changed World Series.


I'm doing a few things differently this time. First of all, I gave out the rough draft before it was done. I knew it needed some work, still, but I wanted some feedback on where to really spend my time. And the feedback I got was a little different than what I felt needed work. Although there was some overlap. Working on the first rewrite now. Hoping to get it to my second round of readers by next week.


Second big change - I hired an artist for the cover.  Alex Storer  He has some very cool art. And he is being very accommodating. He's shown me some sketches and things are really moving along! Very exciting!


The garden is calling, I should be writing and the house needs a major clean for all the company we're having this month. Yikes. Better get to it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maybe the last frost?

It was forecast to go down to 26 the other night. With high winds, rain and snow flurries. I could heard the wind all night. It was making me nervous.

According to my chart, temperature that low would kill the flowers on the apple, cherries and strawberries and damage the fruit just about to form on the apricot and plum. So I was severely bummed by this.

The following night was only 30, a temperature that shouldn't hurt any of the fruit or flowers.

I've got my fingers crossed, but it looks like we made it through without hitting a killing temperature in my yard. Fruit growers in the area have reported losses.

The strawberries look okay. A bunch of them are in bloom. I'm really excited. I've already netted them. Having a plan ahead of time has saved me a lot of time this year.

The blueberries are just starting to bloom. Every year the bushes get larger. That's the amazing thing about nature. It has its own agenda regardless of your plans. So I can forget about the plant, but it still grows and blooms in its own time.

 I might even have enough to make something this year, like jam. Last year I had enough to eat for breakfast everyday. I would pick a bunch, maybe a whole carton (pint) in the afternoon to eat the following day. Delicious. And my netting for that is already planned, too.

Sadly, I have decided to rip out the blackberries. They had Japanese fruitflies last year, which lay eggs in the ripe fruit. You can't tell until the worms come out...ugh. Enough said.

But I think I have enough to care for in the yard for right now!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Next up...more Asher!

To my delight, people have been asking after Asher. Yes, he's doing well. And getting himself into more trouble.

I am planning a second book for him. It might turn into a series. Right now I can't say.

When I started thinking about him yesterday a scene popped into my head and I was so excited to have an opening ready to go.

Yes all the players will be there - George, Denny, Lisa and Thomas and a few surprises.

I finished the first rough draft of the apocalyptic mystery and it is off to my first reader. While I am waiting for feedback on the various versions I plan to work on the 2nd Asher - working title: Dark Deeds. And I may be tinkering around with another illustrated flash.

The apocalyptic mystery has a new name - Lethal Seasons. It's a bit rough in places, but the bones are all there. Or so I think. My reader will let me know if I'm wrong about that. April and part of May will be reading, feedback and rewrites. I had hoped to publish by June, but I think it's going to be more like July. I'm not rushing it.

Now, back to work!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My story is writing itself!

By which I mean it just took an unexpected turn. I sent my character to look at something and I was so surprised to see what was actually there.

That might sound a bit odd to non-writers, but I think it happens all the time. I get into a scene and I am acting it out in my head and suddenly a new element appears. Sometimes I have to go back and take it out because it sent the character off on a tangent that ultimately didn't do anything for the story.

And that's where I am now. A couple of unplanned things just fell into place and I have to decide if it makes sense. What does it add to the story beyond this event. I know that I introduced a character way back in chapter 10 and we haven't seen much of her since. So should I let her dangle or remove her? Is she important to the rest of the story? I thought so when I introduced her, but she hasn't had an appearance since then.

Here I am cruising into chapter 49 with new people and events occurring. Too late in the game perhaps? Not sure. I am feeling that this should be a series. And as I am probably most of the way through the book, I can see the themes for subsequent books slowly coalescing. So these new elements might be exactly what I need to set up the next book.

It's still bare bones in some chapters. I read through the more polished chapters comfortably then I hit a bare-bones one and skid to a halt. It's hard to read the rough bits without wanting to fix them immediately, but I want to lay out the plot before I start cleaning up the language.

Which is my cue to get back to writing.