Monday, March 29, 2010

Last Week's Reading/Writing Journey

I still have two book reviews to write for last week, plus one to send off to Poetic Monthly for next month, and two to send to Nights and Weekends for their Lunch Break E-Books column. (If you head to N&W LBE you'll see one of my lunch-break reviews, for Hearts Crossing, by Marianne Evans.) But I'm continuing to take that Reading Journey and did post reviews on gather for

Legend of the White Wolf, by Terry Spear
Phantom, by Terry Goodkind
Poltergeist, by Kat Richardson, and
Staccato, by Deborah J Ledford.

Meanwhile, I edited
306 pages of Psalms and Parables - and almost decided on Psalms in Stories for the new title (Maybe I'll write Proverbs in Parables one day to go with it)
90 pages of Exodus Tales (which follows on from my 2008 book, Genesis People), and
32 pages, plus pictures, of Revelation! Easter to Pentecost in 100 words a day (my fourth 100 words a day book, following Christmas!, Easter!, and Thanksgiving!).

Now to mail my entry for VoiceCatcher 5, figure out why Lulu's Poetry site doesn't want to let me log in, and start uploading my edits to Lulu's self-publishing site.

Meanwhile, please look out for new books, coming soon to my Lulu storefront!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Boring Facts and Beautiful Blogs


Helen Ginger gave me a beautiful blogger award, and while reading her article I watched the slideshow in her sidebar. Hers is most certainly a beautiful blog.

No slideshows here—not yet anyway—but I gather I’m meant to share seven interesting things about myself and nominate seven other beautiful bloggers…

Interesting things… I have a feeling I’ve probably shared everything interesting (and many things not) in my previous posts, but I’ll see what I can think of.

1. My youngest son graduates from college this summer.
2. My oldest son graduates from medical school on the same day.
3. They’re in different states.
4. I haven’t yet mastered the art of being in two places at once, though motherhood has at least improved my imitation of the art.
5. Motherhood has also improved my skills at doing more than two things at once…
6. …and at reading more than two books at once…
7. …and at partaking in more than two conversations at once—one per child plus one for the spouse with the aid of two phones, one computer, real life, and sometimes even simultaneous transatlantic Skype.

So, my beautiful blogger friends:

Writing is a Blessing recently reached 100 followers, which surely should be honored with an award.
Wrinkly Writers, where Gladys Hobson posts some lovely short stories—I’m so glad I found it.
Waysinger who always seems to write exactly what I need to hear.
The Purple Caravan, where every beautiful, thought-provoking piece of writing is accompanied by beautiful pictures.
The Old Geezer Blog, which is always different and thought-provoking and fun.
Second Wind Publishing—not sure how you give awards to a publisher, but I really enjoy their authors and their blog, and finally
Mary Russel’s Children’s Stories and Novels, where you’ll find information about a really fun children’s book—Flickertail and Paint.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Permanent Press and that reading journey

I've just posted my fourth review of a book about to be released by The Permanent Press. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion, based on these and others that I read a while ago, that I like all their books. I like their cockeyed pessimist blog too...

Anyway, the latest two books are Pretend All Your Life, by Joseph Mackin, and Drake's Bay by T. A. Roberts.

Drake's Bay is a fascinating mystery. It's easy to see why the author's already had two books become Edgar Award finalists. He knows how to craft a fine mystery, and a fine sea-sailing craft. There's a brilliant sea-chase to look forward to as the book progresses from houseboat life to crumbling mansion with historical books to murder, mayhem and Amsterdam. And the hero, a quiet history professor with a young, less than quiet girlfriend, slowly unravels clues with their roots touching Elizabethan times and a father's gentle detachment in days just gone by. Click here for my gather review of Drake's Bay.

Pretend All Your Life takes place in a short period of just six days. The concept reminded me of Ian McEwan's Saturday, and the book stands up well to the comparison. (I loved Saturday.) The protagonist is a plastic surgeon, and the story is beautifully constructed, building ideas from the sharp edges of reflections, cutting and changing, and setting the whole together in a different shape. It's set in post-9-11 New York, where terrorist's hands have torn a hole in the city and a void through people's lives. The artists sculpts. The child survives. And the father tries to understand how he should grieve. But changed shapes bring secrets to light that were hidden before, and the unthinkable becomes surprisingly possible in the light of new knowledge. Click here to read more of my gather review of Pretend All Your Life.

Meanwhile, for lighter reading, I enjoyed Susan May Warren's Double Trouble (gather review here). And proof-reading: I've just got the proofs of my next set of children's stories... HELP! I have proof-read Revelation! Easter to Pentecost in 100 words a day now though, and fixed all the Bible reference errors that crept in. "Only" 150 stories from psalms and 40 from Exodus to go...

And I'm still looking for a title: Genesis People, Exodus Tales, Joshua's Journeys, and Storyteller's Psalms? Psalmist's Tales? Psalms in Parables? Parable Psalms? Psalm Tales?...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reading, reading, reading... and Able Danger

Reading, reading, reading those proofs till the words stop making sense... and of course, the trouble with reading proofs is you end up trying to proof-read everything. It's not the best way to approach reading a new book. But I am still finding time to read, and the journey continues slowly.

Able Danger is a book that I found reviewed on the internet (the joy of following all those fun blogs and nings). It sounded like it would provide a pleasant evening's reading - well, it did mention James Bond and I am English... - so I was pleased to get a chance to read a free copy and join the author's virtual book tour, taking place this week.

Kensington Roth has penned an interesting tale in Able Danger, full of wild conspiracy theories, round-the-globe action, and perfectly rendered accents in intriguing, realistically confusing conversations. Reading sometimes like a movie script, the book begs to be seen on the screen. And the ending certainly turns the world on end - there's a sequel in the works which should be fun.

The main protagonist, Agent Harrison Court introduces himself in the second chapter, with a quick first-person nod to James Bond. Then a third-person narrator takes over. Court, who works for a “nonexistent sector of the CIA,” is heading for a meeting in Hong Kong on his way to meet his intended “China doll” bride. Plot, counter-plot and conspiracy theory lead to long discussions of fictionalized real-world terrorism. And special effects abound in the threat of super-weapons, high-speed car-chases, and “B-52s bombers landing two thousand pound bombs.”

The odd misused word distracted my reading, but that's the trouble with reading too many proofs I guess. And I wasn't entirely convinced by the conspiracy theory, though my views may have been colored by the fact that I was reading another book with 911 in its background at the same time.

It's fun to be part of the book tour, and I wish Kensington Roth every success with this book and its sequel. For a longer review, please look on my gather page, and for more information on the book and author, please go to the able danger book tour page.

Title: Able Danger
Author: Kensington Roth
ISBN: 978-0-615-29433-9
Publisher: Kensington Roth Media

Titles, titles...

I've got the first of my proofs and I'm slowly proof-reading. The stories are going okay but I'm not too sure of my title now, so I'm writing to ask if any of my internet friends can help.

Book 1, already on sale, is Genesis People, a set of 3-minute read-aloud stories and 30-second prayers based on characters in Genesis.

Boos 2, coming soon, is Exodus Tales - you've guessed it - a set of 3-minute read-aloud stories and 30-second prayers based on events in Genesis.

Book 3 - I'm still writing this one - is Joshua's Journeys, a set of 3-minute read-aloud stories and 30-second prayers based on the conquest of the Promised Land (mostly Deuteronomy, Joshua etc.)

Book N (not sure what N is), is currently titled Psalms and Parables, a set of 4-minute stories and 30-second prayers based on the book of Psalms.

4-minute stories? I wrote these ones first, back when children's sermons in church were allowed to be five minutes long. Then they reduced them to four.

The problem is, does calling it Psalms and Parables make you think it's got the New Testament Parables inside? And if so, what might make a better title.

Suggestions so far...

Psalms in Parables
Parables from Psalms
Stories from Psalms
Psalmist's Tales
Storyteller's Psalms


etc.

Any preferences? Better ideas? ...

Meanwhile I'll continue to proof-read 4-minute parables while I wait for the proofs of 3-minute Exodus Tales . Many thanks for your help and I'll let you know how it goes :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Proofs!


I got two of my free proofs from Lulu in today's mail -

Revelation (an Easter to Pentecost calendar based on the book of Revelation) and

Psalms and Parables (a set of 150 children's stories based on psalms.) They books look great, but of course I'll have to read them with fine-toothed comb held firmly in hand before I go public.

Meanwhile my final proof's driving me up the wall. Time's running out and I've yet to convince the Lulu program that it's a new publication and therefore deserves a free proof. Still, they have reinstated live chat to help their users, so I'm far less frustrated than I would be otherwise. Here's hoping the coupon, and proof, arrive in time for me to make my order before the March sales event finishes - nothing like deals to make headaches and deadlines :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A "Glorious" step on the reading journey

The Lulu deadline for free proof copies is next Tuesday, so I've been spending way too much time editing and too little time cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and, of course, reading. But I have read some books. My continuing journey really is continuing. And the books I've read, and reviewed, this week have certainly been interesting.

Number one has to be Glorious by Bernice McFadden. There's a brilliant Book Blogger Contest going on, and since my blog has finally crossed the magical 50-followers mark (Many thanks dear followers) I was able to get a free copy of Glorious to review.

I have to say I really enjoyed this book. The author gives a flavor of different accents and ways of speaking without making the words in any way hard to read. She creates a scarily real vision of life in the American South in the early 1900's too, with scenes that make both characters and reader want to turn away. A return visit in the 60's reveals how little and how slowly things change, but the author touches pain with gentle hope and resolution, creating a truly inspiring whole. The story moves from South to North, with images of love, hope and betrayal in New York as vivid as those on the railways and in Georgia. For more details, you can find my review of Glorious here on gather.

Besides Glorious I've read two books aimed at teenagers this week that also dealt with racial discrimination and related issues. Both Linked and The Intruders by Olive Peart were fascinating modern-day stories with very real teenage characters dealing with very issues, the whole wrapped in fascinating sci-fi situations. In Linked, two boys whose family ties are breaking apart find themselves so linked that they exchange bodies - an implausible premise I suppose but one with just enough logic applied to make it work really well. Hidden prejudices appear as the boys wish this, and their other problems, away. But they can't play the part of each other without trust, and trust leads to interesting solutions. In The Intruders and mixed bunch of teens find themselves transported through time, with new problems revealing new strengths and weaknesses, and highlighting the problems of the world they left. (The links above lead to my reviews on gather again.)

It was pure coincidence that I ended up reading several multi-cultural novels at once, but a happy coincidence. Now if only my publishing journey could progress as well as my reading one...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

"Patience is a virtue." That's what my Mum would say, usually when one or another of us was failing to be patient about something. The thing I need to learn is to be patient even with computers, even with computer programs, even with other people's programs running over the internet...

I finally finished formatting and editing my 150 stories and uploaded them as a "new project" on Lulu. I was a bit dismayed by the way the "file conversion" seemed to hang at 95% complete, but... you know... patience and all that. I exercised patience, got on with reading emails and blogposts etc., and I waited.

Half an hour later (at least, that's how it seemed), 95% became 100% and I started to design my cover. I'd already made the picture I wanted (using Microsoft Paint), and I knew what words I'd need. I hadn't used the new Lulu cover creator much before, but it's really quite neat - even lets you pick colors from your picture to use in your background or text. I was suitably impressed. Plus there's a barcode, which looks really cool, though I'm not sure what useful purpose it serves except to render all the links on my website out of date whenever I republish anything...

With the cover designed I asked Lulu to create a "print-ready" version, and this time the file conversion seemed to hang at 98.33333%. So I exercised patience again, and drank a cup of tea.

Half an hour later (approximately) my cover-file conversion failed. A neat little error message invites the user to look for help in the support area, where there are lots of vaguely related questions, mostly about covers that suddenly stopped being printable after Lulu upgraded its printers. Various users seemed really annoyed about this, though I guess with the number of users Lulu's got, there's not a lot they can do. What they do seem to have done is to temporarily offer free proof copies, which seems like a really generous deal. I plan to update my old covers and make sure they'd still print since they sound suspiciously like they might fail.

I tried a couple of minor changes; took the text off the spine; put the text back; kept everything well away from the edges, etc. But nothing worked. At 98.33333% my file conversion continued to hang and to fail.

Meanwhile I decided to look at the interior pdf that Lulu had created and realized I'd accidentally left a page number on the first page. I took the number out - no big deal - re-uploaded, and... the interior file conversion hung at 95% then failed. So now I had neither pages nor cover for my nice new book. Aghghg! Frustration!

I tried all the tricks I've tried before - just use one font. Be careful where section breaks occur (I hate section breaks), try not to use anything too obscure for the size of the type... and still it failed . Meanwhile I'd accidentally over-written my original with all the nice different fonts, and couldn't decide if I wanted to try to recreate it.

It got late. I gave up and went to bed.

Next day I reopened my project in Lulu. It immediately started trying a file conversion on that last failed document. Two minutes later it was done and offering me a cover that looked remarkably like the one I'd so carefully created the previous day. Another two-minute file conversion later, I had my book, ready to print and ship, sending that free proof wending its way to my door.

So what had changed? The message boards and support discussions don't seem to have much to offer, but I'm making a guess that Lulu was just overloaded - maybe the file conversions timed out, or maybe there wasn't enough space on that particular server for the new file to be stored. Either way, I plan to exercise a little more patience next time.

If today it won't succeed, I'll wait until tomorrow to try again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

And...

It's such a little word. "And" I do use it a lot. Quite a lot, in fact, as I've discovered while editing my 150 children's stories based on the Parables. But (that's another of my over-used words) I promised my Mum I'd get the stories published soon (self-published on Lulu - they've been the rounds of real publishers and even got a "really interested" from one, but nothing more). So I've been working on them, "and" removing "and"s.... and "but"s.

Meanwhile, on NPR this morning someone was talking about the misuse of "like" in the younger generation. The only problem was the misuse of "y'know" throughout the discussion. I guess we all have our favorites. In my world we used to say "Um" and "Er" instead, which was equally uninformative. And a close friend in England says "Right."

I'm trying to check that my dialog sounds okay in those 150 stories, but they're nearly ready, and with Lulu offering such a great deal on proofs at the moment...

Now if I could just get those Exodus stories done too like I promised my Mum...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Still taking that journey

I'm still Taking that Reading Journey, and I found a way to work out how many points I've made each month. Current totals... Jan 168, Feb 208, March 17. I've just posted some more book reviews too

Incendiary by Chris Cleave - an amazing tale of large events writ small in the life of a London woman. (I wrote a review of Chris Cleave's Little Bee last week. I'm hooked. He's a really great writer!)
Passing Fancies by A. F. Stewart, a very enjoyable collection of short stories and drabbles, perfect for keeping on the desktop of your computer (or by your coffee mug, though you may prefer not to eat jammy dodgers while reading some of them).
Thunder and Blood, by Stacey Voss, who hopes to give birth to both the sequel and a new baby sometime soon.
a theory of all things, by Peggy Leon: Okay, I posted this review earlier, but the book's just come out, so you might want to give it a look. Seriously, it's one of the best books I've read recently, by an author who can make math sound as interesting and creative as it really is, and describe sculpture, painting, photographs, and create the most amazingly real and heart-breaking family, and make it funny and touching and sad and beautiful, and structure it so perfectly...

In writing news, I'm slowly editing those 150 stories that I so painstakingly formatted back in January. I'm up to number 70, and restricting myself to no more than 10 at a time, in hopes that my brain won't suddenly switch off. It's amazing how many brain freezes I'm finding left over from previous edits - repeated words, missed words, wrong words... I promised my Mum I'd get these and another (shorter) set of stories done soon, so Hemlock's resting on the back burner for a while - probably a good idea now I've finally untangled the stories after last months writing spree.

Meanwhile there's still the remainder of last month's cleaning to catch up on, and all those blogs that I failed to follow while trying to reach my goals. Goals are fun, but maybe soccer has the right idea, keeping them to manageable numbers. (The guys will probably be watching soccer tonight, and I'll read, or write.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aghghghgh! So much for procrastination...

Once upon a time we had this nice little email account. We used to plan to delete old emails, but of course, they kept falling off the screen and getting forgotten. And in those "old days" we didn't even have nice directories to hide them in, or email search features. But periodically we'd get the "your storage is almost full" message and we'd clean everything out. It would take an evening or so...

But that was then and this is now. And our super-duper, ever-expanding email account with multiple directories and easy access to search has served us beautifully for the last 5 years. Of course, we always intended to clean it out periodically too, but since it never got full, we never had to.

Then came the dreaded message yesterday... we are going to discontinue your subscription to... there will be no change in your fees... you might want to switch your email address to...

... and lose or keep a gazillion emails that haven't been sorted in years? Ah well. I guess it was just the long-awaited wake-up call. No more procrastinating. I've spent all morning cleaning out my "writing" directory, which just leaves ten more directories to do before transferring everything that's left to another system...

...where, undoubtedly, we will continue to procrastinate. Still, if we get two separate email accounts, at least we'll be able to compete to see who can procrastinate most.