Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bonus Content Question

Have you signed up for my mailing list? This isn't a request that you do sign up (although I would appreciate it) - I'm just curious, for those who have, what you thought of the bonus content delivered at the time you signed up. Currently, it's a prequel novella to the Ava and Claire stories.

Once I finish the series - October 18, coming soon! - I'm debating between an epilogue which didn't fit in the book, or a PDF of photographs of locations used in the books, paired with snippets of text and/or local history.

If you were to sign up for a mailing list, which would be more interesting to you, having read the books?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Most people, looking at this photo, would see oil on the ground. Pollution, or a car in need of repair.

I see magic.

When I was little, my dad told me a story about a fairy ring in Ireland. I asked whether there were any fairy rings where we lived, and he said he'd never seen one, things worked differently here.

Not long after, we were coming home from the supermarket on a rainy day and I pointed out a rainbow on the surface of the wet parking lot. He told me that was where the fairies hid when they had to live in cities.

So next time you see a rainbow on the ground, tread carefully. There are fairies underfoot. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

What happens in Vegas

Writing is weird. I'm surrounded all the time by imaginary people, but there aren't a whole lot of real people I can talk to about my writing. When I find them, virtual or in the flesh, I tend to hang on.

A few years ago I joined a Facebook group for writers called 20Books to 50K. It's a weird name, but the explanation is this the founder wanted to make enough money on book sales to retire to Cabo. He figured he could do that on $50,000 a year - but rather than put all the responsibility on one or two books, he did some advanced writer math and realized that if he wrote 20 moderately-successful books - books that made $7.50 each per day - he could make that $50,000 without having a runaway bestseller. So it's a retirement plan specific to one writer, but a group of writers have grown up around it, most of whom have found various ways to get where they want to be. 

It's extremely motivating. In two years, I still haven't worked my way through all their online content, but I'll get there eventually. But the big deal - the big dog, as it were - is the yearly conference in Las Vegas.

You can pay for a virtual ticket and watch the live stream, which I've done for 2 years. Eventually the videos end up on YouTube and I can watch all the presentations I wasn't able to see at the time. But like any event, much of the important stuff happens outside of the presentations and classes, meeting writers you admire, comparing notes with someone on your level or just above.

So I've wanted to go, even though I knew it would be massively overwhelming. I couldn't justify it last year, and I had pretty much talked myself out of it this year until they put out a call for volunteers to handle the live streaming of the presentations. They hired professionals last year, and it didn't go well, so this year they decided to go back to volunteers - and those volunteers would get a conference pass, a free room, and a food stipend. I convinced my husband that with his background in communication (job) and film and TV production (in college, but still) he would be an ideal fit. Then I could share his room and his food stipend, and all I would have to pay for would be my conference fee and the airfare.

Also, we haven't had a vacation since 2018, which is one of the reasons I put off going to Vegas last year. Our March 2020 vacation was canceled, obviously, and two rescheduled trips since then had to be put off because of other issues. This isn't a trip to Paris, but we can go and stare at a fake Eiffel Tower if we're not too tired.

This is the only way I would ever want to go to Vegas. That much noise and lights and crowd is enough to send me into a hole but only if I could pull it in after me. And I will do that, the very evening we land back in Philadelphia when the conference is over. My introvert self will suck it up for 5 days, retreat to the room when necessary, meditate in the toilets, do whatever it takes to get the best experience possible out of this.

What happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas. I'm going to bring it home and implement it and hopefully take my writing career to the next level.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Tomato season. Again.

For the last week, I've been hearing skeins of geese flying over at night. It seems early, but maybe not? The fruit trees bore heavily, I'm drowning in tomatoes, the fig looks like it's been decorated for Christmas, and old wives tales - which exist because they've been right more often than not - say that a heavy yield is a harbinger of a hard winter.

It's hard to believe that right now, as it was 95 on Labor Day and we made it even hotter by canning some of our overabundance of tomatoes. Again. I already did a day in a friend's kitchen last week, doing quart jars, which are just too big to deal with in our kitchen.

Not that we didn't already have plenty of our own, but I got a call from a friend who runs a food pantry on her front porch. She had most of a crate of plum tomatoes that were at risk of going bad because everyone was taking the cherry and slicing tomatoes and leaving the ones that involved labor and sweating. So we drove down and got them, and because my husband is Italian and thinks that sauce should only be made from plum tomatoes, we've made a separate batch from them.

There's absolutely no difference, but he spent the holiday standing with me over a boiling canning kettle in a boiling hot kitchen, so I'll let it figure that out for himself.

Because my single jalapeno plant has also exploded, I made a batch of pickled jalapenos. That's a new one for me, but I've already got close to a dozen jars of cowboy candy, so I thought I'd try something different.

I've always enjoy tomato season and putting up food for winter, but there's a lot extra going on this year and it's beginning to feel really personal, every time I open the back door and see bright red shining back at me from the plants that have taken over the backyard. I'm actually looking forward to cooler weather - frost, even - so that I can cut them down, take them out, and add them to the compost which will enrich next year's garden.

Circle of life, right?

Do you do any preserving? What's your favorite thing to can or preserve?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Who's in charge here?

A photo of my great-aunt Margaret
and some lost-to-time beau, 
used for the cover of Coming Together

Last week I wrote about finishing my draft of Coming Together, and that was true. But I didn't finish it in the way I had originally intended, and I thought it would be fun to share what happened along the way.

You see, I don't write to an outline. I know where my story starts, and I have a few ideas of what happens along the way - nails on which to hang the plot. Generally, by the time I'm about 20% in, I know how the story should end, but only in a loose way. It takes longer to work up the exact scene.

I wrote the ending to Coming Together about three months ago. I knew there would be edits. There are always edits. But it said what I wanted it to say, it gave a nice circular finish because it happened at the same time of year as the beginning of the first book, and it cleaned up so many dangling plot threads.

What could go wrong?

My characters could go wrong, that's what. Well there are three main characters in the series - Ava; her sister, Claire;and Pearl, Ava's daughter - Ava is the main main character. And that final scene / epilogue was from her point of view. Which made sense, because the books always begin and end with her.

As I got down to the end, I made a list of scenes that needed to be written. The last scene was Claire's, and it would tie things up until the Ava epilogue. Except that when I wrote Claire's scene, Ava spoke up and insisted she had to have a scene on top of that. Which would mean that she would have the final scene and then the epilogue, and I didn't want that.

But Ava's scene was good. It said what I wanted the epilogue to say and it tied in with the preceding scene. So what to do with my epilogue?

I tried to rewrite it from Pearl's viewpoint. Pearl started out writing diary entries in the first book, but she came into her own voice in book 3, and I have a sneaking suspicion that someday Pearl will have her own book. But not today, Pearl. So giving her the epilogue could make sense. Except that it needed to be her mother. There are things necessary to that epilogue that Pearl doesn't know, or doesn't know completely.

What I've decided to do is to finish the book with Ava's scene, as she insists. The epilogue will now become bonus content for newsletter subscribers who have read all three books. It won't make much sense any other way, but I can't stand for it just to remain on my computer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Oops, I did it again


Book six, or book three of Ava & Claire, Coming Together, is DONE.

Well, not done done, but the draft is done and ready to edit. I'll leave it to rest for a week - difficult but necessary, and also I have a freelance editing job to work on during that period - and then I'll get down to it.

I'm on track for the scheduled preorder date of October 18, and even though I'll miss these characters, I'm really excited to share this last installment of their story.

Coming Apart was supposed to be a standalone novel but, as with my previous series, it just kept going. This was way more challenging to write, though - the Tudor books all had different main characters, and I could wrap up their stories and have them appear again later with no harm done. The sister books are consecutive, the second one starting only days after the first. There's a lot more to keep track of, and an even more riding on whether or not I can tie the story up properly, in a way that does justice to these characters I've lived with for so long.

Hoping I've stuck the landing. And I can't wait to hear your reactions when the time comes.

You can pre-order Coming Together here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Weather report

It's been another hot week. I got a call on friday, asking if I was up for vending at the Farmers Market on Saturday, because the artist of the week had canceled. I never say no - afraid to cut off the flow of requests, I guess - but it was hot and muggy and started to rain at the end. Add to that a near fistfight between the musicians performing and a few rowdy audience members, and it was four hours I'd have just as soon spent at home, though I wouldn't have made as much money.

I did a little bit of work in the back garden when I got in. Of course the rain stopped as soon as we packed the car. After a really late start because of inconsistent weather, the peppers and tomatoes are coming on strong. The photo here could have been taken any day over the past two  weeks. I should can some of those tomatoes, but the idea of steaming up my kitchen is enough to send me out of town again. And I can't make sauce at the shore.

I'm so close to being done this draft of Coming Together. Only a few scenes left, and then I have to let it sit for a few days and then reread to start tying it all together. I don't think there's going to be a lot of structural work, but standard edits and proofreading take time, and then I have to get it formatted for the October launch. I'm glad I bought the cover in advance; that's one thing I don't need to deal with.

After I finish that one, I have two editing jobs I'm working on, and at some point after that, I want to return to my Tudor historical series, but I may be slightly off my 6-month schedule because I'm starting to smell my brain frying. 

While it turns out I can write faster than I ever thought possible, I also don't want to completely burn out by putting myself on an unnecessary schedule. It may be June 2024, instead of April. We'll see. The minute I decide I can't do it, I'll decide I have to.