Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WhooHoo, Yet Another Milestone

Some time in the early hours of this morning, I passed six thousand views. If I'm counting right, I am now getting a thousand visits to this blog [my views/visits don't get counted, btw] every forty-five days or so [okay, forty-seven, in this case]. 

I just want to say thank you, really. Even if you're just being curious, it makes me feel good to get that much traffic on a site that is basically all about me

Monday, July 22, 2013

Not Even a Day

It didn't even take a day, and I was editing (mentally, and physically this evening) the cover art.  Several people suggested that the font for the title and the font for my nom du plume were too close to the same size, even though inch-wise, my name was an inch smaller than the title.  But visually it was hard to tell.

 So I'm posting some more to look at.  I like the color and the schema.  Now it's just a matter of getting it perfect.

When I made it I thought putting the coffee stain around my name was cute, but I can't decide if it's cool or hokey.  It certainly makes my name stand out, and I do want that.

With that said, these aren't the last.  But they're close.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cover Art for "An Untold Want"

So I think this might be it, the cover art that I'll used for An Untold Want (formerly known as Counting Crows).  I've been playing all weekend, and if this isn't it, then it's close.

Let me know what you think.

Of course, after a few days, I may think, why did I like that.  Just call me finicky and mercurial and just a bit crazy.  I change my mind, a lot.

The crow imagery came from Colleen, my Crowtographer friend.  You can find a lot more of her incredible work (and there's more than crows) at @TheCrowtographer

Note: there is a pale gray 3-pixel border around the image because it's recommended by Amazon. Normally this will show up on a white background (instead of black like my blog background). Anyway, that's why you see a white line around it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Yes, The Cat will be Okay

Last weekend I got a text from a friend which said that [and I'm paraphrasing] her friend was reading Couillon, and she really liked the story, but before she went any further she wanted to know if the cat would be okay.

Years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a writers' retreat in Maui.  [Sadly, that program no longer exists.]  Anyway, James Rollins spoke at the retreat.  He did a presentation on How to Make a Character More Likable.  The one suggestion I remember best, because I love animals, was to give the character a pet.  Again, I'm paraphrasing, but he said something like this: If in your book, you gave Hitler a big goofy Labrador as a pet, the reader would feel the need to find some redeeming quality in him because monsters can't possibly own big goofy Labradors. The thing is that even with Hitler, if he's part of your story, he can't be two-dimensional.  Yes, he was a monster, and should be portrayed as such, but if you don't give him other qualities, at least one good quality, your story will be flat... and boring.  You want to surprise your reader.

Maybe I'll write a post about making characters likable, someday, but, as they say in old books/movies, I digress.  Back to the issue with the cat being okay.

Oy, the BillyBunbler
The other thing I know about pets in novels, is that they should survive whatever situation you put them in. I can't remember where I heard/read it, maybe in Stephen King's On Writing, although he kills the Oy, the BillyBumbler in the last book of The Dark Tower.  Basically the rule is to never, ever kill a pet in your story unless it is absolutely necessary.  Where humans are concerned, we see and read about so much violence and killing, we've become desensitized to their deaths, no matter how bizarre or gross, but kill a pet and you will likely alienate your reader.  So, unless you have a following as big as Stephen King's, always make sure the pet is okay at the end of the story.

I will say that I cried more about that damn BillyBumbler dying than any of the other characters in The Dark Tower.  And if it had of been a new author I was reading, I may not have ever read another novel by that author.

Sometimes it happens even with authors I love.  In Minette Walters' The Shape of Snakes, her descriptions of cruel acts committed on neighborhood cats by one of the characters almost put me off reading her ever again.  She's a good writer, but I don't want those images in my head.  Maybe if she hadn't been quite so graphic about what was done, but it make me feel sick and afraid to read more of her work.  So you see, it does matter.  If she'd described those same things happening to a human... well, good, bad, or indifferent, let's just say all those murder mysteries I've read have certainly anesthetized me to humans being tortured and killed.  But not animals.

So, think twice before hurting or killing an animal, especially a pet, in your story.

With that said, yes, in both Couillon and An Untold Want, the cat will be okay, as will the dog in Beryl's Story.

OK, Back to Writing Posts about Writing

It's funny not having anything pressing to work on, writing wise.  My editor and friend, Lisa Poisso, is still crunching the bits on An Untold Want [formerly known as Counting Crows]; once she's done, I'll have more to do, especially if this last agent rejects me. If the rejection happens before August 1st, I want to publish An Untold Want on Amazon on that day.

Anyway, with Lisa hard at work, for the past few weeks I've been catching up on to-dos that have sat for months while I edited and re-worked An Untold Want.  I finished my quilt [as you saw in the refrigerator post] and mended a couple of older quilts.  I'm working on a quilt that's a Christmas present. Not saying for whom.  I've tried to de-clutter, but the kitchen is a mess without the refrigerator [water pitcher, sodas, and other stuff I normally have in the fridge, sitting out on the counter or on ice in the cooler on the counter].  I went through stuff and got rid of lots.  I now have several boxes of stuff in the boot of my car to take to Goodwill.

And I've read a lot.  I finished The Shining and Joyland.  Love him, but then you know that.  I'm reading Capote's first published novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.  I finally finished A Confederacy of Dunces, yay!  The second half was much more engaging than the first.  And I sped through a couple of my beloved murder mysteries: Caedmon's Song by Peter Robinson and The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  Plus I'm currently reading The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall.  Those Scandinavians are damn good at writing mysteries and detective stories.

But even with all that to keep me busy, the past few nights, Beryl and Jeryl have been sneaking into my consciousness.  What about us? they're saying.  Have you forgotten about us?

Sheepishly, I twist the truth and say, No, I haven't forgotten.  What I fail to mention is that I haven't been actively thinking of them, which amounts to the same thing.  Although, this weekend I've thought a lot about them and the story and its structure.

You see, this past Friday night, I went to a friend's retirement party, and sometime during the evening, he had everyone at the table stop and listen to me explain about Couillon and everything else I have been writing.  It was a lovely thing to do, especially as everyone seemed to hang on every word I said.  Yes, they're very nice people.  And so, my monologue ended with me telling them about what's coming up, the story of Beryl and Jeryl.

I do think I've learned a lot while writing Couillon and An Untold Want.  An Untold Want taught me the most because I worked on it the longest, but Couillon helped me with pacing and structure.  I was lucky that An Untold Want turned out as well as it did because I had no real plan when I went into it.  It morphed and shifted with my mood over the years.  And if you've been reading this blog, you know that I just recently figured out the ending. Arrrgh!

With Beryl's Story [working title], I know the story. I know the ending. I mostly know the characters, although I'm still trying to decide about the father's character, how or where he sits regarding Beryl's situation. Basically, I have to decide if he's evil or just foolish. And I also have to figure out the structure

For structure, I'm considering two different formats.  One would be similar to the format Peter Robinson used in Caedmon's Song. I'd have two parallel stories going at the same time which would merge somewhere between the middle and the end.  The other format is to have lots of backstory filtered into the primary story line through thoughts and actions.  Both are valid, widely used formats.  I just have to decide which one works best of Beryl's Story.  Right now, I'm leaning toward the latter so that I don't give away too much too fast.

With all that done, sure writing it should be easy.  Hey, I may even have it done in a year.  Who knows??

So, with that said, I've got one more blog post to write -- yes, I know, it's a record for me to even do three posts in a week, and wow, I'm doing three in a day.

Wish me luck with the agent, but if that falls through, be looking for An Untold Want on Amazon on August 1st.

Fridge Update

Day sixteen with no refrigerator.

And, the story gets better.  This past Tuesday I called Home Depot because I was supposed to get a refund within 3-5 business days.  That Tuesday would have been seven business days, and still no refund.  So I call HD's customer support, and got a very helpful young man who at the end of our phone conversation gave me his direct line number so that if I have more problems he can help me do follow up.

Anyway, the much mortified young man told me that the Customer Service lady I spoke with that Saturday, so long ago now, had not actually cancelled the order, even though she sent me an order cancelled email, that the refrigerator was still sitting in the docks waiting for me to call them with a delivery plan.  Arrgh.  So, per the helpful young man, I'm supposed to get a refund by this coming Thursday.  We'll see.  Not holding my breath on this one.

Also, remember that the HD delivery driver told me that I should have gotten a permit to allow him to park in a no-parking zone. Well, I called the Seattle DOT parking division and spoke with another very helpful young man.  He said that the driver (or shipping company) should get the parking permit as they are the ones who know when it's going to be delivered.  Another strike against HD and their fly-by-night delivery people.

The real clincher is that no where on their web site does it state that they, Home Depot, aren't responsible for the actual delivery.  Probably, if I burrowed down into the very minuscule print, hidden twenty or thirty links away,  it might indicate otherwise, but on first impression, I believed that they would be responsible for the delivery.  They weren't.

With that said, we'll see what happens with the refund, and you can believe that I'll never shop at Home Depot again for anything.

P.S. Sorry, this is another blog not about writing, but there will be a writing blog post tonight.  Promise.

P.S.S. God, I miss having ice.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Appreciating the Little [or Big] Things

Saturday a week ago, Home Depot was supposed to deliver a refrigerator to my condo.  I've never had problems with deliveries at my condo. So I didn't think anything about it and went ahead and gave my old refrigerator to a friend on that Friday before, figuring I could live for one day without refrigeration. [There's a grocery store right across the street, and I have a big cooler.]

Saturday afternoon comes, and everything is going great. The delivery guys called a half an hour before and were on time. But when they got there, this driver -- I got the impression the real problem was that he already had a bunch of tickets -- wouldn't park in front of the building because there's a no-parking sign there.  Now, this is Seattle, and like any big city, there's lots of signs that mean little or nothing for delivery drivers.  Some of the UPS guys just stop in a lane, double-park, whatever.  Same with FedEx, USPS, etc... But this guy wouldn't budge. No, we can't park in a no-parking zone [even though he was parked there in a no-parking zone arguing with me about it for more time than it would have taken them to unload the refrigerator and be gone].  He also would not consider any other solutions, like unloading and then moving the truck to a real parking spot.  He even wouldn't budge when I told him that he would be leaving me with no refrigerator.  And the Customer Service person was nice, but totally useless.  Sorry, there's nothing we can do about it.  To which I responded refund my money and cancel my order.

The problem is that I had to order another refrigerator, and to get the one I wanted [because of sizing, condos aren't the easiest places to buy appliances for], I would have to wait two weeks.

Today is day nine with no refrigeration.  Fortunately, a friend took all my condiments and cheese and stuff like that and is storing it in her refrigerator, because replacing all that stuff would be really pricey.  All the stuff in the freezer, I gave away or threw away. Damn you, Home Depot.

The lesson I've learned [no, not the one about never shopping at Home Depot again, which I did learn the hard way] is that we have so many things that we depend on and never think about how much we use/need them until they're gone. Heat, running water, hot water... refrigeration. [Most Seattlites don't have air conditioning, but in the Southern states, that's a big deal.]  But you know what I miss most, no-refrigerator wise, is ice.  I eat out a lot, so it hasn't been a huge issue in regards to food, but I don't like drinking warm drinks.  I miss ice.  Ice water, ice tea, martinis [which should be served icy cold]... the list goes on and on.

And how far does our dependence spread, when you really start to think about it?  Most humans, at least all of the ones I know, have a very cushy life when examined closely.  Yes, we bitch about work and the weather and the price of gas and so on, but we don't have to haul water or wash our clothes in a stream or grow our own vegetables. We don't have to hunt/slaughter animals for protein. We don't have to make our own wine or bathtub gin.  We don't even have to type term papers on a manual typewriter anymore [one of the banes of my college years].  Yes, some people do many of those things.

But the key words are don't have to.

Even my quilts are pieced using a rotary cutter and a sewing machine; the quilting itself is done by someone I pay who has a long-arm quilting machine.  Oh, and BTW, the cat quilt is finally finished. See. With everything I try to do, the five-bazillion projects I have going at the same time, it took me nearly ten years to finish it.  No, that wasn't working on it every day or even every year.  That was the time span from start to finish.  Imagine how long it would have taken if I'd had to sew and quilt the whole thing by hand.

Sorry that this blog post had nothing to do with writing, but I felt compelled to send this message, that we should all be cognizant of how easy our lives are, at least appliance wise.  Yes, we whine and moan and bitch about how hard things are, but think about what your life would be like... if you didn't have a refrigerator. 

With that said, I'm going to a restaurant and get some dinner.