Archive for May, 2011

Weekend: Accomplished

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I know it’s a holiday in the States, but up here in Canada it’s just another work week. We’re so deprived! Except, wait, we had our long weekend last weekend.

My weekend was very busy. But we got a ton accomplished.

  1. Finally, I gave My Liege approval to chop down Cedric, a 30-something-year-old cedar hedgie guy. As in there was just one of him. He was stealing all the nutrients from a garden I created, oh, 10 years ago. And he was hogging all the sun. The other plants couldn’t grow. So down he came.
  2. Millions of bedding plants planted! I know I sound excited, but, believe me, it’s an act. Now comes the task of watering them. I love planting bedding plants. And I love taking pictures of them as they grow. It’s the care and feeding of that I ain’t so hot on.
  3. Finished reading WILD RIDE by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Didn’t love it as much as AGNES AND THE HIT MAN, which was a 5 for me on a scale of 1-5. But liked it a lot better than their first collaboration, which was about a 3 for me. WILD RIDE was a 4.5. I don’t usually read paranormal romances, and I didn’t realize WILD RIDE was a paranormal because she’s one of my auto-buys. Once I realized it was a paranormal and it wasn’t really a romance (hope that’s not a spoiler–it has love stories in it, but it’s not a traditional romance), I just got into the fun of it. Yes, sometimes a few scenes reminded me a bit too much of those cutesy Gremlins, but overall I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to picking up her next solo effort.
  4. We finally put down the new carpet runner in our hardwood hallway that leads to the sundeck (that leads to the hot tub–thus the need for the carpet runner). I’ve had the carpet runner rolled up in my office for, oh, nine months. Yes, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that home upkeep is not high on my list of priorities. But I did have a good reason for buying the runner and then procrastinating installing it: The Evil Entity. A.K.A. our cat, Keisha. She’d gotten in the habit of using the previous carpet runner as a scratching post, and no matter how many REAL scratching posts we bought her, she would not give up the carpet runner. So I finally ripped it out and bought her a super-duper scratching post that leads to a window perch. She was ticked, but eventually learned to use her scratching post. Then I realized that if we installed the new carpet runner too quickly, she’d return to her evil ways. The new runner has been installed for two days, and so far, so good.
  5. I worked more on Penny’s Cover Art and Cover Copy forms for her recent sale to Samhain. The Cover Art form is essentially finished, but needs information I’m currently writing for the Cover Copy form. Yes, folks, I’m in Writing Book Blurb Mode. The Samhain form is a bit more complicated than other publisher forms I’ve filled out. Some parts of it are really making me think. I should have this off to my editor in a day or so.

This week is gearing up to be another busy one. I’ll be participating in the ChickLit mentoring program, finishing up the Samhain form, and preparing for yet another family birthday, another college graduation, and…something else.

Next week, if I have time, I’ll fill you in on the something else.

What are you up to this week? Last week? Next? (And don’t talk to me about getting ready for RWA National. I can’t even think about the conference until mid-June).

Wednesday Wound Up

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Er, make that “round up.”

In the I Can’t Find Enough Hours In The Day department, otherwise known as What Have I Been Up To?, I thought I’d pop in with the following:

Paint colors aren’t nearly as exciting as recent TV advertising would have one believe. At least, if you’re painting the interior of a mud room closet white, they aren’t. White is white, and such a delight. But, in the end, it’s just white.

I’ve decided it’s The Summer of White. I hereby pledge to paint every white room and piece of white wainscoting and white trim in the shared areas of the house (ie. the mud room and one hall, plus the kitchen wainscoting and trim. Okay, and some outside of doors. The parts that face into the hall). It’s way overude. I mean overdue. (Overude sounds over-rude). I figure if I only paint something white every couple of weeks, I won’t aggravate the bicep injury I created in the fall doing too much outdoor painting.

Nearly ALL the white sundeck trim I painted last summer has peeled off! White is a complete PITA sometimes! Or maybe it’s the rain/roast days of summer we “enjoy” that’s the PITA.

Come to think of it, where’s the summer? Okay, summer technically doesn’t start until June 21st, but this is ridiculous. One day it’s hot enough for air conditioning, the next I want My Liege to light a fire.

And none of this has anything to do with writing.

So, in the Writing Department, Penny has received a tentative release date for her erotic romance single title (sometime in the fall. I actually have a more precise idea of when in the fall, but I’m  not ready to announce it yet. Things are “in the works,” as they say). Because Penny loves to sit around on her lazy duff all day, this means I have to fill out her Cover Art Information Forms and write her cover blurb. I’m doing that this week.

As for Cindy, I’ve been working on my romantic comedy short story series and doing a lot of E.S. Just Moved Out post-cleaning.

I overindulged in peanut butter cups while awaiting the Rapture.

And I’ve been serving as a mentor for the ChickLit RWA on-line chapter. Me! A mentor. Imagine that.

I’m working with a writer on the other side of the pond. So far it’s been a pretty cool experience. I just hope I’m not piling too much “help” on her. I just figure, we only have two months to do this (May and June), and I’ll be out of town twice in June (I employ big, burly housesitters), so we don’t have as much time to work together as we should. So I’m giving it. And hopefully it’s helping her.

I would have loved a mentorship program like this when I was first starting out (I wonder if there’s such a thing as “when I was lastly starting out”?). But that was in pre-Internet days. I remember joining the RWA Outreach Chapter, which conducted all its business through the mail. That’s how I connected with my first critique partners. I still critique with one of them from time to time. My critique partners were my “mentors,” and I acted in the same capacity for them. I guess we were peer mentoring, because none of us were published at the time.

I’ve hooked up with other critique partners over the years. A couple of CP’ships lasted several years and were profitable for both sides. I still consider some of these writers very good friends. But sometimes “Real Life” interferes, family needs change, careers take off, and one or both partners needs to take a step back. Deadline Pressure is a real killer.

What else?

I haven’t had time to blog-hop the way I used to. It’s far easier to keep up with people on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, I’m thinking of canceling my MySpace account. I never go over there anymore, so why bother? Penny is thinking of having me cancel her account as well.

Eldest Son is now fully moved out but Youngest Son’s summer job doesn’t start until June. So May continues to be an “in flux” month, much as April was. So, lest any of you think the reason I haven’t been blogging is because I went back to South America, no such luck, I’m here. Just wound up from trying to find time to wind down.

All aboard the Get ‘Er Done! train. Leaving the station… Now!

Spam Comment of the Week

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I cannot see how people can read this and not think “genius alert”.

Doesn’t that just say it all?

Happy Victoria Day Weekend, fellow Canadians!

Happy next-weekend Memorial Day (I think) Weekend, American friends!

Happy Fill-in-the-Blank Weekend, International Readers!

I cannot see how people can read this and not think “genius alert”.

It’s just perfection.

Memories are Made of This

Monday, May 16th, 2011

My great-nephew turned one on Saturday, and Eldest Son turns 23 today. E.S. also moved (partway) out of the house on Friday. I say partway because the moving occurred all weekend, and he’s left a lot of his stuff here. He’s moving in with two other people while he finishes his teaching certification and B.Ed. and gets on with life. He’s lived on his own before, two years away at university, one of those in Residence and the other in a basement suite with (at first) strangers of multiple nationalities. But this is his first time living entirely on his own dime.

Attending my great-nephew’s first birthday so close to E.S.’s birthday, compiled with E.S. moving out, brought back a ton of memories. I’m in memory-mode, anyway, as one year ago yesterday, my husband and I began our trip to Peru. Every day for the next three weeks, I’ll be reliving that trip, thinking about what we were doing on such-and-such day.

Plus, thirty years ago (the same age my niece, the great-nephew’s mommy, is turning tomorrow), my husband and I had just returned from backpacking through Europe. We weren’t married then. We were traveling in sin.

But, today, my “baby” is 23. We’re having a family dinner and a Dairy Queen ice-cream cake.

The thing I love most about babies turning one is the face-plant they usually do in their cakes. My great-nephew had a huge party and received tons of presents. When E.S. was a baby, my husband and I were living a 3-hour drive away from our hometown. So E.S. had only one friend at his party, a baby girl named Meghan. It was a low-key affair, to be sure, but he didn’t suffer cake-wise. A week later we traveled back to our hometown and had another celebration—and another cake!

Happy birthday, E.S.!

Everyone say, “Awwwwwww.”

 

Caught Around the Web–And In My Brain

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Family-wise, it’s been a very hectic past several weeks. Picking up Youngest Son from university and having the extra body around as he unpacks his stuff and searches for summer work. Eldest Son has been super busy finishing up his second student teaching practicum and is now working on his last course for his teaching certificate plus is taking two of three courses needed to complete his Bachelor of Education on top of his B.A. and certification, plus he’s moving out! Very slowly, as he tries to fit the moving out with three classes.

I’ve been experiencing a bit of Motherhood Mania, when you feel like you should have enough hours in the day, but extra brains are EVERYWHERE. I don’t know about you, but extra brains deplete my creative energy and finding butt-in-keyboard time has been a challenge, particularly because I’m at the brainstorming/drafting stage of a new project (as Cindy).

Thus the slow-down in my blog entries.

Did you know you can now put your blog up on Kindle and subscribers can pay a fee to receive your posts on their e-reader? I wouldn’t consider Kindle-izing my blog at this time, because I believe that if you’re going to Kindle-ize your blog, then you should be writing a steady stream of content, and that’s not a position I find myself in.

I’m not likely to subscribe to blogs via my Kindle at this point, either. For one thing, I’m not using my Kindle exclusively—I still have a paperback and hard cover TBR pile as well as a Kindle TBR pile. To me, subscribing to a blog via Kindle would feel much like subscribing to a newspaper or magazine via Kindle. I’d feel like I should be picking up the Kindle every day to check in on my subscriptions. But I’m not on my Kindle every day. I am on my computer pretty much every day, and I check my fav blogs via my blog-roll.

So here are a handful of new blogs I’ve discovered that I intend to put in my blog-roll so I’ll remember to visit them (instead of having to be reminded through Facebook posts that I should visit). I hope you find them interesting, too.

First, D.P. Lyle, M.D.’s Writer’s Forensics blog. I discovered Dr. Lyle’s blog while writing SEX, PIs & PACKING TAPE, the mystery romance single title that is currently enjoying a bit of back-burnering in anticipation of pitching the manuscript at the RWA National Conference in New York in June.

I don’t read Dr. Lyle’s blog daily, or even every week. But when I’m working on a book with a mystery or suspense component, his Forensics blog is invaluable.

Romance author Shannon McKeldon has begun The Happy Writer blog. Her tag line is “Life’s hard. Write happy.” It’s a great idea for a blog (and also the sort of blog that I think deserves Kindle-izing). It’s all about remaining positive—and providing tools to help writers remain positive—within this rollercoaster business. Because, yes, it’s fun to get to do what you love for a “living” (ahem) every day, but writing for publication is very, very difficult. Deadline pressures, an editor messing with your voice (has never happened to me, but I’ve heard the horror stories), losing an editor and then suddenly losing your ability to sell to his/her replacement, despite that you have published several award-winning books (yes, it happens. Writing is subjective, and what one editor loves, another might not). There are pressures and there are stresses that no one but other writers truly understand. So if you need help maintaining a positive attitude, check out Shannon’s The Happy Writer.

Another writer’s blog to check out is Cathy Yardley’s. First, she has her main blog, which I really want to read more often (so it’s going in my blog-roll), and then she has a marketing/writing blog called Rock Your Writing, tag line “Sell a Lot without Selling Out.” (I really love these clever tag lines!).

Cathy lost several posts during a blog implosion (her words). But her blog is definitely worth checking out. Both blogs are going in my blog-roll.

Lastly, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Crusie and multi-publishing romance author Barbara Samuel (aka Ruth Wind and aka Barbara O’Neal) have been discussing the new e-publishing self-publishing model that has spawned success stories like Amanda Hocking’s. Their discussion occurs in three posts on Jenny Crusie’s blog. It’s interesting, although I found myself skimming because (a) I’m short on time these days and (b) I’m short on time. If you want to read from the beginning, here’s the link to Post 1. Post 2 continues their conversation, ending with Post 3, which discusses self-publishing and editing.

I’ve read Post 3 and Post 2, because naturally I’m reading them backwards. Don’t ask me why. I hope to get to Post 1 today. “Hope.”

Because I think I finally have a handle on the first scene of my short story WIP, in which my heroine appears drunk. My romance writer’s brain tells me, “She can’t be drunk. An editor would never buy that.” My Cindy brain tells me, “But she’s not drunk. She’s just really sloshed. And I’m writing this for a niche market, not a major publishing house that might frown on heroines walking on-stage inebriated.”

Really, it’s okay for my heroine to be sloshed in scene i. I need to accept that. Real people get tanked and still find love—why can’t my heroine?

Initially scene i was written from her point of view when she wakes up in the hero’s apartment and pieces together what happened the night before. Then it suddenly occurred to me that it would be great fun (for me as a writer, anyway) to show WHERE the hero found her (in the apartment building laundry wearing revealing sleepwear), which would lead to WHY she was down there, and basically adds a layer of “out-of-control”ness my heroine is experiencing at this time in her life. Let me assure you (why must I assure you?), she over-indulged for a very good reason. She was keeping up with her friend, who’s about to go all Bridezilla in the series. As the Maid of Honor, my heroine, Claire, felt it was her duty to keep up with Tanya. And, if you’ve ever drank a Mudslide, you know how easily they go down.

So there. That’s my justification. I have a drunk heroine in the first scene of my WIP. And I’m okay with that.

Will romance readers be okay with that? I don’t know. But that’s one of the nice things about writing a series like this for a niche market. If I’m writing for a niche, I don’t have to worry about appealing to the masses. I want to appeal to the masses, but I also want to write the stories that make me smile. And this one makes my madcap romantic comedy demon grin.

Test My Audio Demo?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I did some website updating over the Mother’s Day weekend. One thing I’m attempting to do is install audio demos for the audiobook versions of HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX. So far I’ve conquered HEAD OVER HEELS. A 2-minute audio demo, which features the second scene of the book (which is the heroine’s first point-of-view scene; the actual book opens with the hero’s first scene), can be found on the dedicated book page for HEAD OVER HEELS (clicking that link or either of the other two HOH links in this paragraph will take you there). Once I’ve worked through the kinks, I’ll also put the demos on my Books page and on the dedicated page for BORROWING ALEX.

But I need your help!

The easiest way for me to insert the demo was to create a text link to a new window that then launches (for me, anyway), QuickTime, and QuickTime plays the audio demo. The demo does not (or isn’t supposed to) start playing until you click the text link. As in it should definitely NOT start playing as soon as you visit the page. That would be ultra-annoying and something I want to avoid.

However, I don’t think it launches in QuickTime for everyone. A friend told me that it launches her Windows Media Player. So what program it launches seems to depend on your personal computer settings.

I have the volume as loud as I can make it using the text link to QuickTime thingmabobber inside my website program (Dreamweaver). But I don’t know if it’s loud enough for someone to hear on other computers without turning up their speakers.

If the text link thingie isn’t the best, my next plan would be to download a free audio player and embed it on the dedicated book pages on my website, much like my audio publisher has done here for BORROWING ALEX (visiting that link should take you to the BA page on the AudioLark website, and you’ll see a tiny media player you can click on to play the BA demo).

So I need to know if I can be lazy and stick with the text links I easily created within Dreamweaver or if I should download and install a free audio player program that would then ensure every browser is listening through the same device. Thereby providing me with a tad more control, as it were. But creating more work for moi (because you know I’d have to fiddle with the colors, etc., of the player to make it match my website. I’m bongo that way).

If you wouldn’t mind testing the HEAD OVER HEELS demo, pop on over to my HOH page and you’ll see the text link to the demo in two places: (1) underneath the book cover and below the “read excerpt” link, or (2) to the right of the book cover in very small print (the ISBN area), where it says, “Audiobook from AudioLark – Listen to Demo!” Clicking the link under Demo in that area should launch whatever player you have associated with your browser in a new window.

Then, please answer the following questions, either through the comments trail or by zipping me an email:

  1. What program launches on your computer and plays the demo for you?
  2. Is the volume loud enough, or do you have to turn it up?
  3. If you have to turn it up, do you have to do that within your media player or via your speakers?
  4. Does the demo begin playing as soon you visit the page WITHOUT YOU CLICKING THE TEXT LINK? Again, that shouldn’t happen, but I thought I should check.

If the text link proves substandard, then next time I have some time (what’s that?), I’ll attempt to embed the audio player instead.

I really appreciate this! Now, go forth and test!

Brenda Novak’s Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes

Monday, May 9th, 2011

I haven’t blogged about this year’s auction yet, so here’s my plug. Multi-published romance author Brenda Novak holds a charitable auction toward the cure of diabetes every year. The auction has raised a lot of money over the years, and this year so far they’ve made $100,000. However, that amount has fallen behind what was earned last year at this point. So if you’re a writer or a reader, check out the auction items. Some items are time-sensitive (IE. only offered for a day or a few days), so keep checking in.

If you bid on an item between May 9 – 15 (which is Brenda’s birthday), you’ll earn an entry into a drawing for a $250 Macy’s gift certificate.

For more information, check out the auction website.

I Kissed a Dolphin and I Liked It

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

…The taste of her rubber-bat nose.

Way back in February, My Liege and I went to Mexico for two weeks. I intended to blog about our holiday, I really did, but I didn’t click “Save Draft” within WordPress, you see—and my beautiful prose disappeared when I stupidly clicked a key I shouldn’t have.

I was so bummed out I couldn’t continue.

But now weeks—nay, months—have passed. Surely, I can try again.

This, my friends, is the tale of two cheapskates.

You see, when we went to Mexico, I had three “must-do’s” on my plate: (1) I must rent dune buggies and put my back out of alignment bouncing all over the desert; (2) I must prove I have vanquished my fear of heights (or fear of falling, as Youngest Son would put it) by going ziplining; (3) I must swim with dolphins!

Number one went South faster than a Canuck in November. We tried, oh, we TRIED, to rent dune buggies, but the dune buggy place in the area of Cabo we were visiting had gone belly-up, we discovered. We learned this while trying to rent dune buggies long-distance for a weekend jaunt to Cabo San Lucas. But the fellow at the kiosk in the monster-sized grocery store was much more interested in getting us to a Time Share presentation that would save us big bucks riding the dune buggies than he was in actually booking the excursion that we decided the whole thing was too much of a PITA. If we really want to ride dune buggies, we can go to Oregon. Right?

Number 2 was the ziplining. I did not care how much it cost, I was going! My father (with whom we were staying) said, “Very well, I shall taxi you to the ziplining place.” (It sounded more like, “Pass me a Corona,” but I was translating.) Well. Not only was the ziplining absurdly expensive, but it consisted of acrobating over a dry, dusty canyon with monster rocks on which to crack my skull. Terror overcame me. If I’m going to die ziplining, I’d rather it be over a green jungle canopy, thank you very much (I vow to go ziplining in Ecuador next year—you heard it here first). (I’m trusting that when the time comes, you won’t remember).

Sigh. Two adventures that didn’t materialize.

But I would, I vowed, I WOULD swim with dolphins while we were in Cabo San Lucas.

Then I visited the website. What? It was ultra expensive. So I knocked it off my list, too.

I know, I know, it’s ridiculous. We had a free place to stay—what was our problem?

Off we went to Cabo San Lucas. We stayed in a nice hotel in the marina area, had fun whale-watching and visiting Lover’s Arch and Divorce Beach (where a rogue wave tried to kill me, but I am nimble of foot and quickly scampered out of harm’s way). I even did a nice Rambo-roll getting back in the boat for our trip back to the marina. Our glass-bottomed boat captain dropped us off on a Saturday afternoon and we began trotting back to our hotel. When, what should we pass but the Swimming with Dolphins place! “Let’s just pop in and see what it’s about,” I told My Liege.

Turned out we were there in time to watch the last show of the day. So we did. And it looked marvelous! It looked wonderful! Fun and exciting! I bopped M.L. over the head and said, “You’re going deep sea fishing with my dad, so I want to swim with dolphins. I don’t care how much it costs. I’m worth it!” To which he replied, “I’m going, too!”

Hmph.

But we had vanquished our Inner Cheapskates! We booked spots for 10 a.m. the next morning.

And it was wonderful! It was exciting! We were separated into groups of eight, and each group had two dolphins with which to cavort. And cavort we did. They’re beautiful creatures, and it was amazing to be so close to them. To pet and stroke them. To panic as two converged on me at once (they’d swim wherever the trainers tossed the fish). And the swimming portion was great fun. Our dolphins swam on their backs. To swim along, you had to hang onto their “upper arm fins” while resting on their bellies. Cameras clicked the entire time. But they weren’t our cameras, oh, no. You see, cameras weren’t allowed within the pool area. I’d already figured out why. Because the lovely trainers were snapping dozens of photos and surely we would be allowed one each. After paying nearly $170 U.S. each for the pleasure of swimming with the cool dolphins?

Silly me.

After the show was over, we were herded into the Photo area. Smiling, I asked the attendant, “How much are the pictures?” My Liege had our surely-it’s-included-in-the-price piccie all picked out. But they cost—gasp—$25 apiece!! Apiece! Or $100 for 8.

I had stopped listening at this point. “I have my memories,” I sniffed. “And a dislocated elbow from Rambo-rolling into the glass-bottomed boat. I don’t need no effin pictures to remember how wonderful it felt to swim with dolphins.”

And that was that. I swam with dolphins, but I had no proof. At which point it occurred to me that while I had no proof of swimming with dolphins, neither did I have proof of NOT swimming with them. Which meant that maybe I DID go ziplining and dune buggy riding and simply have no proof of that, either. Just because I don’t have pictures doesn’t mean I didn’t do it, right?

Well. You all know me. I can not tell a lie very often. We did not rent dune buggies and we did not go ziplining. We DID swim with dolphins but were too cheap to buy proof.

We flew home knowing we had paid over $300 U.S. to swim with the dolphins and could not fork over another $25 for the photo.

But fate loves us. Fate was on our side. Because a couple of weeks later, whilst (nice word, that) I was Skyping with my parents, they said, “Steve’s in the Gringo Gazette!” (an English newspaper).

All those pictures the dolphin place snapped? They plastered one of my dh all over a half-page ad. Hah! NOW we have proof of our experience! A little grainy, but what can you expect from a pair of cheapskates?