A Perilous Pilgrimage and a Happy Ending.

Life has been good this week.  I received an email from a reader telling me how much she liked my book. This made me very happy. It is a wonderful feeling to learn your work has found its way into the hands of an appreciative reader.

Other good things have happened. My print book gained a few corrections and additions and was approved for release. The deed is done, Hunt Club will be available soon as a printed novel, and I’m back to plotting and scribbling other projects.

Speaking of other projects, much of this week was spent gathering and collating the notes for a book I started over a decade ago. While assembling the material in a notebook, I realized there were only twenty chapters. Quite a bit of the story had never been typed.

This called for a journey to the archives, two enormous, heavy, and deep file cabinets which contained the sum of my literary achievements. Hidden behind a thicket of boxes, magazines, and a huge tangle of my nephew’s worldly possessions, they stood nearly as tall as I and were guarded by an old bicycle, a multitude of spiders, and mud dauber wasp nests which I could only hope were uninhabited.

(Yes, I know. I’m having entirely too much fun describing it, but believe me, sifting though files in a tight place, in which it is highly possible something small and evil could easily mess up your day is a nervous situation. I probably ought to clean out the garage.)

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Despite the perils, I made the journey, located the desired material and put several hours into typing my old scribbles into nice, neat computer files. It was fun, actually. After so many years, I had forgotten half of what was written there and rather enjoyed reading my own manuscript. There is still much work to be done and more material to be located, but I believe with a bit of work these stories may eventually make more readers happy.

There was more fun to be had yesterday, when I stopped at the local bookstore to chat with one of the owners. Plans have begun for my first book signing. It’s a terribly exciting milestone for me, made doubly so by my fondness for this particular store. I used to play my harp there during the local art nights. A few years ago this very month, I played spooky tunes in one window while an author sat in the other autographing books. I remember thinking maybe some day I would have a book signing too.

Sometimes life brings things full circle. I’m smiling a lot lately as so much of my hard work is finally coming to fruition. It is a happy week for me.

I hope you are having a good one too.

ROW80 Goals

  1. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Done and then some.
  2. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Done
  3. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope

4) Outline the sequel for Hunt Club and be ready to write it by November. I gave it some thought, but didn’t write any of those thoughts down, so I won’t count those ideas yet. This is something I need to attend to this week—NaNoWriMo is slowly sneaking up on me. I need to put some detailed thought into this. Murder mysteries are really challenging to write.

5) Read Hunt Club proof, fix any final errors and approve for final release to print. Nailed it.  🙂

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Look What Came in the Mail!

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Yes, the galley proof for my first novel arrived yesterday.

It has been available as an e-book for a few months now and I have test prints of the cover. I knew what it would look like and had very detailed knowledge of what would be inside. Nothing went terribly wrong in the printing process and there were no big surprises. I will be going over it and fixing a few minor problems this week, then it will be released for sale.

I am of two minds today. One is the patient, plodding aspect that has seen me through the development of this project. Yes, there is still more work to be done, and the next indicated action afterward. Stuff happens, but life continues.

The other part of my mind is exuberant. I keep picking the book up and holding it in my hands. I just can’t believe it is real. I want to laugh and cry and show it to all my friends.

Books have always meant a lot to me. I had trouble learning to read at first but grew to love the work of Dr Seuss. Later, I advanced to the works of E.B. White, Roald Dahl, Margurite Henry, and Walter Farley. These writers and many others whom I would never get to meet in person entertained and inspired me, improved my vocabulary and taught me something about the world. Their works were some of the best loved gifts under the Christmas tree, and the most enduring. Many were passed on to my nieces and nephews, then purchased anew when I had kids of my own.

I used to read to my children, then in the evenings I would read to myself. Science fiction and fantasy, poetry and mythology, comics and satire. Late at night or early on weekend mornings, I would write stories of my own. I would name the author I was reading as who I wanted to be when I grew up.

It’s something I still do. The truth is I want to write as wonderfully as they do. I want to write dark and beautiful fantasy like Neil Gaiman, action and adventure like Stephan Brust, humor like Terry Pratchett. Sadly, I can’t write like them. I can only write like Elizabeth Toll. I hope it’s good enough.

People talk about how important books are for kids, but they seldom acknowledge that they are beneficial for adults as well. Grownups, like kids, often feel lonesome and socially awkward. They move to new towns, take on new jobs, watch their kids grow up and move away, and find themselves at loose ends, wondering what to do next. It has happened to me many times.

A book is the voice of another human being saying “Hi, we have something in common and you are not terminally unique.” Whether I like the book or not, I usually learn something about myself and enjoy the company they offer. If I really love the book, the author’s name will ever after make me smile, like a favorite relative or a kindly stranger who did me a good turn. In their own way, they did.

So now, here I am with this book, this bound copy with my name on it as the author. I find myself smiling at the grandiose idea that maybe this will somehow carry the legacy forward, doing for someone else what has been done for me. In today’s publishing world it is a mere message in a bottle, tossed upon a literary sea. It may be wildly successful or disappear beneath the ocean. It may prove indecipherable to some, but it may find readers who enjoy it, who cherish it, who share it with others.
Either way, these are my words, frozen in time. I’m a little afraid for them, but I’m also proud, very proud. My baby is all grown up and getting ready to venture out into the world. I wish it well.

 

 

ROW80 Update : Old Goals

  1. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Done.
  2. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Done
  3. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope
  4. Outline the sequel for Hunt Club and be ready to write it by November. This is in progress.

New goal

1) Read Hunt Club proof, fix any final errors and approve for final release to print. This is new but takes priority.

That’s my report for this week.  To any reading, I hope you are making progress on all you wish to achieve too.

 

 

October Check in

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The writer in her natural habitat.

Currently Harping: Um . . . Not much, I’m afraid. My harp tuning wrench has gone missing and until it turns up again, I have to contend with sour notes. Ah well, I’ll be tidying up for the holidays soon and it will likely be found under the pile of papers on my desk or among the manuscripts on one of my shelves, or under the cat in my basket of juggling toys.
I could have made up for lost time by playing the keyboard, guitar, flute, recorder, or ukulele, but there are only so many hours in a day. This week has been one long push to get a different goal off my plate and I’m happy to report it was successful. Now I can relax and start up the Halloween themed music, which is actually enhanced if played a little off key. 🙂

Currently Writing: As mentioned, I’ve focused all efforts on getting my e-book, Hunt Club, formatted and tidied up for printing. It is done and sent as of yesterday, and if all goes well, I’ll have a physical copy in my hands very soon. I’m still a little anxious as the printed medium tends to reveal still more issues to be corrected, but until the first copy arrives it is out of my control.  I’ve done all I can for now.
This means I can finally let it go and focus on other things for a few days. Like my next novel, which has been proceeding at a snails pace, and the Hunt Club sequel, which I am outlining this month in preparation for National Novel Writing Month in November. This year, I hope to become a plotter rather than a pantser and see if I can make some solid progress on cranking this story out. I need to learn to work faster while making the story as good or better than the previous one. Perhaps if I’m better organized this year, more of my word sprints will actually move the tale forward. Here’s hoping.

Currently Entertaining: No one as far as I can tell. The phone has not been ringing of late and writing takes up most of my time these days. My geographical area appears to be overrun with face painters, many of them better than me, and I’m becoming a little discouraged. I’m good at balloon animals and general clowning too, but the media seems to delight in exaggerated reports of scary clowns terrorizing the populace. I think donning the greasepaint in October might be the equivalent of masquerading as a white tail during deer season. I’m considering other options, but mostly I’m busy scribbling.

Currently Growing: I attempted to start some kale seeds this week in my vertical window gardens and played a bit with my fairy landscapes. Mostly, this week has been about nurturing the plants I already have. There comes a point in late summer when I just give up for about a month because it is too hot to exert myself outside and the plants are all shriveling in the heat anyway. It can be hard to recover from the apathy.

Fortunately, the garden is pretty well established this year. I water every other day now and usually come in with a handful of okra, tomatoes, runner beans, chard, or edible flowers. I want to start some winter greens and flowers but am having trouble getting motivated. Maybe now that the book is done . . .

Miscellany: I signed up yesterday for NaNoWriMo. Why my idea of fun is to complicate the month I’m already hosting a big family dinner and trying to prepare for the Yuletide insanity with a demanding scribbling challenge is a question I am not prepared to answer. Happily, though, I’m not the only one, so if any of you decide to participate and want to friend me on the forums, I’m listed there as Ms Whatsit.

ROW#80 Update

  1. Get Hunt Club set up for printing. Done at last. Yes!!!!!!!
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Nope. I completed number one instead. 🙂
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Technically yes I am doing this. Now if I can just learn to create a blog within the time limit, you may start hearing more from me.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.

It’s a new round and my major task is out of the way, so I’m going to add a new goal.

5) Outline the sequel for Hunt Club and be ready to write it by November.

This is a very exciting task and I’ve already made a start on it. Here’s hoping you all are having an good week too.

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Nimbus supervises my writing efforts.

 

Odd Miniature Landscapes

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When I was a kid, doll houses were elaborate things that wealthy kids had. It sounded pretty cool to have a small mansion all set up with tiny rugs, beds, little tables with dainty little china table settings, small furniture of every sort and dinky little landscaping details. Yeah, one of those would have been nice, but with five kids in the house having to share two bedrooms, it wouldn’t have lasted long. My parents, weighed down by the financial burden of so many children, made it clear to us all that money didn’t grow on trees. I knew better than to ask for one.

Ah, but we had a nice fenced yard and plenty of vacant lots, so we took our toys outside and made our own dollhouses in the great outdoors. I have fond memories of many hours of creative play, building little dwellings of mud and sticks for my little troll dolls, tiny tree houses amid the bushes, little roads for the toy cars filched from my brothers, and ice cream stick rafts to float across the fish pond in our back yard. My family nickname was Bee, and on any given day, little Bee could be found outside, playing in the dirt.

Well, I grew up. I went to college, worked an assortment of jobs over the years, (some of them even normal ones) and learned to make a pretty decent impression of an adult. I even raised a few kids, which can seriously tax one’s acting ability. Until a few years ago, I suspect I actually had them fooled.

I even started growing tomatoes. That’s grown up behavior, you know. Lots of retired people do it.

Then I began seeing pictures of fairy gardens on facebook. Little Bee started jumping up and down and there was nothing to be done except to indulge her. I began collecting little figurines and once more making my yard into a doll house.

That was about three years ago. The designated area in the back yard, a once barren and weed infested flowerbed, has become a verdant study-in-progress of miniature landscaping. There is a small hill covered in creeping flowers, a crescent moon topiary, a little creek, a castle on a cliff, a tiny birdbath and picnic bench nestled in the shade of a tree-like flowering bush. I’ve recently acquired more miniatures as well as new gardening tools and have plans to continue with my miniature landscaping, particularly in November during NaNoWriMo.

The promise of time spent in the garden serves me well as reward and motivation for writing. The garden is also a good place to find inspiration. As I dig and weed, I imagine pioneers clearing the wilderness and making homes for themselves. As I plant and arrange tiny landscapes, my mind wanders and possible story settings come to mind. I envision characters living in the tiny communities I am building, and tell myself little stories about them. My imagination, so often tied up in the straitjacket of discipline necessary to keep it on track while I’m editing and re-writing a novel, is free to wander and indulge in the kind of serious play kids do, something too many adults think they are no longer allowed to pursue.

Hogwash. What’s the fun in being an adult if you can’t play once in awhile? There are so many ways to do it. Some people play video games, some indulge in sports. I play in the dirt.

ROW#80 Update

  1. Get Hunt Club set up. I’m saddened to report that this is STILL not ready to go into print yet. I’m getting seriously frustrated. Editing seems to take forever. I have the cover done, the text re-sized, and am painstakingly correcting spacing errors and backward quotation marks and other troublesome cleanup issues. My husband refers to this as the “rat killing phase.” It’s stupid and tedious and necessary. I just wish it didn’t take so long. I want this book in print by the first of October, but it needs to look professional.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Not so much this week. I’m giving it a break until goal one is achieved.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. I skipped Wednesdays check in again because I’m such a perfectionist it was taking too long to write. I’m putting a time limit on my blogs in an effort to learn some brevity.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.

Due to the need to hurry and finish the first item, I’m going to hold off adding any new goals for a bit.  One thing I am rather proud of though is that I seem to have completed the “fact check” for my biography. Now I can move on to other blogging topics. 🙂

Dark Nightshades

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From the time I first spotted one in a seed catalog, I have taken an interest in black flowers. Black is often a relative term in the botanical world though. Black petunias and calla lilies were all the rage in plant nurseries a few years ago, but the more I looked at them, the less black they appeared. Burgundy or brown seemed to be more accurate descriptions. This was disappointing. I didn’t want a brown garden, I wanted a black one. Fortunately, I don’t give up easily and am now cultivating a sizable collection of dark plants.

It started with nightshades, specifically, Cherokee purple tomatoes and black pearl peppers. It has expanded to include other varieties. Opal basil, Purple okra, black sweet potatoes, purple cabbage, and dark, red veined chard. Alongside the fence there is a towering wild poke sallet bush, its deep red-violet stems and dark berries giving the back yard an autumn mood. Nor is the season over. I have seeds for black violets and pansies that I hope to get started soon. In the sheltered area of our east facing porch, the chances are good they’ll bloom well into November. .

I like dark, mysterious things, probably because they are my opposite. Halloween may only be on the calendar one month out of the year, but this doesn’t stop me from wearing black throughout the other seasons. Naturally, since I wear concert black while playing my harp and black silk shirts or tee shirts when I’m not clowning, it seems logical that certain areas of my garden should wear black too.

My favorite so far is the black pearl pepper. I bought one from a nursery last year and fell hard for the blue-black, almost iridescent foliage and shiny, color changing peppers. I even tried to eat one. It tried to burn my face off. They are more a novelty than a food crop, but I collected the seeds and, wonder of wonders, was able to cultivate more this season.

Some people claim to have a black thumb. I must have the blackest thumb ever. Every seed I planted in the flat sprouted. Since there were two or three in each compartment (They were slow to germinate, so I added a new seed each week), I ended up with more than a dozen thriving seedlings. Later in the season, I re-used the soil from the original plant pot for other projects. Low and behold, I began finding baby Black Pepper plants amid my verbenas and butterfly bushes. If last year was a good one for black pearl peppers, this year might be an even better one.

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Sadly, while the concept of a black garden is a popular one, examples of a successful execution are rare on Pinterest. I am having to make mine up as I go along. Hopefully, next year I’ll get some striped and speckled plants for contrast and a few accents. Currently, I’m setting pickle buckets in a row and considering planting arrangements for next year. Maybe some nicer containers or perhaps I’ll dedicate an actual patch of ground to the project.

Meanwhile, the year itself is growing dark. Gardening in an area with seasons is an ongoing race with the changing year. All too soon, the first frost of winter will be upon us and most of my garden will run out of time. It’s a metaphor, I suppose for my own anxious observations of a growing collection of silver hairs and wrinkles. Time has a way of moving forward and it’s something we cannot change. We can only make our own kind of peace with it. Perhaps this is why gardening is so popular with older folk.

It’s not winter yet though, so for now, I’ll take up my spade and do what I can in the time that remains. All any of us really can do in the long run is make the best use of the time given us. Perhaps, in nurturing dark plants and flowers, I’m making my own sort of peace with the ultimate mystery.

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ROW#80 Update

  1. Get Hunt Club set up. I’m making progress. There were a few days in which I had to play catch up on other projects, but I’m putting in solid time on the final clean up and format.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Yes! I had to put some solid hours into this in order to catch up, but this and the Hunt Club formatting are running even on time spent, which is how it should be.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I skipped another blog because on my grid, the time spent blogging was overtaking my time spent writing. I’m putting a severe time limit on my blogs in an effort to learn some brevity.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.I understand this session is approaching an end and am considering with some excitement what my next set of goals will be. Meantime, I’m looking with a bit dismay at my unfinished ones. I need to hurry up and complete a few projects.

Pale Roses

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There are many ways to murder a rosebush. If brought up on charges, I would probably plead guilty, but not of the premeditated variety. I’d never kill a rose on purpose. I’m just terrible at keeping the plants alive, unless they decide for themselves they want to stick around. I’ve had that good fortune a time or two, so I just keep trying, failing, and trying again. Like any good psychopath, I’m a bit obsessed.

It started when I was a teenager. Inspired by an interest in heraldry and things medieval, I drew stars, gave them one or two layers of petals, and surrounded them with leaves that formed a softer star shape. These became a kind of signature for me. They decorated my notebook covers and the margins of my journals. When my family moved, I used a marker to put roses on all of my boxes.

This obsession continued through high school and into college. I bought a small rose banner at my first renaissance festival and put it on the door of my bedroom and later, my first apartment. I bought my first bottle of rosewater and began making things like rose lemonade and rose petal jelly. Miniature roses came into fashion and I kept a nice one alive in my window for many years. Proud of my success, I collected a half dozen others and promptly killed them.

Roses can be very difficult to grow. Normally, a multitude of failures with a plant helps me to level up as a gardener. I study up, learn from my mistakes, and get better. Not so with roses. There is always another disease, another fungus, another insect or arachnid. Too much rain, too much heat, too harsh a winter, the wrong kind of soil, too much or two little light, too much or too little humidity, the possibilities are nearly endless.

There is good ol’ human error, as in “Oops, I forgot to water it, forgot to feed it, forgot to mist it or prune it or sing it a lullaby.” There are times when I’ve done everything I can think of and the darn thing dies anyway, leaving me to conclude it doesn’t like me and is pining away for it’s previous owner.  I’ve lost quite a few rosebushes that appear to have simply lost their will to live.

This year I wanted a white rosebush and the plant nurseries had nothing of the sort. They were overflowing with Knockout roses, a beautiful, tough, bushy variety that grows well in this area. These are red and I love to look at them, but most of them have no scent. Fragrance is important to me and I wanted my rose to be white. I gave up in despair over the summer but then happened upon just what I was looking for yesterday. It’s a nicely scented, snowy white rosebush, theoretically adapted to this area and “easy to grow.” We’ll have to see about the relative value of that term.

I’m hoping to get it in the ground this evening. I’m hoping it likes me and wants to grow for me. I’m hoping I don’t make any massive errors that result in it’s death. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.  As was stated in the author’s notes for Hunt Club, I cultivate pale roses. Cultivate in this case would mean “attempt to grow.”

I do try. Sometimes I’m even successful at it. 🙂

ROW#80 Update

  1. Get the cover for Hunt Club set up. Done. It’s ready to go.  Now I need to proofread the text and make sure it’s ready for print.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Yes! I’m finally making progress in this area. Sadly, it is partially creative avoidance of another project, but at least it is a useful sort of creative avoidance. I’ll take what I can get.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I skipped the last one because on my grid, the time spent blogging was overtaking my time spent writing. I gave it a break and let the guilt drive me to better productivity.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.

    The good news is I didn’t spend six hours this week trying to write the novel I plan to attack in earnest during November’s NaNoWriMo session. Nope, didn’t happen. Instead (bad news), I spent about four hours at plot crunching, figuring out who dunnit and how and where and whether the butler was involved. This is more difficult then the lovely rush of writing actual scenes, so that’s OK, right?

Aw, who am I kidding? I’m getting really excited about the next project on my roster, so much that I keep “cheating” and obsessing over it. The e-book has three five star reviews. Now I want to show the world I can write another one as good. I’m already planning to spend the month of October crunching out the details of the plot so I’ll have a good solid sense of direction and be able to make my NaNo session as productive as possible.

It’s all terribly exciting and I can hardly wait, but I really need to show a little discipline and get the darn print book out into the world. I should be able to get it done this week if I put my mind to it and stop succumbing to every shiny distraction on my desk.

Only Occasionally the Color of Blood

Some of my teas are red. Rose, hibiscus, cranberry, strawberry, there are plenty of tasty fruits and flowers that can impart a blood-like hue to my daily cuppa.

Some of my smoothies are also red. Strawberry, cranberry, blood orange, watermelon, ginger-beet, tomato, rhubarb, and so forth. They all make good smoothies and I do use them. Not every day, of course. My teas are more often than not amber-to-brown and my smoothies progress through a rainbow of colors, but I did say they were only occasionally the color of blood.

I am not the main character of my novel, but while putting together the promotional biography, it seemed appropriate to draw on some parallels. It’s hard to reduce a human life to one paragraph. You have to pick and choose and decide what the situation calls for. I selected a handful of active elements in my life and presented them with a certain tone to fit the genre of the story.

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Elizabeth Toll is usually hidden away in an office room, creating tales for her Manx cat. When not thus occupied, she plays a folk harp that is much smaller than the one in her novel, enjoys teas and smoothies which are only occasionally the color of blood, and cultivates a garden of pale roses, dark nightshades and odd miniature landscapes. Be afraid, be very… On second thought, be courageous and check out her blog. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye...

I felt strange about writing it. I’m from a background in which honesty is demanded and any indication of hype is sneered at. Faced with the task of promoting myself, I’d rather go hide in my walk-in closet behind the black silk shirts and velvet cloaks. Every word of the above biography is true, but it sounds a lot more romantic than my real life. I could just as easily have written the following:

Liz Funny1  Elizabeth Toll has operated rides at an amusement park, delivered singing telegrams, and more recently worked as a clown in party venues and large events. When not thus engaged, she can often be found dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, making outrageous puns or singing something ridiculous. She likes polka dots, Weird Al Yankovic, Marx brothers movies, and Terry Pratchetts Discworld series.

This just as true and yet it’s a completely different take, one on my silly side.  It’s the sort of thing that would be more useful to promote my entertainment business. Despite being a closet goth (translation, I have a bunch of dark cloaks, poets shirts, veiled hats, and wonderfully spooky, vaguely historic things I only take out of the closet when I’m in the right mood), I also have a lot of bright polka dots, colorful wigs, and funny shoes. Additionally, my wardrobe contains some simpler, more neutral attire, for times I need to go about disguised as a normal human being. (Not that it necessarily fools anyone. 🙂

My point is, no one is a paper cut-out. When writing a short biography, I did my best to pare it down to a few facts relevant to my writer aspect.

I write in the spare bedroom next to a snoring cat. I guzzle lots of tea and often substitute a quick blender drink for a proper meal.  Then, when I can’t take another second of writing, I escape outdoors to tend my garden or sit down and play something ridiculously inappropriate on one of my musical instruments.

Then I prettied the language up a little and posted it.

I looked at the resulting biography and the accompanying picture (taken on a day I wore something dark and delicious out of my goth closet) and said to myself, “What an interesting person. I’d like to meet her someday.” Since I already lived closely with her, this worried me.

Scroll down among the titles of my last several blogs and you may notice they follow the script of my author’s notes. That’s me going through and fact checking my own biography, looking for hype and exaggeration and trying to figure out how a boring person like me managed to look so good on a computer screen.

So far, it has survived every fact check. I actually am the romantic entity in the first biography. I am also the goofball in the second one, and the disorganized nerd in the third one. I could probably write a dozen more biographies in different tones and convey a lot of different first impressions using just the facts. They would all be true and accurate and none of them would really tell the whole story. A life story takes decades to develop and cannot easily be summed up in half a dozen lines on a page.

Ah well, if it’s hype, at least it’s honest hype. Greetings from your friendly neighborhood cozy vampire murder mystery writer. Of course I’m a little strange, look what I’ve been writing for the last five years. Get yourself a copy. Come on, you know you wanna. 🙂

ROW#80 Update

  1. Got the cover for Hunt Club set up. We’ve done three test prints and it still isn’t right. Upgrading the computer art for printing is becoming quite the learning experience. One thing I’ve learned from my e-book experience is patience is a big asset during the final phase of editing. As long as I don’t get discouraged and give up, every little step moves the process forward.
  2. “Average ½ hour a day working on new novel.” Nope.
  3. “Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs.” Up to date and then some.
  4. “Finish reading a book and write a review.” Nope.
  5. This wasn’t really on my list, but I’m going to acknowledge it anyway. I got in seven hours of work on the sequel to Hunt Club. I blame Isaac Asimov, who once said he fought insomnia by going over story plots until his mind, outraged at having to work at such a ridiculous hour, shut down and let him fall asleep.

    Sometimes the advice that works for our heroes doesn’t work for us. I plotted till four am, continued to plot in my dreams, then Saturday afternoon I was at the computer for six straight hours, absorbed in imaginary adventures as I tried to write the entire sequel to my novel in one day. It doesn’t work, but I sure had fun trying. It was a creative distraction from the boring task of trying to edit two manuscripts.  I really miss flat-out scribbling. It’s the most fun part of the entire process and sadly, the most brief.

    I intend to start plotting in earnest next month, but it was fun getting my feet wet again. Next time, I probably won’t count such a detour from my current goals, but just this once, I think I will.

Smoothies

I like smoothies. My Mom got me hooked on them when I was a kid. If she needed a fast breakfast for her five kids, the blender was a real crowd pleaser. She would make eggnog in what I now consider the old-fashioned way, with milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and raw eggs in her blender. No one was talking about e coli in those days. Young athletes were routinely downing raw eggs as part of their training programs and the only real fear factor was it seemed a bit gross. When my mother pointed out that cookie and cake batter also contained raw eggs, most of us stopped being squeamish about it. As long as it was well mixed in the blender, it didn’t technically qualify as icky raw eggs anymore.

Mom would add bananas to make banana nog, chocolate syrup to make chocolate nog, or oranges to make orange nog. It didn’t take long before all of her kids were making their own bizarre concoctions.

A decade or so passed and e coli became a household word. I stopped making nogs, but continued to try out smoothie recipes. My favorite was strawberry-banana, either with milk, buttermilk, or yogurt. I also enjoyed combinations like purple grape juice with pineapple, banana with celery, and banana with chocolate. As an avid dieter, I found these liquid meals to be helpful for keeping my waistline in check.

That all changed when I hit my mid-twenties and became allergic to dairy.  Food allergies are a real bummer, but they can be an interesting challenge. You become very creative in the kitchen and learn all sorts of hacks to work around them. I put the blender away and learned to eat other things for breakfast.

A few years later, I was looking sadly at the blender one day when it occurred to me that the soy milk I was eating on my breakfast cereal might make a good smoothie base. Before long, I was at it again.  My new favorites became citrus rosewater, banana mocha, and pumpkin spice.

When I had kids, they shared my enthusiasm and we would make watermelon citrus slurries and combine them with soda for an after school treat. Years later my son helped me perfect my green blended coffee drink and my grown daughter makes a mean two-frozen-bananas-and-more-strawberries-than-the-law-should-allow milkshake.  Sometimes she throws in some chocolate syrup too.

My own smoothie bases have continued to change through the years. I gave up soy milk for almond milk and then realized I could put a bit of almond butter in a blender with water and have a pretty decent equivalent. I’ve tried coconut milk, which is especially good in a banana mango smoothie. Water or juice often work out fine, and strangely enough, I’ve discovered meringue powder and pasteurized egg whites add a nice amount of protein. If a local source for pasteurized shell eggs should appear, I’ll be back to where I started, making egg nog smoothies.

These days, I keep a collection of frozen fruits in my deep freeze and try to vary the colors to get a full spectrum of vitamins. My blends often contain vegetables as well as fruits, and utilize all manner of spices and extracts. This tendency was aided when my mother bought me an industrial style blender several years ago. I nicknamed the monstrous machine Igor and we had many adventures experimenting in my kitchen laboratory.

Alas, I was rather distressed earlier this week to discover that Igor had reached the end of it’s days. Until I can rake together a sizeable chunk of money I’ll have to make due with the small mainstream type of blender I had in reserve in my kitchen.  Ah well, yet another challenge.  I’m up to it.

Life is all about challenges, and fewer are more delicious than what to make in the kitchen. I’ve not listed recipes because taste can be relative: my “blueberry fabulous” might not be your idea of fabulous at all.  There are tons of recipes on the internet, though, and if you write down your experiments, it’s very easy to develop a whole wonderful collection of your own.

Do you make blender drinks? What’s your favorite?

 

ROW#80 Update

  1. “Average an hour a day setting up Hunt Club for print.”  Nope, but I finished getting  the cover for Hunt Club set up. We’ll be doing a test print tomorrow to make sure it comes out good. Now to get back to work cleaning up the written part. You’re NEVER done proofreading.
  2. “Average ½ hour a day working on new novel.” I put in about an hour since Sunday.
  3. “Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs.” Up to date and then some.
  4. “Finish reading a book and write a review.” Nope.

I guess any progress is better than none. This month has been far less productive than I had hoped it would be, but I put in 22 hours towards getting my book ready to print, six hours toward my next novel, and 16 hours of blogging and promotion work. That’s 44 hours total which isn’t bad for a non-NaNo month. Perhaps I can use this as a baseline and try to beat it in September. Here’s hoping.

She Enjoys Teas

“Stay hydrated,” they said. “It’ll be good for you,” they said.

Thus began my terrible addiction to dihydrogen monoxide.
Eight glasses a day. Seven days a week.  I just couldn’t get the monkey off my back.

That all changed when I moved to Rogers Arkansas. The taste of water is always a little weird when you move to a new place, but I had the misfortune of arriving at a certain part of year in which the lakes were, as a local explained to me, “turning over.”  Due to certain weather conditions, they were rearranging themselves and the result was that the water, despite the utilities filtration system, tasted terrible.

I had a general liking for tea though, and had a few boxes in my cupboard. I began using them. Soon all my water was tea. Big jars of cold brew. Little cups of hot. Jasmine and lavender, green and black, mint and chai.

To be fair, some of those jars in my refrigerator are not actually tea. Occasionally there is cold brewed coffee, flavored fizz water, lemonade, or cucumber water. Not all at once though. There wouldn’t be room for tea.

It is summer and I do a lot of cold brewing. Cold brew is like sun tea, only you put the jar in the fridge and leave it there longer. It diffuses in those nice cool conditions and is delicious over ice. I drink it all summer.

Lately though, I have come to realize there might be a problem. I walked through a store a few days ago and the enticing scent of cinnamon and apples drew me to the tea aisle. The autumn teas were coming out. I was tempted to buy some. Unfortunately, it’s hard to justify purchasing more tea when your cupboard looks like this.

001Perhaps I need an intervention. :)

Do comment if you are also a tea lover. Do you have a favorite? A favored brewing method? A collection that takes up half your pantry?

Of course, those still suffering from dihydrogen monoxide addiction should remain in our thoughts and prayers. Do not be ashamed if you are one of them. Instead, speak up and let the healing begin.

 

 

ROW#80 Update

  1. Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. Got in a few hours progress setting up the cover and proofreading. It’s really close to being ready so I’m having trouble taking it seriously. I think I may be a little scared of sending my baby out into the world as a print book.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I put in another about an hour.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. Put in an inquiry for a possible book signing. I’m also working on brevity where blogs are concerned.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.

In general, I feel like I’m standing still. It has been hard in the last few days to motivate myself.

Hopefully this week will be better.

Plays a Harp Much Smaller than the one in her Novel . . .

When we were kids and a harpist was shown on TV, my big sister would say, “I wanna play the harp when I grow up.” I would say “Me too.”

Years passed and Terri, who had taken piano lessons and studied her music theory with due diligence, went to college. She majored in music, performed in band and orchestra on various instruments, and discovered a forgotten old concert harp collecting dust in the basement of the music building. She brought it back into the orchestra and by the time she graduated, the university had added harp instruction to it’s offerings and a picture of the instrument appeared on advertisements for the university arts program.

She and my father built her first harp from a kit. She went on to buy a concert harp and to make a living as a performer, instructor, and recording artist. You can find her website at    http://harpsinger.net/Terri_Langerak/Welcome.html

I am uber proud of my big sis. As she predicted she would so many years ago, Terri now plays the harp.

Uh, me too.

Yeah, that’s what I said and it was a pretty accurate prediction. Like her, I built my first harp from a kit. Like her, I’ve played in a few bands and in lots of fun venues. Like her, I have more than one harp, and can play well enough to earn tips and occasionally do a paid gig. There the resemblance ends. Terri is a pro. I’m mostly an amateur. Big difference. I do have fun playing though. At any given time, there is usually at least one harp under my desk ready for action. Sometimes, if my office is well organized, there are three.

The first is one I made from a kit.

Elisif Sword Harp

I worked hard on this one and am quite proud of it. It actually sounds remarkably good considering that I’d never built a musical instrument before. I’m no master woodworker either. It’s a bit rickety and has undergone several repairs. The nice thing about making your own instrument is you learn enough in the process to make the inevitable adjustments. The runes decorating it were the result of my participation in the Society of Creative Anachronisms (SCA) a historical interest group. I decided to emanate the northern people’s tendency to put graffiti on various objects and got a bit carried away. 🙂

Some months after completion of the above project, I was at an SCA event and found this on a merchant’s table.

036

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It was playable, reasonably priced, and looked like a miniature version of the one I already had. I couldn’t resist buying it and have never regretted the decision.

I call it my “wee little bairnie.” It is the darling of my collection, has nine metal strings and I have often brought it to outdoor camping events. It is very sturdy and well built. Due to it’s small size and reduced tensions, it is less prone to what I refer to as “exploding harp syndrome” the tendency for a musical instrument to pull itself apart in warm weather.

Some years later, a friend suggested I join a local Irish music session. By then, my first harp was going on two decades and I was reluctant to subject it to the variety of risks carting it all over town would entail, so I began looking for a sturdier instrument, one with more strings than the Bairnie and well built by someone who knew what they were doing. I ended up buying a secondhand Blevins Mezzo 23.

Saint Patrick's Day

It’s smaller that my rune harp and larger than my wee bairnie. It also has sharping levers, which allows for a variety of tunes. I play it often due to this versatility, but sometimes a piece of music is better suited for my rune harp, which has more strings. Five more strings can make a huge difference.

Lots more strings would be awesome. I would love to have a really big floor harp or concert harp, but they are new-car expensive. That’s why all of mine are little folk instruments.

Part of the fun of visiting Terri is I get to play with her big concert harps. The one in my story has a bit in common with Terri’s first concert harp, a paragon of gilded embellishment that was starting to feel it’s age. Concert harps are elaborately crafted instruments, but complicated. A lot can go wrong with them and they are expensive to repair. They can sometimes be found in old estates, a lovely piece of decor that was once a working instrument before it fell into neglect. They are beautiful and kind of sad. In my story, Jazz finds a harp she once played moldering away in the basement. If that happened to me, I’d probably have a good cry.

Fortunately, my own instruments are much easier to keep up. I don’t imagine they’ll be decorating anyone’s estate in the future, but I like the way they look in my office. Better still, I like the way they sound. Learning an instrument is a challenge, but it can be a very rewarding one. Music is awesome and so is the harp. My big sis learned this a long time ago.

Me too.

 

ROW#80 Update

  1. Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. Argh! Now I’m five days behind.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I put in another two hours of writing since Sunday. Progress is happening here anyway.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I fear this is becoming a time sink. Blah Blah Blog…
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. I still need to do this. You could say I’m a terrible procrastinator but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. In truth, I’m really quite good at it.