Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life with Alzheimery parents

Alzheimer's is a disease that continues to progress. And you just have to continue to cope.

It's been almost a year since Daddy had to go to the nursing home, closer to a year and a half since he was told he needed to stop driving. Mama's now failed her driving test. And she's just as stubborn about refusing to stop. She completely missed a stop sign and a yield sign, couldn't remember passing a school-zone sign...but she doesn't remember any of it now, though she acknowledged missing them at the time. So, we will have to take away her car and keys. Sigh.

And, at the nursing home, Daddy has taken it upon himself to become the lunchroom police. One of the little old men there will shout out occasionally. And when he shouted the other day, Daddy got up from his table, went over and bapped him on the head with his spoon. (sigh)

When the staff remonstrated with him, he said "Well, he shouldn't have yelled like that." Totally justified in his own mind for smacking the poor old guy. So, we're going to have to speak to Daddy--not that it will make much difference, because he won't remember us saying anything, and he will still think he was in the right. The doctor will be spoken to--maybe up some of his medicine, and we're probably going to have to start looking into dedicated Alzheimer's facilities. He doesn't wander, but he's bapping the other residents. At least it was with a spoon...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A good week

Harvest Moon Regatta off Galveston Island
So far, anyway, and I don't have any reason to think it won't go on being good. :)

I got my first review for Knight in Black Leather. It's lovely, (5 stars!) and Christine Klocek-Lim is my new best friend. :) Go read it. :) (Yes, I am over-using the smiley face emoticon.) But it is a really nice review. See?
"I laughed out loud during the first chapter. I sighed in happiness by the seventh and bit my lip in dismay by the twenty-third (I also might have cried a little, but I refuse to get into that)."
 I've been writing, but since I fell down on the job while I was out of town, and let myself continue to fall for a few more days, I'm only on Day 2 again. (Sigh)

Took Dolly the princess dog out for a walk yesterday, and she was a little pickle-dog this time. There were two doggies down playing on the beach, off-leash with their people, and it was all I could do to keep her from jumping off the seawall to go play with them. And that made her want to play with everybody else she saw. She's five years old. Aren't doggies supposed to slow down a little when they get that old? She dragged me across the street to wiggle at the neighbor. Pit bulls are strong doggies. And today, she's been a real whiny-baby, wanting me to come out and sit with her or play with her, or something.

I've been trying out some new recipes--a Mexican skillet chicken that's made like fried rice, only with enchilada sauce rather than soy sauce. Good stuff. And I made some marsala pork chops that were to die for.

I only made a couple of alterations in the recipe--you're supposed to bread them in bread crumbs, but since the fella's gluten-free, and I didn't feel like crushing any Crispix or corn flakes, I just didn't bread them. And I had a LOT of pork chops (or fork chops, as they're generally known in our house, because that's what one of the boys called them when he was little). Recipe called for 4 chops. I had 8 or 10. Hey, it worked. And I had some fresh mushrooms, so I sliced them up and threw them in the sauce. And I was probably a tad generous with the marsala wine. (The recipe called for one measly little tablespoon of marsala. A half cup of white wine (I used chardonnay), but only a tablespoon of marsala!) But when I got done--oh, it was SO good. My knees were all swoony.

Basically, you just fry up the fork chops, take them out, then saute a big mess of thin-sliced onion (with mushrooms if you want), add in a bunch of pressed/minced garlic, and when the onions are soft, throw in the wines and cook it down to almost nothing, then add in half a stick of butter. (No wonder it's so good!) But you don't need much with each pork chop.

Yes, I have been writing. This is the pantsiest thing I've written in a long time (meaning I didn't really have my world-building done when I started it, and didn't really know where I was going with it), but I'm discovering a lot of stuff now, near the end. Meaning I'll have some things to fix when I start putting it in the computer. But that's for later.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My book's gone live!

I have been busy, and I'm getting things done. I feel so accomplished today, and all because I baked a cake last night. (Well, sort of) But we'll come back to the cake.

The big news is that I have taken the plunge into the e-pub business. My first Gail Dayton book has gone live both at Kindle and Smashwords, and as soon as I get a move on, I'll have it up at Barnes & Noble.

Knight in Black Leather is the book that got me an agent. She and I both loved it, a bunch of New York editors said they loved it--but didn't know how to sell it. This is a contemporary romance. I wrote it before I took the plunge into fantasy and steampunk. I love my fantasy stories, but I also love me some contemporary romance. It's an older-woman-younger-man story, there's some suspense, some family conflict, secrets, angst, old wounds--all sorts of good stuff. And it's set in Pittsburgh. (The one in Pennsylvania, not the one in East Texas... That one doesn't have an H after the G.) Here's the cover copy:

A chance meeting on the dark winter streets of Pittsburgh brings widow Marilyn Ballard face to face with streetwise young biker Eli Court when he scares off a trio of wannabe gangsters. Later, she returns the favor, rescuing him from a beating, and their encounter becomes a chance to grow and heal from the pain scarring both their lives.
Marilyn's family disapproves of the relationship because of Eli's disreputable past, as well as their age difference. That past life--years spent in the deepest cesspools of the city--reaches out to pull Eli back into its depths, and he fears dragging Marilyn down with him. But she refuses to let him face his past enemies alone, even when his vow to protect a young boy exposes the still-open wounds of her heart, and puts them all in danger. Can they build a new life together, or will those long-denied secrets pull them under?
I hope y'all will give it a look-see. The first 2 chapters or so are up for y'all to sample.

Now I can talk about the cake. It's been forever since I actually baked a cake that didn't come out of a box. The Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake from one of this year's issues of Southern Living has been tempting me for a while, but I don't usually bake, because I'm pretty much the only one who eats the stuff I bake (the fella can't eat it, if it has flour in it, and the boy isn't big on sweets), and I can't afford it. But I really wanted to try this cake, because, hey--it's Mexican Chocolate. And since I'm going up to check on the parents this week, I can take a big hunk of cake with me to share with them and not eat most (all) of it myself--I baked the cake. (The picture is not MY cake, but it's the same recipe...)

The batter was like tasting chocolate clouds. The cake cooked in exactly the time the recipe said it would (this oven runs a little cool), AND it came out of the Bundt pan! I have been fighting with that pan since it was new, 30-mumble years ago when it was a wedding present. (35? Yeah, I think that's right.) It does not often let go of cakes. It likes to keep back a good half of the cake, most of the time, and force you to scrape it out in pieces. But this one came out! Score!!

You're supposed to serve it with sauce. Chocolate sauce--Mexican chocolate sauce, in fact. But the sauce requires heavy cream, which I did not have. So I had to run to the store to buy some. And since I also had to run to the store to buy ink for the printer to print out pictures of the grandkids for the parents, I didn't mind so much, especially since Office Depot is just down the strip mall from the grocery story. I came out with lots of other stuff, too--fancy file folders, a file storage box, etc. And I just have to share a picture of one of the grandboys dressed up for Halloween. He looks like such a cowpoke... (That's a lollipop stick!)

Monday, October 31, 2011

How to keep your head above water

That title sounds like a financial blog. Which this isn't. It's not even really an "organizational" blog, unless maybe it fits in the "Organization for the Terminally Disorganized" category. Because I am. Terminally disorganized, I mean. And I'm a Virgo. Go figure.

I guess that means I want to be organized. But if it happens, it doesn't happen for very long.

I have a computer file where I can write down the menus I've planned for the upcoming week--and I'll plan for two or three weeks running, then I don't touch that computer file for months--so long that I have trouble remembering where it is on the computer. (It's in the "recipes" folder.) (In case I forget again.)

I have a spreadsheet I've prepared for the e-publishing I'm planning to do. Here's hoping I remember to  put things into it for more than a month or so. I figure I'll be obsessive about keeping track of my sales for a week or two, and after that... Phhhtttt. I figure I'll be filling it frantically in when the fella informs me that I need to give him some info for the taxes.

That's usually how I go. In spurts. I seem to do pretty much everything in spurts.

Which, I suppose is my point. I can work with spurts. As long as I keep coming back to these things I want/need to do, and do them, I can get the things done that I want to get done. I like that "15-minutes at a time" thing that the FlyLady recommends. I can do anything for 15 minutes. Problem is--I usually forget to set the dang timer.

But I keep coming back. I've been "spurting"-- okay, sprinting in the writing. It's how I've made it to DAY 13 (!!!) of my 100 day challenge. I haven't made it much past Day 20, ever, yet. (You see what I mean about spurts?) But I keep coming back to it and starting again. The book is getting written.

I didn't go out and walk yesterday, even though it would have been my walking day. I meant to go, but I didn't. (I meant to do a lot of things yesterday, and didn't. Sigh.) So I went today, and I'll go again tomorrow. I got back to it.

That's the secret. Just keep going back. If you slip up, get back into it. Keep showing up.

That said, I walked all the way to 45th Street today--a mile, one way, from my house. That may not sound impressive, but I'm closer to 60 than 50, and I'm fat. I'm impressed with myself, so there.

I passed the new Fort Crockett park, where the dolphin sculpture is. I did look at the painted dolphins, and that's completely new cement. They couldn't really do anything with the old cement. The dolphins are painted in the exact same colors, same design. They look great.

This picture is of the guys planting the palm trees in the planter boxes. There are 12 trees in each box, and salt-resistant plants below them, and in the street-side boxes. They imbedded iron stars in the top of the planters--you can see them as dark spots--to keep the skateboarders from skating up there. And there are benches on the Gulf side of the big boxes, so weary walkers like me can rest up and look at the waves. Pretty cool, IMO. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Progress

Today, I wrote a bio for the e-pub books I have planned. Why does it take so much longer to write this kind of stuff than it does to write story?

I also wrote cover copy/descriptions for the first one of the books. I'm getting friends to help me with it. But it's progress.

AND, it is DAY 8 (right?) on my writing challenge. I didn't get as much written as I'd hoped, because the boy was awake this a.m. and kept wanting to show me stuff. He did finally get the hint.

I also got started late with my writing projects, because I went out for a walk this a.m. and walked all the way down to the dolphin statue. It looks MUCH better now than it used to.

Frito-Lay donated a bunch of money to fix up the little seawall park there where the dolphin statue is. They've rebuilt the plaza, put in a bunch of planters and benches and solar-power lights and stuff, and will build a big shade pavilion once all the palm trees and plants are in the planter.
 
The summer after Hurricane Ike (remember that one? No? Yeah, well, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt the Monday after Ike hit on Saturday...) it looked really beat up. The storm surge washed all the sand and stuff out from under the concrete and beat it all to heck. I don't know if they poured and painted new concrete for the dolphin mural, or put back and repaired and touched up the old stuff. I looked today, while I was out, and really couldn't tell.

It's gorgeous out these days. Not too hot to get out and walk, a nice breeze off the water--and around here, not too hot does mean up to 90F/32C and a little above. Too hot is 95F/35C and above, here on the island, because it's usually accompanied by considerable humidity. It was around 85F/29C this a.m. when I was walking. We've had a cold front. But it's still in the 80s by 9 a.m. Our fall. My hibiscus are blooming like crazy, because it's not so hot and dry...

Yeah, sorry. Didn't mean to make y'all jealous...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Rat in the Dark

While we were off in the wilds of Valley Mills, Texas, (and if you know where Valley Mills is, you're doing good) (It's out toward Cranfills Gap...) we had a bit of an adventure in the night. We were out in the middle of nowhere, after all, with varmints and all kinds of critters in the fields surrounding us. And, being women of a certain age, we tended to have to get up in the middle of the night to visit the facilities. (There was indoor plumbing.)

Well, one of those nights, one of our number rose in the darkness and ventured to the facilities, using her cell phone as a flashlight to light her way so she wouldn't trip over something and kill herself, and when she got into the restroom, she saw something black and scary on the floor. She didn't have her glasses on (as mentioned, we are of a certain age, and all near-sighted), the phone light was mostly dim, and she couldn't reach the light switch to turn on the real light and see what in blazes it was. Especially since she was pretty sure it was a rat. She crept forward, holding the phone out toward the rat, while reaching with the other hand for the light--which was on the other side of the room near the other door--until finally the other one of us (who wasn't me, because I was asleep) informed her that it was my sock.

I thought I had retrieved all of my clothes when I got into my nightgown, but apparently, one of my socks got away and stayed behind to play Halloween games. My friend picked it up and tossed it out of the bathroom. I think she was trying to put it with my stuff, but the next morning, it was next to one of the support posts. Maybe it crawled over there. I picked it up and put it in my suitcase...and an hour or so later, I saw it on the floor again. That sock was determined to escape! It didn't stay put until I stuffed it down in a pocket and zipped it closed. I hope I got home with it. But we had a good laugh about how scared D was about that wayward sock.

I am making progress in my self-publishing venture. Yes, I will put up Heart's Magic when I get the rights to it--unless Tor actually decides to publish it. I am also doing a contemporary romance with no fantasy whatsoever in it--Knight in Black Leather--and a contemporary-set fantasy romance with a hero who comes from an alternate world--Heart of Stone. After that, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. It all depends on what I have, what I write, what I want to write... We will see.

I am on DAY 7 of my challenge. Got 4 pages written, and the fella came home to pack an ice chest for his trip to Austin, and wanted to converse, of all things. So I stopped sprinting.

The guys moved my bookcase out of the closet in my office while I was away, and moved a gun safe in. The fella doesn't like my bookcase where they put it. All my books are now in boxes, stacked in the floor in here. I am not happy. I'm not mad, or even upset about it. I knew they were going to do it. But neither am I exactly happy about it. I'd really like to have the books more accessible, and my office less stacked up.

Also, I'm trying to clean my desk off, along with all the other stuff I'm trying to do, and found two pieces of plastic that I have no idea what they are, nor what they are for. Just strangely shaped pieces of plastic.

In the steps toward publishing, I have fixed my Paypal account, I think. I have my e-mails straightened out. I have about 6 e-mail accounts just now--and I upgraded my web hosting plan today. It will take a day or two to get the upgrade through, and another while for me to figure out how to make it do what I want it to do, but hopefully by next week, I'll have my website updated and I'll be ready to move on to the next step.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sprinting while sitting down

Two HOT writers, getting ready to "sprint"
So. I went to the annual HOT (Heart of Texas) Romance Writers fall retreat last week. My writer friends and I took several days ahead of the official retreat and went out to the ranch to retreat early and get some writing done.

It was great! Great to be out there with friends, great to have the chance to write, great to just think, talk and breathe writing. Not so great--the up-close-and-personal encounters with bugs, and the temperature, which wavered from too cold to too hot and couldn't really be fixed right. But bugs and heat can be endured.

The pond behind the "cabin" was way down, due to the drought, and a lot of the trees had died. It was sad to see them. Hopefully, there will be some rain--before next year, please--and the creeks will come back and new trees will grow.

One of the best things we did during the long weekend was "sprint" writing. We would set a timer for 20 minutes and Just Write. For 20 minutes. When the timer went off, we would see how many words we'd written, take a little break to walk around, go potty, grab more coffee, whatever, and five or so minutes later, we'd start the timer up again.

I was pretty consistent. Most times, I got about 250 words. One of the ladies sometimes got 1,000 words or so--but she was at the end of her story and knew exactly what was happening, who had the POV, where she was going--she was in race mode. Sometimes, one of us would get only 57 words, or 84. Not very many at all. But, the important thing was that for that 20 minutes, we didn't do anything but write. We could focus, because we knew that when the bell went off, then we could check the e-mail, or look at the texts, or go to the restroom. It's not hard to put something off for 20 minutes. And it's surprising how much you can write in that length of time.

So, that's what I brought home with me. I have a kitchen timer I carry around with me, to help me focus on what I'm doing. You know--the "I'm going to do this for the next 15 minutes" thing. Anyway, it works real well for helping me do the sprint writing. I got 15 pages written while I was in Valley Mills. Today, I got four done, in the hour and a half I wrote this morning. Oh, and since I wrote every day I was gone, that makes today Day 6 in the 100 words for 100 days challenge, which I haven't gotten to 30 days yet. Maybe my challenge should be 100 words for 30 days...

I have to share the birds that have been poking around our neighborhood for the last couple of weeks. I've lived here four years now, and have never seen American white ibis (I looked them up) anywhere but out on the beach or in the marshes. But most afternoons, there they are, strolling around in the neighbors' yards, hunting for food. I assume they've left their usual haunts because of the drought, like most everything else.

Pretty cool, huh?

Well, I thought so, anyway.

I am working on pulling some books together to get up on Amazon and Smashwords and B&N. Once I get the rights back to Heart's Magic (Harry and Elinor's story), I'll probably e-pub it, too, but it's a long slow process. Figuring out how to do the self-publishing is also a long, slow process, but I will get it licked!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah

I know. I've been AWOL.

First, I had company. I think. It was a long time ago. Then there was the Bastrop County fire. My parents and youngest sister and her family live in Bastrop County. The fire was mostly closer to Bastrop, but it got pretty close. That's the view from Baby Sister's back yard during the fire.

And since the fire was between them and our brother's house up north of Austin (it's closer), and the kids were out of school (well, the nephew who's a freshman at Texas State was sent back to San Marcos), it seemed like a good time for a road trip to the beach. So they checked Daddy out of the nursing home and everybody came to Galveston, including Lucy the cranky old lady terrier mix and Flash the fish. (He's a Siamese fighting fish, and came in a canning jar.)

We had a really nice time, believe it or not, even though we spent a lot of time watching TV and online looking for news about the fires. Since there was a fire north of Houston at the same time, most of the local news was about that fire, but we did get the Austin stations on the internet.

We worked Daddy about half to death. Tuesday, we walked him and Mama around the block. Then in the afternoon, we made him walk down to the beach with us. It's not but about 2-1/2 blocks, but this is a man who gets up in the morning, eats breakfast, takes a nap, eats lunch, takes another nap, eats dinner, and goes to bed after watching a little TV. He's still skinny as a rail. And he took a nap on the beach. (We had some big beach towels spread out, so he didn't get too sandy.) I went out in the water with the kids. Laura and her 21-year-old daughter Molly hung on to Mama so she could stand in the surf without getting knocked over--that surf just washes the sand right out from under your feet, besides being surfy and shoving at you.

We went out to good ol' Shrimp 'N Stuff for supper and Daddy missed the step as we were leaving, and fell and skint his elbow all up. (Ack!) (also, sigh). He got blood on his shirt--just a scrape, but sometimes they will really bleed. The fella got him all bandaged up, and he went to bed fine, but the next morning, I had to make him go change his bloody shirt, because he put it on again. You kind of have to take away his dirty clothes to keep him from wearing them again. (sigh again) Anyway, they all left to go back home Wednesday afternoon, except for Molly, who gets migraines from smoke. It was really smoky back in the fire area. She stayed with her boyfriend, who lives somewhere in the area--but there are a lot of south-of-Houston suburbs...

That's pretty much all the excitement we've had. I'm trying to get some writing done. Trying to get my "independent publishing" stuff set up. (Argghh!) Every time I think I'm ready to upload a story, I realize there's something else I need to get ready first. I keep backing up, and backing up... It's just craziness.

Now that the heat has finally sort of moderated (It's still reaching the high 80s to low 90s pretty much every day), I'm walking more. I even have gotten myself back into decent enough shape that I took the Dolly-dog out for a walk yesterday. She's put on a little weight, gotten herself out of shape, so that her tongue was dragging by the time we reached the halfway point, so she wasn't dragging me so much. I also found a whole angel-wing shell, about 5 inches long (okay, maybe only 4-1/2), out on the beach, and I've seen some new birds out fishing. At first I thought it was a snowy egret that was just silhouetted in the sun. But when I got a better angle on it, it was pretty much the same color as the sand. And it was jumping around and raising its wings and--well, dancing in the surf as it fished. I think it was a reddish egret, going by the color and behavior mostly. Its neck wasn't that red, and I don't remember the pink on the beak--but I think the young birds aren't as red as the older ones, so maybe it was a teenager reddish egret.

So, anyway, that's all the news that's not too boring. I'd swear I'll keep up better here on the blog, but I hate to swear to things I'm pretty sure I will eventually do, or not do, as the case may be. I do think about posting. I'll see something pretty, and think--"Ooh, that would be cool to share." And then I don't. Sigh, yet again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 1, yet again

And I was doing so well! I'd made it all the way up to Day 25! And then I went to visit the parents. It's really hard to make time to write when I'm up there. But I'm back at work again on the writing. It's moving right along, but it's going to be longer than a novella, I think. Maybe not too long--I just don't know... However, I am about to have my main characters meet the scientists. We'll see how it goes.

Don't know what else to tell you... I need to start typing in the story. I am meeting a client tomorrow to pick up her manuscript to copyedit. My first non-Carina freelance job. Our visitor is still visiting. Not getting so creative with the vegetarian diet any more. My brain hurts. That's probably why I'm not writing much of a blog today. I can't think of anything to write about. Y'all have any suggestions?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lazy day

It's been a lazy day, and will continue to be, I imagine. I'm going to get up in a little bit and go wash the knives in the kitchen. I've written the day's pages (DAY 18!!) and I am now posting a blog stating that I have written my day's pages.

I do still have a little laundry to fold for the week, and probably have a couple more housekeeping things to do, but yeah, it's a lazy day. I don't have anywhere I have to go. Nothing I have to do. I'm actually thinking about heading out to the big mall to do a little shopping, because the end of season sales have started. Or maybe I'll sit around the house and read. I did go get all those library books after all.

The books on my list of "read" books are starting to back up. I'm getting them slowly into my GoodReads list, but I'm slow. They keep getting backed up because I try to write something about them, and that takes a bit of time, which makes me slower. And then I do things like read 3 books in a day. (I read Amazon Queen by Lori Devoti, A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh, and Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery all yesterday.)

So yeah, things are pretty much the same as always. I'm writing, but the rest of life is slow.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Following the story

Six years ago, less a week, I wrote a blog post titled "Protect the Work." It's all about how, once you decide what story you want to write, you need to protect it from outside influences.

It's an important concept. One new writers tend to have trouble with. It's more "You don't like that? Fine, I can change it!" Of course, there are some new writers for whom their every word is golden and should never be touched by human hands (or pens). Both attitudes create problems.

I firmly believe a writer should protect his/her work. Know the story you're writing--what kind of story it is and what you want to say with it. What it's about. And protect it. Write that story.

But be prepared to follow the story where it goes. Down whatever path it might wander.

Stories do that, you know. They're flighty creatures. They tend to take it into their heads to go see what it might look like over here. Or, what about that? What if that happens instead? Plotters do all of this wandering about during their plotting phase, before they really get started with the writing. Pantsers do it while they're writing, in the midst of the writing. Those of us who fall somewhere in between--the story can make us crazy. But we do have room to follow the story where it leads. 'Cause it's going to lead you.

In the Rose books, I really had no intention of Torchay being a major character. The two main characters were going to be Kallista and Stone. And Stone IS a major character. But Torchay...just sorta -- happened. The plot's still the same as the outline I came up with. But the story went entirely astray from my original ideas. And it's the better for it.

Writers need to be able to hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. Because we DO two opposing things at the same time. We know what the story is. But we have to be open to changing it as we go along, as the story unfolds.

I am currently writing a steampunk novella. I'm trying to make it erotic, but don't know how successful I am at that, because it's not going exactly like I thought it would. It's still a steampunk novella--though the steam and the punkness hasn't quite kicked in yet--but it's veering. Or maybe it's taking side trips. I'm not driving straight ahead like I thought I would.

Maybe it's the novella bit I'm having trouble with. I have always had trouble writing short. I'm always coming up with this cool bit, and that great character, and this other neat story angle. This is why I need a road map, and a ruthless red pen. So I can keep myself on the proper path, and then cut out all the extraneous foliage--er, verbiage--when I get to wherever it is I'm going.

That said, I came up with a fabulous detail for the ending of this story yesterday. The story still ends with the sacrifice ending, with the hopeful twist--but there's a twist to the twist that I really like. And I can't tell you what it is, because that would be a spoiler.

So I'm on DAY 17, and I went to the dentist and got the chip on the inside of my lower incisor filled in and smoothed out in just 30 minutes! And I need to go beat the boy about the head and shoulders. He's still asleep, and it's 3 p.m. Shame on him! I am reading too many books today. :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Local wanderings

Okay, it's not much like wandering if you're just driving around town, but it feels wander-y. And I did drive up to League City. Of course, it's only 20 miles away--when we lived in the Panhandle, I drove to Amarillo once a week--60 miles one way. It's nice when you only have to drive 20 minutes to get where you're going. And sometimes less.

This is another week of appointments. Yesterday, I went back to the dermatologist, because they didn't get all the spot on my forehead the first time. And I decided I wanted the wart or whatever on my nose gone. But the open appointment was in League City, not Galveston. So I drove up there, they froze my forehead again and shaved the whatsit off my nose, and then I went to lunch and went shopping. The scab is tiny, and if it makes a scar, that will be tiny too. Less noticeable than the thingamajig that they took off. But I am wearing a bandaid for the next week. I may wind up with a round un-tanned place on my nose. (I plan to stay out of the sun, though.)

Today, I went to the library this afternoon, and on the way, I drove by the eyeglasses place and decided to stop and order some prescription sunglasses. I've needed a new pair since December or so, but put it off for a while. They will be cute. They are aviator-style but with turquoise/navy earpieces with hearts on them. Very cool.

We have a visitor for a few days--friend of the son's who needs a place to stay while she does interviews. I'm having to figure out meals adaptable to a vegetarian diet. It's been kind of fun, but really different. We've had black beans & rice, stuffed baked potatoes and maybe taco salad, or tacos, tonight. Taco salad is probably more adaptable. But I'm still writing.

Today is DAY 16. I've slowed down a bit--yesterday, because I had to leave the house early to go to my appointment, and today, because the boy got a phone call, and while he doesn't talk quite as loud as his father, he's plenty loud. But I'm still getting well over 100 words. :)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

TBR Challenge: Kraken

The Book: Kraken by China Mieville

The Particulars: Del Rey books, 2010, hardback, in print and available as an e-book.

Why was it in my TBR pile? I used to belong to the Science Fiction Book Club. Last June or July or August or so, the book turned up in my mailbox, and when I opened it, thinking it was something else, it looked intriguing enough that I kept it (and paid for it). It only took me a year to get around to reading it. ;)

The Review:  This was an interesting, but weird, book. It's about the end of the world, how it comes about because a preserved giant squid is stolen from a museum. Or does it? It's about belief, and magic, and things like that--how they feed off each other. About noticing things, and about trust and evil and--oh, all sorts of things. It's funny, and scary, and it took me a long while to read, because I could put it down--but I always had to pick it back up again. Very interesting book. A good read.

Yes, my TBR book for July was about a giant squid. A dead giant squid, causing the end of the world. A truly strange read--but oddly fitting for what apparently was July's theme: Fairy tales. Okay, I can't think of any fairy tales about giant squid, right offhand, but it sounds fairy-tale-ish.

So. There is my review. Yes, it's short, but Kraken is almost impossible to boil down to anything longer than a paragraph. You either have to re-tell the whole frickin' story, or you have to just... boil.

And now: DAY 13!!!! I wrote enough I can take tomorrow off if I need to--which I probably will, but might not, since the story is really starting to percolate in my head. We will see how it goes.

And I have counted up--so far, I have read 31 books this month. Have not put them all into GoodReads yet, but I'm working on it. Just so I can whittle the 600+ books on my TBR list down a bit.

Today was a lazy, reading day. I finished Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and also read A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran and Red's Hot Honky Tonk Bar by Pamela Morsi. I liked them all, but really liked the last two a lot.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Come this way, Tropical Storm Don!

Well, looks like Tropical Storm Don will be heading to Texas south of Corpus Christi--or thereabouts. However, we have benefited a little. It rained really hard for about 20 minutes this afternoon. And sorta hard for about 5 minutes this morning. Yeah, I know Corpus needs the rain as bad as we do. Pretty much ALL of Texas needs the rain as bad as we do. (I think there are about 5 counties north of DFW that are only in a mild drought, instead of extreme drought, like the rest of us.) But we really want more rain here, and 60 mph winds? Pfft! We used to get 70 mph straight-line winds on a regular basis up in the Panhandle. Tropical storm-strength winds aren't going to raise many roofs.

Yeah, you know the drought's bad when you're hoping for a hurricane. (But only a level 1.)

I did get my pages written this a.m. I'm still on track. If I'd started earlier, I might've gone more than 3 pages. But I did get 3, so I am on DAY 12.

I will take Sunday off from writing this week, I think. A friend of the boy's will be here Sunday night to stay for a bit, so I need to clean up the office, etc. Find a place where she can put her suitcase... That sort of thing.

Oh, I remember what else I was going to say. I missed my TBR review this month, because that was the week the grandboys were here. I did read a book for the TBR: KRAKEN by China Mieville. I shall do a post for it tomorrow.

This past week, I've read several books. I am currently reading CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare. It's interesting. I'm enjoying it so far. Otherwise, I've caught up on Eileen Wilks's series by reading both Blood Magic and Blood Challenge, so I'm ready for the new one this fall. I've read both THE HEIR and THE SOLDIER by Grace Burrowes. Liked all of them. I'm just trying to make it to the library before my books are due. Sometime next week, I think. Tuesday? The Clare book is from the library...

Need to go catch up on GoodReads. I keep getting ahead of myself.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Double Digits

Okay, so yesterday was Day 10, when I got myself back into double-digit writing days again. But DAY 11 is still double digits. My goal is 100 words for 100 days, but my new interim goal is Day 20. I aim to make it there, because I haven't yet done 20 days in a row without missing one. (You know the deal about taking a day off--I can count ONE day off a week as a writing day if I designate it ahead of time, and I write 200 words the day before.)

I am also writing more than 100 words. I've made it to 3 pages for 3 days in a row, and I'm actually breaking the rules, because I'm not supposed to brag about how much over the 100 words I've gone--but I'm going to do it here, because I'm just bragging to y'all. And there was a time I could write 6 pages a day. I am trying to get back up to that point--and hopefully build beyond it.

I am also trying to get two to three additional things done per day from my list of "things to do." Like going by the optometrist to order a new pair of prescription sunglasses, or get stinkin' Comcast to fix my e-mail. I had trouble getting it set up on the last computer, called and worked with them for about an hour when I got this new computer, and it still doesn't work. It's an alternate address, but it's an important alternate address, and I really need access to it. Sigh. I just know it's going to take HOURS on the phone with them. I haven't done those things yet, though. (sigh again)

Today, I took care of my Target list and ran by Marshall's (It's so cool that there's one on the island!) to see if I could pick up a few things without having to drive all the way to mainland stores. I needed a new purse. I'm one of those who carries the same purse until it falls apart--and the purse I bought sometime around Christmas was reaching that point. Usually they last me a year or so, but that one closed with a magnetic snap that was attached to fabric, which meant that eventually the fabric would tear from the stress of being yanked open all the time--which it did. I also needed new houseshoes and another round tablecloth for the breakfast room for similar reasons. (Things falling apart.)

I found houseshoes for $4--they're white and will probably be instantly filthy, but hey--they cost $4! (And they fit and are comfy. Sometimes it's nice having big feet.) Found a tablecloth for $10, a pair of cute and comfortable sandals for $20 (Cute and comfortable shoes are always on the "to buy" list, right?) (And these were actual leather!), and a turquoise purse for $14.

I had admired another woman's aqua purse while I was at the junior college conference in Horseshoe Bay, and thought I could carry one that color, because it would go (more or less) with everything I own. I do not change purses, except when one dies and I get a new one, because inevitably I would forget to put something important (like glasses or wallet) in one, and get myself into trouble. Tonight is the Purse Transfer moment, as it is still empty--even of the paper stuffing. I will put that on my list, so I can cross it off. I get all excited when I can find what I need for cheap prices. Don't you? Found any bargains lately?

I have an editing job to do by next week. My first official copyedit from Carina Press. I'm all excited.

Have to go up to the mainland to the dermatologist on Monday (I'll drive up there so I don't have to wait till September), so I can shop up there without having to make a special trip. That will be fun too. I no longer shop till I drop (or maybe it's just that my drop point hits sooner), but I do on occasion enjoy it. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"How to Write"

So. It's Wednesday, and I was going to post a blog on a writing topic. I have a draft saved in my draft folder titled "POV, etc." Problem is, I don't remember what I was going to say about POV, and I didn't leave myself any hints in the draft file.

When I was out walking this morning, I was thinking about POV and what I might have wanted to say about it. Like: "POV is a very useful thing." And: "Here's a slick way to change from one POV to another without the reader noticing--I figured it out on my own, but I learned later that it's the same method Suzanne Brockmann uses."

And I will share that with you eventually, but not today. Because that got me to thinking about all the articles and workshops and books and software that are all intended to teach people how to write. There's a buttload of it out there. And most of it is good stuff. There are little tricks and techniques that can be learned. I've learned a lot of them, but when you're in the flow--when the story is really coming and you're getting it down easily and your characters are talking to you and doing their own thing--a lot of times those techniques fall by the way, unless you've internalized them. Unless they just come automatically while you're "blowing and going." And that usually doesn't happen until you've had a lot of practice in writing stuff.

The thing is--there's a million ways to write. Some people plan everything out ahead, some plan nothing, some fall in between the two extremes. Some write a single draft (or nearly) and others write multiple drafts, adding in layers every time. And they're all right. And it's hard for the people who write one way to explain how they write to someone who writes another way.

I have a dear friend who is also a writer, who is often telling me "You have such great characters. How do you come up with characters like that?" And I have no idea how to explain it to her. Because I don't actually "come up" with them. I get to know them, like I get to know people in real life.

I use the Enneagram with my characters, because it's such an in-depth system. But I don't select the type and then construct my character to fit. I get to know the character, and then decide what type best fits them. Many times, I've thought a particular character was one type, and discovered later they weren't any such thing. I can't push a character into a mold I'd like them to fit. They just won't go. But when I tried to explain this to my friend, she couldn't quite get it. This is because--in the Meyers-Briggs system--she is a sensor (senser?) and I am an intuitive. (We're opposites, except that we're both introverts.) I do a fair number of things without quite knowing how I do them.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is that you never know what kind of writing advice / technique / knowledge will or will not work for you. Just because someone is a fabulous writer who's sold a bazillion books and made bestseller lists, it doesn't mean that they can tell you how to write. Nor does it mean they can't.

Stephen King's writing book is holy writ for some people. Didn't do a thing for me. I don't write that way, and I absolutely do not buy it when Stevio says that people who write differently are somehow hacks or lesser beings. (And if that's not how you interpreted what he said, fine.) What works for you is what works for you.

And how are you going to know what works for you if you don't try it?

Maybe King's method does work for you. Give it a whirl. Try it all. Just remember that trying it means WRITING. You can't know what works if you're not writing, and writing and writing.

I know that I hate multiple drafts. I'd rather write it all in one big swoopy slog. Once. Other people can't do it that way, but I hate doing it their way, and the One Time works for me.

I also know that it's not technically one draft, because I write my first draft in longhand. So my second draft is when I type it in. I don't make a whole lot of changes when I type it in--mostly I cut out chit-chat and make a lot of notes for later of things I need to add or cut out or clean up, and then when I print it all out, I make those cuts and corrections. I like hard copy because then I can look at multiple pages all at one time, without going blind. (Every time you add a page to your screen, the type gets littler--and I'm kinda blind to start with.)

I know that I have to have a minimal outline--a one-page Hero's Journey or Beat Sheet with the main plot points on it. But it makes me crazy to go into more detail than that. Which makes me fall somewhere in the middle on the plotter-pantser scale.

I know that notecards and storyboards usually don't work very well for me. I'm apparently not that visual. (I don't do those really cool collage boards either, though I'd like to.)

I'm a linear writer--I start at the beginning and work my way through, so having notecards with story scenes that I'm moving around makes no sense to me. The scene happens in that spot because of what's come before, and it can't happen anywhere else. I can't even outline out of order.

This is how I work (and I'm not even talking about characters, here, which is a whole other thing)--and if that helps you in any way--if it allows you to say--"Oh, I get that!" or "So it's okay that I don't get storyboards?"--then I have accomplished my purpose. Which has been to say--look at all the writing helps out there, AS LONG AS YOU KEEP WRITING. That's the main thing. Keep Writing!!!

That said, I did get my writing done today. THREE pages!! (which is ... hmm, 100 words is about half a page, so that makes 600 words?) Go me! DAY 10!

I'm late for getting downtown to sing with the band, so I'd better run.

Oh--the picture is from Stone House Vineyard in central Texas. I think the address is Marble Falls, but it might be Spicewood. Not sure. Anyway--I was there on a royally hot day, so I thought I'd share the picture with you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Falling down on the blogging job

The grandkids were here. I just did not make it to the computer to type in a blog. I also did not take many pictures. (sigh) (That picture is of the view from our hotel room in Horseshoe Bay, which is where we went the day after my last day at work.) (I know. I am a bad blogger.)

I did write--most of the days. I forgot Saturday, last week. The day the boys arrived. I actually did write on Thursday--Schlitterbahn day--and on Tuesday, when we went up to Houston to the Children's Museum (TOTALLY worth going to, but from here, you have to plan at least a whole afternoon, because it takes an hour to get there) (and an hour to get home again). Tuesday was also my RWA chapter meeting day. I left from the museum to drive there. It went really well. (Whew!) Meetings can be a little stressful when one is the program person. :)

The boys went home Sunday noon. I am now officially self-employed, and I need to get busy on that employment. The writing is a large part of it, and I'm doing pretty well on the writing. I am on DAY 9! (Go me!!)

I also need to do things like build a new website for my editing, and learn how to format books and make covers and stuff like that. It's going to be a busy few weeks, I think.

Tomorrow, I'm going to write a blog post about writing. I am going to try to do writing posts on Wednesdays, because the Ws match. :) The rest of the time--it's going to be about stuff.

Like the drought. It's bad. I know it's been up in the 100s over most of the country, which is horrible. It's been that way here in Texas since--oh, May or so. Everything is drying up.

On the way to Horseshoe Bay, we crossed the Pedernales River (which is pronounced Perdnales, for some reason--probably that we're ornery Texans). Those are not houses down in that "pretty valley." Those are boat docks. On the bottom of the river. I imagine it's as green as it is, because that's the river bottom, and there are a few puddles down there... Now, Texans have a persistent habit of looking to see whether there's any water in the river any time we cross a bridge (I sometimes even catch myself looking even when crossing the causeway over Galveston Bay). But usually--unless it's the Red River--they don't look like that. This is a really bad drought, y'all. We're thinking it's going to take a serious tropical storm to break it. Pray for rain, y'all--but not too much of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quick Post - Day 6

Got my pages done. Enough that I can take tomorrow off if I need to. But if I can write tomorrow, I probably will, because there may be an activity planned for Thursday. We'll see. The story is going well. :)

Last day

Last one at the dayjob, anyway. I have enjoyed working at The Daily News. Of course, I'm such an introvert, I haven't really got to know everyone as much as I might have. And I've really missed the Brit since he got laid off in January. Since he left, it's just been easier to wrap myself up in the job and the Internet and not mingle so much. Of course, these days most of the reporters, etc. are 30 years or more younger than me, so... And yeah, most of the stuff I do doesn't show up online, since "Applause" is so photo-heavy. I've spend half my days putting pictures of people donating stuff and/or getting awards into the computer system, and most of the other half cleaning up letters to the editor and thinking up snarky headlines (most of which get used, to my amusement) as part of putting things into the computer.

It won't be a whole lot different, copyediting for Carina--except the grammar and punctuation should be a whole lot better. I don't expect that Carina Press accepts much that's been written in all caps. Or without any caps. Or punctuation. Or things with two periods here, and none on the next sentence--because, hey--there was an extra on the last one! Or anything that has "leopolds" that "don't change their strips."

Tomorrow, the fella and I are going to Marble Falls (that's in Texas) for a conference of his--which is why today's my last day--so I think I'm going to try to get extra words, in case I don't get any written tomorrow. But tomorrow might not be my day off. I might need to take Thursday. I'm making contingency plans to take one day or the other off. I'll have to work really hard this next week to get my 100 words done every day--because the grandboys are coming the day we get home, and Pirate Week at SeaCamp starts Monday. However, there IS the time they'll be at SeaCamp. :) That said, I did get up to

DAY 5

Yes, I wrote my 100 words yesterday. I probably could have written more, but there was a lot of other stuff I needed to do in my office (which did not include cleaning it up... sigh), so I did that.

Okay, gotta run.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 4 - Again

This morning, someone said that it takes about six weeks to thoroughly establish a new habit, which is why most people don't manage it...because they don't make six weeks. I made about two, so I've got a ways to go. Still, I wrote today. I made it to DAY 4.

And today, I wrote actual words on my story. I wrote the opening scene. My Post-It Note scene board is kinda thin--but that's okay with me. I'm writing a novella. If I filled it up, I'd have a novel. I'm really good at expanding on what I have. I am a "taker-outer"--amongst all the other divisions in the writing world, like plotter and pantser and puzzler, someone has divided writers into "putter-inners" and "taker-outers." A taker-outer writes long, then cuts to size. Anyway, I wrote actual words. So I'm good.

Now, on to more interesting stuff... or other stuff that's interesting to me, anyway...

I went out walking yesterday morning. Shoulda probably gone out this evening, but haven't yet, and the sun's going down. Anyway, I was impressed by all the umbrellas they were putting out. The past couple of years, they only put umbrellas to the left of where I reach the seawall. Saturday morning, they put a double row to the left, but they had a whole row off to the right. Not sure you can see them in this picture, but there's a row of little blue dots just past the lifeguard stand. More folks have been coming to Galveston this year.

So have the pelicans. I know I've talked about how many pelicans there are...but this time, I've got proof! And I forgot to share it back when I got it.

While we were sitting out on the seawall on July 4, waiting for the sun to go down, the pelicans were flying out to the Gulf from --I think Deer Island is where they nest. I can point to it from the causeway, but am never sure of the name. They really come out in force at dusk and dawn. So they were flying over in big numbers.

Pelicans like to fly in lines. Usually, they're in straight lines, not the Vs like geese, but if enough of them line up, sometimes, they'll make a V. And most of the time, they're in lines of three or four up to about 15 pelicans. Being such big birds, and flying in straight lines like that, they're fairly easy to count, so when I saw a Big V of pelicans flying by Monday night, I counted them. And wow! That line had 24 pelicans--a full two dozen! I counted several other lines of 10 and 12 birds, and several of one or two. Then came the big momma V... 45 pelicans. Forty. Five. All in one bunch. I'm pretty sure these were all different pelicans, not the same ones circling round, because they were all--every single one--flying west to east, heading up the island and gradually out over the water. Like they came out one way, and went home another. It was soooooooo cool!

Now this picture, I took yesterday in hopes that y'all (and me) could see the color change in the water. It goes from greenish to blue a ways out there... but it doesn't really show that well, does it? Oh well. Still, it's pretty cool that this is just a block or so from my house...

Oh! And one more bit of news. I mentioned, didn't I, that I had received "signs from the universe" and that I'll be leaving the day job? (Two more days, and I'm heading to Marble Falls with the fella for him to go to a conference, and me to go...write.) I applied to do some freelance copyediting with a publisher but hadn't heard if I had it for sure, when I resigned. Well, I got the job. I will be doing copyediting for Carina Press, which is the e-first publisher for Harlequin Ltd. Contract's signed, "preference" list is turned in (I turned down horror and thriller and things like that, because I am a wimp), and I'm all ready to go. I'm excited.

Also, I've been on a bit of a reading binge. (I did go to the library.) I finished NATIVE STAR by Hobson. I have read DREAMS OF A DARK WARRIOR by Kresley Cole (good), and THE BIKINI CAR WASH by Pamela Morsi (good), and HARD FALL by James Buchanan. I may have read something else in there, but I don't remember, if I did. I'm started on both SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION by Loretta Chase and JUST LIKE HEAVEN by Julia Quinn. I think I'm more in a Quinn mood, so I'll probably finish it first. And with the trip to Marble Falls later this week, I ought to be able to read more.

I'm going to have to plan out my "no writing day"--see which day I'll have more busyness...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Tarot cards as plot developer

Holy crap, y'all-- I have used Tarot cards in my writing before. A lot. I use them to do character readings, so I can look deeper into my characters. I use them for GMC (goal, motivation and conflict--but y'all know that, right?). But I do not think they have EVER done such an amazing job for me.

See, after I wrote on Thursday, I took a hard look at my story thus far, and realized it sucked. I have a great premise, but I really didn't have an actual story. No plot.

So I pulled out my Blake Snyder Beat Sheet--which first I had to find in one of my backup hard drives, then had to adjust so I could get it to fit all on one page again--and realized I hadn't plotted anything in so long, I couldn't remember what all the beats meant. So I had to hunt up the book, which I had loaned to the son who is doing some writing, and he had to hunt it up from the depths of his desk. I re-read the Beat Sheet chapter, then I re-read the rest of the book, kind of in reverse order. Then I looked at the sheet I'd printed out again, and realized that I really and truly did not have any plot at all whatsoever, because I had NOTHING to put on the sheet. I had my premise, and my characters, and beyond that? Nada.

I mean, I knew where I thought the thing should start, and I kinda had an idea of a couple of things that might happen, but where exactly on the beat sheet should they go? Were they the 'break into two' or maybe the B-Story, or what? No clue.

I stared at that sheet for a while longer, before it occurred to me that maybe the Tarot cards could help. They certainly couldn't hurt. My main deck is in my red bag in the living room and I didn't want to go get it, but I have a duplicate deck (I use the Shakespearean Tarot--those cards in the image above are some of them) on a shelf in my office, so I grabbed that one. And wham!

Opening image was the 8 of Sceptres/Wands. Things are changing quickly, good things coming. Okay. That will work. Then the theme--which I did not have a clue about-- And up comes Strength. Which totally suits the story as well--strength of character is more important than strength of body... Then for the set-up, I got The Empress, Reversed. The Empress is all about being a woman. A woman of authority. (It has other meanings too, but...) And since my main character is a woman whose very womanliness has been taken away from her at the beginning of the story... You see where I'm going here?

Okay, as I got further into the Beat Sheet, some of the cards weirded me out. For instance, the Final Scene card came up as the 5 of Orbs/Cups, which is all about loss and grief. I'm writing a romance--we don't do sad endings. But, on the other hand, I'm plotting a novella, which I plan to be one of a series which will make up a larger story. If I make the ending about loss, but make it optimistic--a "this is bad now, but it's not the way it will stay"...maybe it will work.

And the happy thing for me is, if the market I'm writing it for doesn't work, there's plenty of other places it can go. And I can always draw another card, if I don't like the one I got. Or just change the ending. But I kind of like it now ... the ending I have in mind.

So, I am up to Day 3, since I've actually written a lot of words today. They may not be part of the actual manuscript, but I wrote them, and they progress the story, so I'm gonna count them!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Connecting with your characters - redux

Or "trying again." 'Cause I'm not real sure what "redux" means. (Wait--let me go look it up...)

Redux means "brought back" so it fits. I've brought the topic back. Because I didn't get around to coming back and writing about it yesterday. See, I had the dayjob till almost 4 p.m., then I had to drive to the medical school health clinic for a dermatologist appointment, then I had to get my head examined (literally) and my brain frozen (sorta--it was a spot on my forehead they froze), and then it was time to change to go downtown to sing. I sang till 8:30 p.m., got home at close to 9, went out with the fella and the boy to Salsa's for supper--it was mariachi night--the mariachi band was playing, and they were good! (I had Pollo del Mar--chicken with a seafood sauce that had crab meat, shrimp and crawfish in it--YUM!) Anyway, by the time we got home, I was exhausted, and I just didn't make it. I didn't get any writing done, so I have to start over on my day-counting, and I sure didn't get back here to write anything on what I wanted to write about.

I'm going to try to make Wednesdays about Writing. But if you've been following my blog for very long, you probably know that I'm not very good about being organized. I do pretty good for a while, then something happens (like getting my head frozen) (The spot's not cancerous or anything, it's just big and brown and scaly and itchy, and I want it gone.), and my good intentions fall completely apart. I will do my VERY best, but... It's me.

So. Have you ever gotten one of those rejections? The ones that say "I just couldn't connect with your characters"? If you're a writer, I'm sure you've received rejections, but if you're lucky, yours said something besides "Thanks, but no thanks." Because then you can do something about it--for the next submission, because unless the rejection says "I'd be happy to look at this again, after revisions," you don't send this same thing back to the editor. You're better off writing something new anyway. But you're also better off writing characters your reader can connect to. How do you do this, you ask? Well...

I'm sure you've heard "Your characters can do anything they want, as long as you motivate it." Right? The problem is, sometimes that motivation doesn't come through on the page. Writing classes usually say "Less is more," and "Show, don't tell." And yes, that is important. But sometimes, less is just less. And you're showing all you can, and the reader just can't see. Because there's nothing really there to see but words. Little chicken scratches on paper.

This is where what I call "The Novelist's Secret Weapon" comes in. See, today's writer of fiction is ... yeah, I think the word I want is handicapped. So much of the entertainment we consume is visual. It's movies and video games and television. Yes, it's all stories, but the stories are acted out. We're seeing the story, and yes, hearing it too. And writers tend to write their novels almost as if they were screenplays. Oh, they're in a prose format--but all you get is action and dialogue. Or maybe the action stops for some backstory or other exposition. Problem is--movies and television have actors, and we've been reading body language and facial expressions for thousands of years longer than we've been reading words. So you need more.

The Novelist's Secret Weapon is that you can give your reader more. We can crawl inside the character's head and share what they're thinking and what they're feeling and how they react to the events in the story. If you're not giving us something from inside your character's head every few paragraphs, you're not giving us anything to connect with. We need that thought and reaction and emotion in order to connect.

Here's how I did it in my first book with Tor, New Blood:
“I want to do it today,” Amanusa said. “I want you to take the blood and put it in the porridge pot, and in the tea kettle. Those who don't eat porridge drink tea, and those who don't drink tea--”

“Yes, Miss Whitcomb.” Jax waited, bent over in the doorway.

“Can you do it without anyone noticing?”

“Of course. Yvaine often had me deliver the blood to the vessel.”

“Don't stand there blocking the light,” she snapped, irritated for no reason and annoyed because of it. “Come in or go out, but don't stand in the doorway.”

“Of course, Miss Whitcomb.” He left the tent.

“No, come back.”

Obedient as always, he returned and waited for her command. Amanusa wished she knew what to ask of him.

“You think I'm wrong, don't you?” She didn't know she was going to say it until the words were out. “You don't think I should do it.”
 I highlighted the internal things, so you wouldn't miss them. You don't have to put the thoughts/reactions in every paragraph. It's better if you don't, in fact. But whenever something happens your character would have a reaction to--show their reaction.

Here's a short excerpt from China Mieville's Kraken:
"The boy peeped. He looked at the bone apatosaurus that Billy had seemed to greet. Or maybe, Billy thought, he was looking at the glyptodon beyond it. All the children had a favorite inhabitant of the Natural History Museum's first hall, and the glyptodon, that half-globe armadillo giant, had been Billy's." 
The blue is direct thought. The green is narrative that conveys something only the character would know. But you need to keep it up, connecting the reader with the characters through their thoughts, knowledge and emotions, the way they react to things. Here, Mieville shows Billy connecting with the little boy at the museum, and that makes us connect with him, at least a bit, by showing Billy as a little boy himself. One who liked dinosaurs.

Do you see? One way to help the reader connect with the character is by showing what is going on inside the character--who they are deep down inside. We can't see, literally, what the character is doing, but we have that Secret Weapon. We can show what's inside their brains. And if we don't use it, we're going to lose--not the weapon, but the reader.

Now--it may be that you have plenty of thought, emotion and reaction, but the reader still can't connect because, well, your character just isn't coming off as likable. *raises hand* Been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt. And I know how to fix that too. But that's a topic for another day.

I'll have to write something in a little bit, so I can start over on Day 1. I wrote enough on Tuesday that if I had decided beforehand to take Wednesday off, and it wasn't too close to the last day I took off, I could have... but I didn't decide beforehand, and it's less than a week, so I have to start over. Ugh. Yeah, I'm all whiney. I'll come back and add to this after I write.

DAY 1

Good thing I don't really care for a lot of the television shows the fella likes to watch. I got my words written. Let's see if I can make it to 20 this time...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Connecting with your characters

What it means when a rejection letter says "I just couldn't connect with your character" and how to fix it. I'm going to write about this, but later today. 'kay? I'll be back. I didn't mean to publish this yet. Oops!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Holiday Fireworks

Yesterday was the Fourth of July--America's Independence Day. I had a holiday, and I was extremely lazy.

Well, I felt lazy, anyway. The fella went downtown to ride in the parade--too hot for me--and I put some pork on to barbecue, and mixed up the potato salad we'd boiled potatoes and eggs for the previous night. I did some other stuff too, but can't remember what it is now, because by the time the fella got back from the parade, I was goofing off. And I did that most of the day. I'm very good at goofing off.

The boy and a couple of his friends came down about 2 p.m. and we all had lunch, then they went out to the beach--taking the doggies. (The friends brought a friend for Dolly the princess pitbull to play with.) They all exhausted themselves--humans and doggies alike. Somewhere in there, I took a break from goofing off to take a nap.

Then we had supper (the barbecued pork and potato salad), and went down to the seawall for the fireworks. You can see the edge of the boy, and the jetty from which the fireworks were shot off beyond him, out in the Gulf. There were a lot more people on the beach by the time the fireworks started. Also, it was dark. You could see the lights from all the boats out on the horizon, waiting to head into port, not to mention the sport fishing boats that had come way inshore to watch the show. But I didn't take any pictures after dark. Because it was dark!

It was a good show. Not as fabulous as the one for the Hotel Galvez's 100th birthday, but a good show. I was just glad they actually had a fireworks show. All home fireworks got banned, because of our extreme drought. However, I figured they wouldn't stop Galveston's fireworks, because they set them off over water. It's the cotton-pickin' Gulf of Mexico. Then there's sand, then the concrete of the seawall and street. A long way before any sparks reach anything that might burn.

There were more people at this year's fireworks show than in all the previous years since Hurricane Ike. It was a really big crowd. And the kids saw "The Little Couple." The one from the TLC TV show, who apparently live in Houston, and came down to Galveston for the  fireworks. Or maybe for the whole weekend. :) I didn't see them, so you won't see me on TV, but hey--I was there!

And today is DAY 15. (Yesterday was Day 14. I wrote double on Sunday, remember?) I didn't want to watch whatever it is the fella has on television, so I came back and downloaded pictures from my camera, and I wrote. I had to stop, though, because I need to figure out the rules for my society. There is magic--but does everybody know about it? Do they all believe in it? I think it's fading, but just how open is it? Yeah, I know. I should have decided this stuff earlier. But I didn't, so...

I am still reading THE NATIVE STAR by M.K. Hobson. I also went to the library this afternoon (took all the books back on Sunday) because hey, it's only about 3 blocks from the post office, and I had to go get the mail. So I also started DREAMS OF A DARK PRINCE, or DARK DREAMS OF A PRINCE, or ... what is the name of that Kresley Cole book? DREAMS OF A DARK WARRIOR! Yeah. I started it and I'm still reading the other book. I got two books off the "new" shelves, so I'll need to read them next. But maybe I can finish the Hobson book first.

Five more days at the newspaper. I need to write an item for the newspaper's newsletter... Hmm.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Beach Band performance

They changed the Tuesday night band concert to Sunday this week, in honor of the Fourth. Galveston Beach Band performs every Tuesday in summer--except this week, they had their band concert on Sunday, and invited our church choir to come sing a "Salute to Armed Forces." (Yes, this is the band, at it's previous performance.) Fortunately, we sang the medley in church this a.m., otherwise I'd never have known how the Coast Guard Marching Song goes. But I know now. They lined us all up in front of the band shell, put those of us who usually sing in the church band in front--and then put the  mike in front of us. Made me nervous. Anyway, it went pretty well, though my voice decided to be a little wobbly. Oh well. It was fun.

We waved at the duck tour when they went by, and watched the kids play maracas and ring the bell they'd salvaged. The trombones and tuba came forward and played "Them Basses," which is a very cool march. (If you can play a scale, you can pretty much play that march--if you can play it fast enough.) The beach band uniform is Hawaiian shirts--tonight's trombonists didn't have the guy on the left, but the tuba player came up front with them. He's good.

Today was a very lazy day. I took a nap. I also wrote. Enough that I can take tomorrow off. Tomorrow is the holiday, and we have company coming, so I thought I might not have as much time to write then.

DAY 13 is done. I had a good time singing, had a good time at the concert. I enjoyed my nap, too.

I've read UNLOCKED by Courtney Milan, & enjoyed it. I read MAGIC SLAYS by Ilona Andrews (didn't know IA was a writing team...), and I'm now reading THE NATIVE STAR by ... I forgot. I'll have to look it up. by M.K. Hobson. I was remembering the initials right, but not the last name. So, there's the list.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Holiday weekend

And I've made it to Day 11 and Day 12.

I'm through the "opening" and to the explaining part. Exposition is always boring, but maybe I can figure out some action to go with it.

Yesterday, I barely squeaked in under the line, but still got my words written and a little more. Today, I woke very early with a headache, and went ahead and got up. Then I went out for a walk on the seawall--Folks were already filling the beach up. I'm wondering if there's a beach volleyball tournament this weekend, because I saw a women's team of some kind working out on the beach, except the balls didn't look like volleyballs. Water's still green all the way inshore, and the wind is minimal, which means it's perfect for swimming. I'll have to see if I can drag the boy out to swim with me.

Anyway, after I got home and cleaned up, I sat down to write, and I've got enough I can take tomorrow off again.

The fella has started cleaning house. He's already brought two stacks of things into the office...which is a huge mess, but who knows when that will be amended. I think I'm going to catch up on the sleep I missed this morning so we can go see a movie this afternoon. I'm still wanting to see Super 8. And yeah, I'll have to kick in on the cleaning too. Sigh. It's kinda like "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," except it's "When Dad's cleaning, everybody's cleaning."

I guess I ought to pitch in and clean...I need to find my camera. I did figure out how to turn on the phone's camera... But in celebration of actually writing a blog post on my home computer, where I have pictures. here's the picture the older son made me take in Pittsburgh of him with Heinz Field in the background. It's the yellowish bit above the yellow arch of the bridge. This is the son who wants to be a coach. He's into sports, just a little... ;)

And yes, we're planning a very lazy holiday weekend... About all we really have planned is going to the fireworks show Monday night. They shoot them from one of the rock piers out over the Gulf of Mexico, so there's not much worry about fires in our drought. All other fireworks have been banned.

Oh, I'm keeping track of books here too. This morning, I finally finished REBEL by Zoe Archer. I bought a couple-three or so e-books last night. Need to put them on the reader so I can read them. And maybe go to the library... I've read all my library books.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Day 10

Can you believe it? I've actually made it 10 days, writing every day. In longhand, the way I write fiction.

Yesterday, it was iffy. I went to the grocery store after work. (And actually topped $200 in my grocery bill!) (I don't go very often, because I don't like to.) By the time I got home and unloaded the car (mostly--left the cokes for the fella to bring in), and cooled off (Boy! it was hot yesterday!!) and put the food away, and decided what I wanted to think about maybe cooking for supper, the afternoon was gone. Then it was time to actually cook supper.

I did a Thai-style beef stirfry with snow peas & red pepper & a peanut sauce that could have used more hot sauce, with noodles. I'd bought the snow peas after I made this the first time, and needed to use them and the fresh cilantro before they got old. Cilantro really has to be used fresh. A lot of herbs still have flavor when they're dried, but not cilantro. Parsley is probably the same way--except I've never really been able to taste much besides "green" when I taste parsley.

Anyway, after supper, I was sitting around reading about the Best & Worst Legislators in the Texas Monthly (where politics is a spectator sport), and it got later, and later--and finally, it was to the point of: "If you do not go in there Right Now and write SOMETHING, you will have to start over again, counting your days."

So I went. I wrote. At least 100 words. In my rather small and crabbed longhand, 100 words is about half a page, if there's not too much dialogue. I had dialogue, so I wrote more than half a page.Yes, I'm still in the middle--well, more the beginning--of the love scene. But people talk then, too, you know.

I also read a book yesterday: finished A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray. I've pretty much been trying to decide what I think about it since.

I work at keeping up with the books at GoodReads, but I'm usually 4 to 6 (or more) books behind, there, because I try to write a little something about the book so I can hopefully remember it when I look it up, and remember that I've read it. Maybe I'll just list them here... Some of my books are on the little widget in the sidebar, but they're more random, not necessarily the most recently read. I don't know how to tell it to show the recent reads. Sigh.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Plans of mice and me

Actually, I do not know what the mice are planning. But you might want to be afraid. They're kind of scary-looking, right?

As for me? Nah. No need for fear, or worry or any of that stuff--from you anyway. Me? Yeah, I'm a little nervous.

See, I quit the dayjob. I may have mentioned that in an earlier blog--snuck it in at the end. I'm still AT the dayjob. I'm not officially leaving until July 12. (That's my last day. So does that mean I'm leaving on the 13th?) Why, do you ask? So I can write more, and get into that self-publishing stuff.

I mentioned back in May that I wanted to do this, and since then, I have done very little toward that goal. Yes, I know other people work many more hours than I do, and get lots more done than I do. What can I say? Everyone is different.

I don't make that much at the dayjob, it's just part time, and I take off quite a bit to go see about the parents and help with grandkids or have them visit. And it's not as part time as it used to be. I'm working about 30 hours a week now, which cuts even more into my writing time. But still, I was chicken about taking the plunge.

So, I was walking up the steps into the newspaper office (that's where the dayjob is) one day a week or so ago, thinking "Gee, this job really gets in the way of the writing and publishing stuff I want to do. I could get a lot more done if I quit, but... What I really need is a sign." And when I got inside and signed into my e-mail, I found not just one, but TWO opportunities in writing and editing--one each.

I can take a hint. The "universe" does not need to smack me upside the head.

I still don't know for sure if the freelance copyediting opportunity will pan out like I want it to, but after copyediting here at the newspaper for around four years, plus my writing experience, I know I'm a good copyeditor, and a good editor besides. I imagine it will take a while to get that side of the work going like I want it, especially since I'm not a great salesman. However, I've already had someone approach me about doing a copyedit/proofing of a novel they'll be self-publishing. It may take off faster than I thought.

But even if it doesn't, that will just give me more time to write and publish, and self-publish. I'm not shutting down any avenues. They're all open right now. But I may start with a different story than the one I thought I would. We'll see. I'm not in a huge, huge hurry.

That said, we are at DAY 9.

I went out to get a shrimp po'boy for lunch yesterday and took the story to write with me, instead of a book to read. I am up to an actual love scene, and those always write slow. But it's moving forward!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I do not take pictures

Well, sometimes I take them. But then I don't get around to putting them up for anyone else to see. However, this time, I have not taken any pictures.

I can't find my camera. And while I finally have a phone that will take pictures--I traded up when the fella got a new one--I've forgotten where the camera button is. And I think I have to plug the phone into the computer to upload the pictures, because I don't have a data plan. (Too cheap.) Otherwise, you see, I would have taken a picture of the new car--a smaller SUV than the Silver Beast--and posted it for you. But I can't find my camera, and I forgot how to turn on the phone camera. (I've only had it a week or so! Come on... Gimme a break...)

But it's a lovely vehicle, and we're still negotiating who will be the primary driver. I have been the primary SUV driver over the past 20 years, starting with a big conversion van we got when the kids were 10, 8 and 2--we could put them in it, and they could almost not touch each other. Then I had a Suburban, then the Beast. The fella has mostly been driving sedans. I am ambivalent. I would like to drive the new vehicle, because it's new. Then again, I'd like to drive the Avalon, because it's a car and I've been driving a truck ForEVER. Though I do like to drive trucks--and I can park them. Mostly. (Okay, I still kinda suck at parallel parking.) And yeah, we just picked it up yesterday afternoon.

It's white, and loaded with all kinds of bells and whistles, and we got a good deal on it. (That is a picture of A car like we got. They have lots of pics online... This is not Our car. We do  not have any trees that look like that. They cut them all down after the hurricane, 'cause they were dead. Though the grass--looks green & brown in patches, mostly.)

We didn't trade the Beast, but once the grandkids go home after Pirate Week, we'll sell it. What? You think we're taking them to the beach and water park in the new car??? (Okay, we'll WALK to the beach, but I think fishing is in the plans somewhere... Fish gear in the new car? Ewww.)

I did get some writing done yesterday. Got my words and a bit more while the fella went down to church to help with something. So we're at Day 8. Go me!! It feels slow, though. I'm trying to write a novella! However, I am a "taker-outer." I write too much, then cut stuff.

Um--and tomorrow, I will try to remember to write a post about what I'm going to be doing now that I've quit my dayjob. I'm going to get organized here on this blog. Seriously! I am. Really!!!

Well, as much as a Virgo who is also an Enneagram 9 (fatal flaw: laziness) and an INFP hybrid pantser/plotter taker-outer can get...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I get pictures


See? I get pictures. The grandson needs things to keep him occupied, so they went to the zoo. He says the elephant is nice. 

He thinks his baby sister is nice too. So much, he keeps moving her while she's taking a nap. He puts her on Mom's bed, and she falls off. He may have figured out this is not a good thing, by now. We are hoping she gets too big for him to pick up soon. She's growing fast... 

Yesterday, I wrote. I'm counting Sunday as Day 6, because I wrote extra on Saturday. (I can take one day off a week, if I write extra the day before, but only one day per week.) And I wrote yesterday, so that's Day 7. Today, I don't have to head out to the mainland after the dayjob, like I thought I would, so I ought to be able to write more than just 100 words today. 

I took the registration paperwork out to the Texas A&M-Galveston campus yesterday for the other two grandboys' Sea Camp daycamp later in July. We love having them down, and I think they enjoy the Sea Camp. There's an overnight camp they can do as they get older, but for now, the daycamp is great. They'll do Pirate Week in the mornings and hang out with Gigi and Granddaddy in the afternoons. :)

The Gulf was green all the way into shore yesterday as I drove home. The Gulf is shallow, and a lot of the Mississippi's outflow comes our way, so we do have brown water a lot, but right now, it's green. Perfect time to swim, if I can get somebody to go with me. The rip currents have died back some... Maybe, if I'm persuasive...

Later Tuesday: I'm driving to the mainland after work after all.  We're heading up to pick up our new car. I also gave notice at the dayjob today. I'll be working through July 12.