Monday, November 30, 2009

Snowflakes in the sun

No. It's not snowing. But I've finally caught up on the long weekend so I'm settling down to play with my new writers' software, Snowflake Pro. I'm analyzing my first Hemlock novel, finished this time last year, and planning to move on to the second one afterward. I'll be trying to import and export characters and locations between the stories. And since both novels include multiple points of view I'll be fascinated to see how the software lets me highlight them. Hopefully that will help me spot and fix any problems. Meanwhile I'm really looking forward to working with scenes and seeing how well they all fit together, hard to tell when I'm just reading what I've written. And then who knows, if I get really hooked I might even start writing book 3 with Snowflake Pro as my guide. Book 4 perhaps??? This should be fun--should also be close to miraculous if it gets me organized.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Dinner in the evening since the boys won't get up till lunch - that's okay; means I can enjoy a lie-in too.

Turkey and ham - both small, but make sure there's space in the oven for them, and for other things too. Cornbread casserole with black beans and goat's cheese for example, since one of the sons is vegetarian.

Candied yams - one day I'll find a recipe that everyone likes, but I fell in love them our first American Thanksgiving. Potatoes and carrots too. And cranberry sauce.

Vegetarian sausages with apples; not for me 'cause they have wheat in them, but I know the guys will eat 'em.

Gluten-free bread for me; real bread for them. Careful separation of crumbs. And the dressing made with mine - hope it doesn't dissolve.

Gluten-free apple pie because we're English - haven't quite acquired a taste for pumpkin yet. But I'm wondering how the pastry will work - it usually turns out kind of brick-like, made with gluten-free cement. Maybe cream will soften it.

Movies. Board games. Good books. A glass of wine. And the table set for dinner...

Yes, I'm planning and looking forward to tomorrow, and wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

I blog, and I can't spell. Maybe that's why Cathy Bryant at WordVessel just awarded me my second Kreativ Blogger Award. It means I have to post a picture of the award, list 7 favorite things, and pass the award on to 7 favorite blogs. So here's some random favorite things, in a totally random order…

1. Sunshine after rain (but not if I’m driving in it)
2. Dogs chasing spherical objects on the green
3. Squirrels chasing each other round a tree trunk
4. Sons coming home for holidays
5. Mum coming to stay for Christmas (She arrives 2 weeks today!!!)
6. That feeling when a story comes out of my head and lands safely in the computer.
7. The moment when someone says “Yes, I’ll buy your book” (better still, buy two).

And seven favorite blogs…

The Blood Red Pencil – great advice for aspiring writers.
Terry’s Place – more great advice for writers; fun reading too.
Second Wind Publishing – they publish great books and their authors write a good blog. Plus they've got a fantastic competition going on.
Living, Writing and Other Stuff – I’ve only just started following this one, but I love the articles, and the title says it all.
Blest Atheist – another one I’ve only just started following. Great Bible study and you really shouldn't miss the conversion story.
Breakthrough Blogs – because his articles are always so fascinating – scientific and mystical and fun.
Tilly the Rescue Dog’s Blog – well, I said I like dogs…

Okay, that’s seven. I have lots more favorites, but they can wait till next time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sold two, read three

I spent yesterday at a Christmas Bazaar trying to sell books. Lots of people came and talked to me, and I practiced my rather feeble selling skills.

"Oh no, I don't have any young children..."
"Well, these ones are for families. Would you like to look?"

"I should have made a list. I don't know who to buy for."
"D'you know anyone who likes reading perhaps?"

"Are your books Christian?"
"Yes they are. Are you interested in that?"

"My church might like them I guess."
"Could you give them a brochure for me please?"

9am till 4pm and I only sold two books, though I gave away lots of brochures and business cards. And in the times when no one was looking I finished reading three titles from my review list. I even wrote the reviews on the computer when I got home, so not a dead loss.

The next sale takes place a week on Tuesday and I'll hope for better luck then. Since it includes an "open mic" I'll ask everyone I meet if they can advise me what to say.

Can you advise me? Please?

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Did It !!!

Okay, it must be time to edit now, and set my nice new Snowflake software working on my middle-grade novels. But I did it - I finally finished the first draft of book two. My characters were really quite excited about it and kept me glued to the computer.

Afterwards I read one of the books that I'm meant to review by the end of the month, so all in all it's been a pretty productive day.

And tomorrow I'll try to sell books at another bazaar. Please wish me luck. I'm signing off now to print price lists and labels and "stocking stuffer stories" to add to my stall. Is Christmas really coming soon?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Murphy's Law and the Lean Mean Machine

I think it's Murphy's law that says if I really really want to write then something's bound to come up. So here I am, all inspired by my characters bouncing up and down in my brain, Snowflakes ready and eager to organize me, and...

Well, the dishwasher leaked, which was wet, and the man came to mend it, which was wetter. My son's computer arrived, not wet because I stayed close enough to the door to hear the doorbell (i.e. I wasn't on my computer). The odd rattly thing in the case sent me phoning tech support who tried not to laugh and said it was a light. (I didn't know computers had lights.) Then we went shopping for a monitor, but they'd sold out of the one my son had so carefully researched, so we drove further...

Meanwhile, I wanted to write, and I have a ton of books that I'm meant to be reading and reviewing, and our book group meets tonight.

Windows 7 was fun though. We switched on the machine and it recognized the printer straight away. It even almost connected to the lan, but I needed to set up the name and sort out the password. Next, much to everyone's amazement, I found the site to download our favorite virus-scanner, which installed smoothly and fast. However, babysitting the computer wasn't conducive to writing. Neither was babysitting the dishwasher. Aghghgh. And I forgot I was meant to be babysitting the washing as well...

I'll get around to writing again soon, and reading, I hope.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snowflakes on my computer

No; it's not snowing outside. In fact, at the moment it's not even raining though it was five minutes ago (this is Portland). But there are snowflakes growing in my computer and if my writing's somewhat incoherent it's probably due to the shock of finally starting to get organized.

I went to a writing conference a few years back and one of the speakers was Randy Ingermanson. He was really good - a fun speaker, with lots of great ideas, very down to earth and practical (unless you count his ambition to achieve Total World Domination, but perhaps that's not impossible either.)

One of his very practical suggestions was a talk about the Snowflake method of writing a novel. It appealed to me - reminded me of teaching Snowflake curves to elementary school-kids back in England. And it made great sense as a way to grow an idea into a novel, with all the details of character and plot filling themselves in along the way (along the edges) - the perfect solution to my meandering tales that suddenly thunder off to wild conclusions. But it involved being organized - keeping documents and files in the right places, remembering to update them, having the right ones available... If you know me you'll know being organized is not my strongest suit.

Anyway, I heard yesterday that "the Snowflake Guy," i.e. Randy Ingermanson, has come up with the perfect solution for someone like me. Snowflake Pro - a computer program that organizes all that random data for me, giving me access from one simple screen on my desktop. So now there's snowflakes growing in my computer - one for each of the novel's I've written or am writing. Characters will keep the same color eyes, plots will move forwards instead of backwards and sideways, and I'll balance my scenes far more carefully between crises and resolutions. It's just what I needed and I love it! Thank you Snowflake Guy!

Oh yeah, and it's just started to rain again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now I know why I needed a Plot

Not so very long ago I was writing the second in a series of middle-grade novels. It was going pretty well, as I remember. But then I got distracted when someone invited me to join textnovel. I set my magical teenagers aside so I could write a romantic mystery. Then I worked on my website and my blog. And then I caught up with some reading, long overdue.

Last weekend I decided it was time to get back to those mysterious teens. And today I finally got round to opening the file. I was pleased to see I'd already written forty out of fifty chapters. How hard could this be? So I greeted my characters with glee, rereading from chapter one and happily pleased to remember the tale. I watched their new school year begin. And then...

And then I realized I hadn't the faintest idea what I'd written. Plotlines that I'd completely forgotten were taking me places I'd no recollection of seeing. It was fun, for sure, and I was thoroughly intrigued with the read till it all came to a halt. And now I'm wondering, where on earth do I go from here?

Don't get me wrong; I do have a plot. Sort of. But it's not the every chapter planned and quartered kind of thing. I know which major events are still to come, but don't know how, and the brain's freezing over. Perhaps a good night's sleep will help, or a leisurely walk round the green. I certainly hope something does because I want to know what happens next. D'you suppose this is writers' block, or just writers' idiocy? I should never have stopped. Or else I should've written a proper plot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turning my blog into a website - 3

I really ought to get back to writing, but this website game gets addictive. Still, I'll try to make this my last change for a while.

I'd been asking for feedback on my fledgling site, and the major comments I got were:

1. Nobody knows what a drabble is - so I've change the heading (above) to read "STORIES" instead.
2. The free download's too well hidden on the Lulu site - so I added a note at the top of my Lulu page.
3. Advertise the free stuff - see 2 - so I added "FREE STUFF" to the headings above. Unfortunately I ran out of space, so "BIBLE STUDIES" just says "STUDIES" now. Comments anyone?
4. I should use the same colors for titles everywhere - so I changed them in the html code and now they mostly match.
5. I should use the same colors and highlighting for links - so I tried: Oh, how I tried. My blog's template says it's the same as all the other pages, but the change just doesn't seem to happen. Maybe when I get cleverer at html... it looks like there's some other styling hardwired in there, maybe leftover from when I used to use a different template.

So, thank you all for the comments and suggestions. And despite my plan to stop making changes, I'm sure I'll revisit this soon - if only to add some more free stuff as soon as it's finished.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Writer's Journey

Sometimes I wonder if being self-published really qualifies me as a writer. But I know Pat Bertram's a real writer, and I love her first two books, More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Pat's third book, Daughter am I, has just been released by Second Wind Publishing and it's high on my Christmas List - maybe after you read this it'll be high on yours too. I'm truly honored to have Pat posting to my blog today, and truly inspired by the piece she's written. Thank you Pat.

When I asked Sheila what topic she’d like me to talk about, she said she’d like to read how I got from where I was before to where I am now, and what advice I would give those dreaming of following. So here is the travelogue of that journey.

Daughter Am I is about a quest, so it’s fitting that during a blog tour to promote the book I should talk about my personal quest as a writer. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. Oh, wait. That’s the first line of David Copperfield! Every quest needs a hero, though, and it’s still to be determined if I will be the hero of mine. I am far from where I want to be, yet I am also aware of how far I have come. Eight years ago, I started out with nothing but time and a desire to get the past out of my head, so I wrote a fictionalized version of my life’s defining moments. Ghastly? Oh, yes! But I did complete the novel, which gave me a bit of satisfaction.

For my second novel, I decided to be clever and compile all the genres into one -- a horror/western/mystery/suspense/thriller/romance/historical/science fiction/ novel. By then I had decided that if I was going to write, I should learn the craft. I’m not being modest when I say I have no innate talent for writing, though I do have a talent for learning, so I set out to learn everything I could about writing. (Here is my first bit of advice -- to learn how to write, you need to learn how to write. It sounds silly, but it’s true.) The very first thing I learned is that neophyte writers often make the mistake of thinking they were being clever by combining all genres into one. Ouch. A painful lesson, though one I haven’t really learned. Most of my books cross genres, though not quite the way I had originally intended.

This second novel eventually became Light Bringer, which was the fourth one I completed, and which will be published in the spring of 2010. I worked on Light Bringer for a bit, then I got the idea for More Deaths Than One, and that story so captured my imagination that I immediately sat down and started writing it. I thought the finished product was great. Wonderful writing. Perfect images. Engaging characters. I even got an agent for it, which says more about the ineptitude of the agent than the worth of the book.

When More Deaths Than One didn’t sell, I reread it to prove to myself that the editors who turned down the book didn’t know a good book when they saw one. Boy, did I have a shock! The thing was dreadful. One character (William Henry Harrison, who eventually became an off-screen -- or rather off-page -- character) told the story to the main character, so it was mostly written in the second person. Eek. And my hero Bob did nothing. He wasn’t even in his own story. So I rewrote the book. Several months later, when the revised book had racked up more rejections, I read it again. Another shock. Still dreadful! It took four major overhauls, fifty books on how to write and self-edit, another novel (while all this was going on, I wrote A Spark of Heavenly Fire), and dozens of edits and copyedits before I finally ended up with a readable book. (Here is my second bit of advice -- when a book is rejected, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the agent or editor is a fool. Perhaps the book isn’t nearly as good as you think it is. Set it aside for weeks, months, even a year, and continue writing and learning how to write. Then look at again and try to assess it honestly.)

I could continue to bore you with the minutiae of my journey, but the point is that I did learn how to write, and you can too. Talent helps, but is not necessary. What is necessary is to learn the craft, to be honest in your self-assessment, and to be willing to rewrite as often as it takes to make the finished product match your vision.

I endured over two hundred rejections during my journey, but what made it worthwhile was finding a publisher who loves my books.

As for the second half of my journey -- finding that publisher -- well, let’s just say it was a matter of persistence. By then I had written four books that I knew were worth reading, so I explored every single possibility. I studied Writer’s Marketplace and Jeff Herman’s directories. I searched agent databases on the Internet. In the end, finding Second Wind was a fluke. I happened to come across a link to their website on a discussion thread, and immediately shot off a query letter. So, here is my final piece of advice -- follow through on every lead that you get. You never know where success will come from.

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Please wish me luck!

I spent this morning setting up my stall at the St. Pius Christmas Bazaar. They've given me a beautiful location, really close to the doors and the checkout, so I'm hoping lots of people will walk by. No, actually I'm hoping they'll stop instead of walking by, and maybe decided to buy...

Anyway, please wish me luck. It's the first sale of the season. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brands, Labels and Catchphrases - 4

A friend asked why I use rainbows as the theme for all my sites, so here's the answer(s).

1. I started out using pictures from my books and trying to advertise. When I wanted to change the picture, I'd just published A Bible Book of Colors on Lulu, so I sliced a piece of rainbow from the cover as my new image.

2. I wanted visitors to my sites to see the text without having to scroll. My rainbow just happened to be nice and thin, so I kept it.

3. And now I'm working on themes - well, the rainbow's a sign of God's promise. Okay, He was promising not to destroy the world with a flood. But seeing a rainbow on my sites serves me as a nice reminder of His love.

4. Then there's the fact that as a kid I "knew" the flood was "just a story" 'cause there had to have been rainbows ever since there was rain and light. I reckoned God couldn't have waited till Noah to make them. But when I read the Bible for myself I found it doesn't actually say God invented rainbows then, just that He used them. It reminds me to read more carefully and keep my eyes open.

5. Which means I'm Inspired by Faith and Science, which kind of fits my theme.

Of course, the theme only applies to my Bible books, but God's promises are for all of me, and I like seeing His rainbows.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brands, Labels and Catchphrases 3

It doesn't look like my efforts have improved the queries reaching my site, but I have to admit, coming up with a catchphrase feels nice. (And I do thank you for your encouragement.) Now I can label my advertising materials more appropriately, and the timing's great since I have my first Christmas Bazaar coming up next weekend. I've even updated my Lulu storefront to match - - and I like the new version much better. My next job will be to make sure all the colors of the headers are the same, and then to update my blogs so their colors match too. Soon, I hope...

Meanwhile it's November and I still haven't written my first poem-a-day for the Poetic Asides challenge. But I have posted two Mayflower drabbles on my drabble blog.

Time to wax lyrical I think... Poetic Asides to the rescue...