Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 5

The yellow fever decision has been made, for better or for worse. Our South African contacts felt confident that as long as the passport isn't stamped in Dakar, since it's a refueling stop and we don't get off the plane, there was no real need for a yellow fever shot.

After an extensive internet search, I found a listing for places that give travel immunizations, including yellow fever. One was in a building I drive by on my way to absolutely anywhere. Nothing is EVER in our neighborhood, so this was a very exciting piece of news. If the shots were convenient, then maybe we'd do it anyway.

Of course if something seems too good to be true, it usually is, and when I called for more information, the gentleman said, "Oh, we don't have an office there anymore." (Can you say, 'Update your website, bucko?") The nearest was about a 40 minute drive. I decided to make the appointment and wait for my husband to get out of his meeting to see what his thoughts were. The fact that it would cost well over $300 for the two of us tipped the scales, and we are bravely venturing into our journey without yellow fever immunizations.

Another deciding factor -- I went to the Thorlo outlet and the salesman has relatives in Cape Town and they travel that route often and nobody's ever checked on yellow fever immunizations on a refueling stop.

Next up: malaria. I've mentioned the tour company changed its policy, and now we need malaria meds. Finding out you're supposed to start taking them the week before travel was daunting, because that was yesterday. However, the nurse called back to verify how long we'd be gone, and the pills are taken once a week, and it's a week before you get to a possible malaria location, not before you get on the plane, so that gives us time (and the pharmacy time to get the pills) because although everything we've read says, "no malaria in South Africa", it's a possibility at one of the game preserves, and we don't get there for at least 5 days after our arrival.

I have my annual physical this afternoon -- we'll see what the doctor says.

Last night's workshop was fun -- not heavily attended, but those who were there wanted to learn about writing, and we had a great interactive session. The Barnes & Noble store didn't get my books in, but that's another story -- the signing is Saturday, and they promised them by then. If not, I have copies in my car. Always.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 6

Yesterday was right up there in the stress department. We spent most of the day trying to get an answer (or at least the same answer from any two sources) on how to interpret the you do not need yellow fever immunizations for South Africa unless your travels include destinations in the yellow fever belt tidbit in the travel information. Until yesterday, we were under the impression we were in the clear. We've had several friends travel to South Africa and none had to be jabbed. However, there was concern that since we refuel in a potential yellow fever country, we might have to have the shots anyway.

Further research merely added to the confusion. One place said you HAVE to have the shots. But they need 10 days to take effect, and we're leaving before then. Another said they give the shots, but have no appointments until we leave. Our county health doesn't give them anymore. And on and on, and of course, by now it's 5 PM and nobody's in the offices.

I sent an email to the conference coordinator in South Africa. He investigated with the South African medical folks, and responded this morning:

According to Medi Travel, a consultancy here, you do NOT need a yellow
fever jab if you stay on the plane. If you disembark, you are then
potentially at risk because there are day-time biting mosquitoes in the
area, and so would require a jab. (You will probably find that the
flight attendants spray the cabin with insecticide shortly before
departure to ensure that any stowaways are zapped - marginally less
unpleasant than the jab!).
So, I'm feeling better now, although I suppose I should still call the local clinics I unearthed from an Internet search yesterday and see if there's any chance I can get the shot this week. If nothing else, having that certificate will guarantee nobody will ask. It will be my good deed for all the others on the plane who didn't get one.

Meanwhile, I have to work on all the 'Ancillary Materials' the publisher wants for When Danger Calls -- those pesky cover blurbs, jacket copy, author quote sources, bio ... and probably more, but I haven't opened that file yet.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 7

What's been going on:

I was interviewed by another blogger -- check it out: http://www.annycook.blogspot.com
Or the direct link to the post, for when it scrolls down the page.

My Point of View handouts are printed.

And now, back to my normal panic. After a relatively calm weekend, it's time to get back info countdown mode for real.

A week! I definitely have to start a list. I found out I had one of my all-to-frequent ditz moments when I sent my 22 chapters of When Danger Calls to my editor. Like forgetting to hit 'attach' before hitting 'send.' So, whether or not she works on weekends, she couldn't have looked at my changes and answered my questions. I sent it last night at around 10 PM. Hope she has a chance to look at it.

I also touched base with one of my writing research sources (Thanks, Major Tom!) who gave me some ideas for things to put into the scene where my editor said, "Show these 7 minutes on the page, please). So much for trying to duck around writing combat scenes, things I know little about.


List thoughts.

My husband has accepted responsibility for investigating if we're going to need yellow fever shots. I still have to get more socks, but we got him some shoes more appropriate for the closing banquet at the conference. I went through our American Express charges. Ouch! Packing. Money. Work. Of course, the Treasurer wants to be prepared for the report he has to give at the conference board meeting. Who's got the data he needs? Who do you think. There go a few more hours. Arrange a ride to and from airport. Lights on timers. Water heater off. Turn off hoses to washer & dryer. Air conditioner off. All doors locked. Paper and mail stopped. Transfer bookmarked URLs to husband's laptop. Compare packing notes -- we don't both need camera cables to download pictures, do we?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 8

Yesterday was surprisingly calm. Since I'd sent Hidden Fire to my Cerridwen editor, I closed the door on that one, and crossed it off the list (well, I would have, if I'd actually written my list yet). Late yesterday (which was early today for her, because she's in Australia), she said she was backlogged and wouldn't get to it for at least two weeks. So -- no worries, as she would say. It's in her hands, and I won't even think about it (much) until I get back.

I didn't hear from my Five Star editor about the first 22 chapters of When Danger Calls. I had some questions for her, and didn't want to keep going until I heard from her. Being a weekend, I don't know if she works or not, so I put that project on hold as well. Which left me time for some much-needed food shopping.

Couldn't do anything about clarifying if we actually should get the yellow fever shots or not because all the medical places are closed on the weekend. I'd rather not if it's not needed, but it's not worth being stranded somewhere because I don't have the requisite slip of paper some official decides I need to get back into the country.

I worked on my Point of View handouts for Tuesday night (anyone in central Florida -- come see me at the Barnes & Noble in the Altamonte Mall), did some critique work and watched a little television. Almost caught up with what I taped last week.

Now I can start making the silly little decisions -- what do I pack, how much, or would it be easier to buy it there? Money. Our travel documents hit us with some minor surprises, like airport fees required to get out of the country -- $60 US in cash, exact change, per person. Yikes. And our side-trip to Victoria Falls has a whole different set of currency rules. No credit cards, and a whole page of how things work in that country. I'm so geographically challenged, I didn't even begin to think it was another country when my husband added the side trip.

I only hope my Wild Rose Press editor gets my galleys for Hurricane Breeze to me in time to give them a fair read.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Counting Down to South Africa T minus 9

What I'm reading: The Witness by Sandra Brown

What I'm writing: "THE END!"

Yes, finally! I "finished" last night. This morning, I made the last-minute changes to the manuscript, which now has a name only slightly better than Book 6 -- Hidden Fire. I had to change a bunch of character names. Not good to have 3 major players with similar names, which I know, but somehow wasn't thinking when I named them. I got to a scene with all three of them in it, and it hit me smack in the face. However, by then, I 'knew' them by those names, so I finished the book before deciding what I'd call them.

It's not a polished manuscript, but my editor knows my writing and should be able to decide if it's worth accepting. If it's inside the ballpark, we'll take it from there.

Yesterday's plans took a detour when I called the tour company to find out where our final travel documents were. "On the FedEx truck." Since the delivery window was 8 AM to 7 PM, and they had to be signed for, I had to postpone all the 'out of the house' chores and errands.

The other glitch was their "minor" change in wording about needing malaria meds. While their first guidelines said simply to check with your physician, and according to all the websites, malaria isn't a problem in South Africa, we assumed we would be fine without it. However, the final instructions say they 'require' it. Deeper research indicates we might be better off with yellow fever shots, too, because our plane refuels in an airport that falls within the 'if you're going to this country, you need proof of immunization.' We're not supposed to be getting off the plane, but at this point, I suppose it's smarter to get the shots. Too bad none of this was clear from the beginning. At any rate, all the checking was one more slowdown.

Now I can work on more edits for When Danger Calls.

Off to do all the things I wanted to do yesterday -- including a little food shopping. Of course, today, it's raining.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Counting Down to South Africa T minus 10

What I'm reading: Halfway to Heaven by Susan Wiggs
Recent books that missed my posting cycle: No Accounting for Chase by Sara Dennis, Ranch Hideout by Julia Daniels

What I'm writing: Chapter 30 Also edits for When Danger Calls.

As I'm trying to keep my sanity, I find that when you have too much to do, all the little things crop up to get in your way. Just enough to throw off the rhythm and interrupt the schedule. Like the "replace mouse batteries NOW" message. Ditto for the battery in the kitchen phone which seems to eat batteries and is a royal pain to get off and on the wall. Or when you schedule time to go to the Outlet Mall to see if they have shoes that might be comfortable enough for the trip and the store isn't there anymore. So you see a Bose store and decide to do your husband a favor and see if they have replacement ear covers for his old headphones and they don't, but you buy a new set for yourself because all of a sudden the thought of airplane engine noise for 17 hours is too much.

Or you finally get a response to your complaint that all the letters are wearing off your keyboard, and they say sorry for the delay, here's what you have to do. So you spend precious minutes digging out the receipt, scanning it, taking a picture of the defective keyboard, transferring it to the computer so you can email it, finding the make, model and two other required numbers on the bottom of the keyboard (ever tried to type with the keyboard upside down? Can't be done). Then, of course, the Internet connection bleems out and you can't send the file.

And what about calling the Sheriff's Office to request increased patrols through the neighborhood, only the phone lines are crossed and no matter what, you get the Lost and Found from the bus depot.

Not to mention, the train's website is out of date for the trains from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, so you get to rearrange the itinerary (ok, my husband is actually in charge of this leg of our trip, but it still required interruptions to discuss and make the decision).

10 days to go. 1 book to edit, 1 manuscript to finish, and I hear from the editor who's taken over for the one who left Wild Rose Press that she hopes to have my galleys to me before I leave, for final approval.

Or that my Blogger edit screen isn't giving me a choice of fonts!

There's more, but I don't have time!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Follow-up

What I'm reading: The Mistress, by Susan Wiggs

What I'm writing: POV workshop notes and handout, Chapter 27

Yesterday, I mentioned posting a request for help with my rear-window Ford F-150 scene.

I did drive down to our local Ford dealership.

I drove in to the "Trucks": entrance, found a slot to park and moseyed over to all the trucks. I don't know why, but nobody raised an eyebrow as I leaned over with my tape measure checking windows on various models. I've NEVER been to a car lot where at least three people didn't try to sell me something, but I did my thing, got back into my orange Honda Fit and drove off. For the record, that window is about 13 inches square. I didn't try to pry one open and climb in.

When I got home, I found this email from a group member. I've never met her, never corresponded with her, but it proves ... what? That writers are a helpful lot? Or just plain nuts.


Thanks, Kim!

Hi Terry, We have a 2005 Chevy Silverado 4x4 extended cab (I think that's what they call it - four full size doors) long bed, just for kicks and giggles, I hopped out to the garage and shimmied through the rear slider window. I had to remove jeans and wriggle and I will probably have a bruise on my hip but it's a doable deal and if my life were in danger - I'd get through that puppy in a heartbeat. For the record, I'm 5'4" and 122 pounds most of which I carry behind me. Details on the truck are because I don't know if there's a variance between years and cab options

Kim


Friday, October 19, 2007

Anyone have a Ford F-150?

What I'm reading: Shoot Him if He Runs by Stuart Woods

What I'm writing: Chapter 27

Does anyone know the exact dimensions of that middle sliding panel in the back of a Ford F-150? Late model -- no older than a 2003.

Editorial delays on two fronts have created one of those half-full/half-empty glass situations. My short story editor decided to devote more time to her writing, so she quit her editorial duties and turned my manuscript over to another editor. The final edits were done, but who knows whether it's going to be in the same spot in line now. The other editor had family health issues and emailed me to say she'd be getting to my manuscript as soon as possible.

I decided to take the advice of Frankie Castor, the heroine of my upcoming When Danger Calls and find the bright side. Rather than think about how much more pressure there will be to approve galleys and do edits before I leave for my trip (or even if I'll see them before I leave), I spent the day at the computer working on my current WIP.

I reached the point where my stalwart hero is locked inside his Ford F-150. He's unconscious. Now, we don't have an F-150. Originally, for Finding Sarah, I'd given Randy a Ranger, which was the truck we owned at the time, but my husband said Randy needed a more "manly" truck, so he got the Ford.

At any rate, he's locked inside and Sarah is outside trying to get in. I called the local Ford dealership to get my facts right, because the last thing an author wants is to look like she didn't bother to do her homework and get the facts wrong. I leaned:

Windows are all closed and won't open with the ignition locked. It's a 4-door, but the rear doors won't open unless someone controls them from the front if the safety locks are working, and Randy would always have that feature enabled. I'd seen a similar model the night before, and there's a sliding window in the rear of the cab, but it looked very small. I posted a question to one of my writing groups as well as talking to the salesman. He'd said no way a woman could squeeze through that window. Answers from the group varied; some said no problem, other said it would be tight, but maybe, and some said no way.

This is going to be one of those "no matter how you write it, someone's going to say you got it wrong" spots, and how much explanation it's worth in the text becomes a sticking point. Sarah certainly won't know whether there were optional window sizes, or that if Randy's truck had been 10 years older, the window would have been bigger.

I think I might have to get down to the dealership today. Wonder if they'll mind if I try to climb into the cab through the back window.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Listening - to readers and characters

I had some kind words about What's in a Name? from a reader. She said, "You didn't miss a beat and you kept the tension high right to the end."

She also requested the chicken recipe Kelli cooked for Blake in the book. I'd wanted to add it to the manuscript, but things were too far along in the publishing process to go back and do it. However, the request reminded me about it, and I've posted the recipe in the Free Reads section of my website.

I also added what happened when Randy Detweiler came to me with a request while I was writing Finding Sarah.

Here's a snip -- the rest is on my site.

"Come in, Randy," I say. We've been working together for a couple of months now, but I still can't get used to how tall he is. I've written him as six-six, but I have a hunch he's even taller. But he's comfortable with his height, walks with an easy grace across my office and settles himself on the couch.

I remember his awkwardness at our initial interview. Like he was afraid it was a stereotypical casting couch and he might have to 'buy' his way into the job, or I was going to make sure he could handle the sex scenes.

"What can I do for you?" I ask.

His lips curve up in a shy smile and he shoves a lock of hair off his forehead. "I…um…I had a suggestion. For my character."

I give him my full attention now. He's never demanded—heck, he's never even suggested anything. Maybe he's nervous. We're about to get into his first real sex scene with Sarah. It's not like he's na├»ve or anything, but I know how characters can get self-conscious when they're actually asked to perform on cue. At least he's not one of the cocky ones, no pun intended, who thinks he can take over the scene.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday

What I'm reading: The Abduction of Jenny Chandler by Teri Thackston

What I'm writing: More of the same. Not enough.

I didn't get my edits for When Danger Calls today. I'm checking things off the list I haven't really made yet, still dealing with things that normally wouldn't be a bother. I have my annual physical at the end of the month, and had to pick up the referral slip for the lab work. Of course, it wasn't ready, so there went twenty minutes. Then, I thought I'd make sure my normal medications were in full supply before the trip, because I use the insurance company's hand mail delivery system. They send a 3 month supply, but you only pay for two. Sweet deal. Only you can't order before their computer schedule says it's okay. I emailed their customer service people last week and asked how I could get around this.

Today, my email said, You will need to call the insurance company and get a pre cert for a early fill.

Now, I interpreted that as, 'call and get approval.' Only I call and play the phone tree game and finally get a human who says, "Oh, that's Member Services. Call the number on your card." So I do, and there are even more hoops to jump through. By now I am really irritated at having to answer a recording's questions that have nothing to do with what I need. Eventually, I get through to someone who apparently has never had this question come up. She's clueless, puts me on hold twice and says, "We can't do that." I ask to speak to someone who will tell me why, and get transferred. So far, about the only thing that's gone right is that the call hasn't dropped. I finally get to someone who says the mail delivery system will NOT approve early refills and to get my doctor to phone in a one-month supply to a retail pharmacy. Am I crazy, or wouldn't it have been easier if the original email response said this? Another half hour shot.

Work was busy, but not too many idiots needed hand-holding, which was good. However, I had to revise major chunks of my novel, so I don't have the satisfaction of a hefty word count increase at the end of the day.

And -- just because it's that kind of day, Blogger was 'down' when I tried to post this, so it's a day late.

I did get two authors to agree to write cover blurbs for me, though!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Stress Management

With a month-long out of the country trip on the horizon, my "things to do" grows exponentially, and along with it, my stress level. It's evident in the little things -- like, our kitchen faucet has a pull out feature. To fill my coffeemaker, I pull out the nozzle, position it over the water reservoir in the coffeemaker and fill it. Easy, saves the hassle of filling a container and transferring water. But the other day, I went from step one to step three, turning the water on BEFORE the nozzle was over the coffee maker.

I spent a day "training" my "boss" how to handle the membership for the organization I work for because I'll be gone so long. It's nice to know he now has a clue what I actually do, but I lost a big chunk of time taking him to and from the airport and showing him how everything works. I had a conference call to South Africa with the meeting people dealing with logistics and setup (and somehow volunteered to put their badge label printer which they're ordering and having shipped to me into a suitcase in return for them meeting us at the airport and storing that suitcase with conference materials and wardrobe.) Figure out what clothes I need for the tour, what I need for the conference (since I'm working, there's a minimum standard). Shoes? How much underwear for a month? When/where will there be time to do laundry? Do South African hotels include hair dryers like US hotels? Hair appointment on the 17th. Should I have it cut really, really short in case they don't?

I did cancel the paper. I can't refil my meds on line yet--they won't let you reorder before a certain date. Email sent requesting an exception. Have to pick up a referral for lab work, then get said lab work before my doctor's appointment. Have to finish my POV workshop handout. Have to do the POV presentation. Book signing Nov. 3rd. Website promotion days. Make more chapter booklets for the signing. Pay bills. Arrange to have bills paid while away. What bills? Make list. Be glad my husband doesn't expect a three course meal for dinner every night.

I look at my calendar, my mental to do list, my jotted notes (yeah, I should write it down all in one place, and I'm sure I'll get around to that, too) and hope everything comes together before I get on the plane to South Africa.

I've turned in my final draft of Hurricane Breeze. I haven't received edits for When Danger Calls (which I should get next week -- more things to panic about). I'm at about 84,000 words in my WIP, which I wanted to turn in before I left. Only it's at that 'time to explain who everyone is and how everything happened' stage, and I haven't actually decided on all the details. I had a good brainstorming session with my daughter yesterday (Skype comes in handy when you're continents apart) but there were still niggling plot issues surfacing at 5 AM. Maybe I need to take sleep off my to do list.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Five Blue Ribbons can brighten your day.

What I'm reading: The Winter Lodge, by Susan Wiggs

What I'm writing: POV workshop notes, Chapter 25

From the above, it looks like I'm busy with writing. What that cryptic line doesn't say is how much time I actually spent doing it yesterday. Maybe an hour, total. My real job has a quarterly membership renewal, and I've been tearing my hair out dealing with the increased workload, compounded by the extra work of fixing things when people can't seem to follow directions. Today, in preparation for my trip to South Africa, I'm meeting with the man who will be handling things when I'm away. I'm hoping (and he is too, I'm sure) that the majority of those who are going to renew will do it before I leave and hand everything to him.

So, in a day that seemed governed by Murphy's Law (if the email system that delivers the renewal forms is going to go down, it's going to be the day you have 800 people who are supposed to be renewing, right? And if you have to leave for an hour or so, THAT'S when it will happen so you don't realize you're not getting all your messages until you've missed way too many), I was pleased to find one friendly email in my inbox.


Starting Over, my August release was reviewed by Romance Junkies, and it received their top ranking of 5 Blue Ribbons.

...beneath the intrigue and suspense is a love story so heart-warming yet painful that I found myself in tears at times. Expertly intertwined with the missing persons case, the slow build of love and trust between Graham and Colleen was believable and never felt forced or contrived. STARTING OVER is a fabulous example of the Romantic Suspense genre and Ms. Odell proves that she is a force to be reckoned with. STARTING OVER is a must-have for fans of this genre and a definite keeper.
Jenn L

Friday, October 05, 2007

Editing is writing, too

What I'm reading: Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis

What I'm writing: Chapter 24, edits for Hurricane Breeze

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Rhonda Penders, publisher of The Wild Rose Press yesterday. One of the side-perks of living in central Florida is that just about everyone passes through eventually thanks to our surfeit of theme parks. Another of her authors, Dara Edmondson, was there. Apart from the noise level in the restaurant, we had a great time discussing the amazing skyrocketing success of The Wild Rose Press (for which I take absolutely no credit, but I do like to remember that I was their first outside contracted author, and I'm delighted to see their success). Especially since that first contract was for a short-short, Words, that had been contracted previously by a magazine that went out of business almost as soon as I signed the papers. It had also been contracted by an internet audio book site, which folded as well. Third time's the charm, I guess!

I'm feeling 'writerly' today, having received my next (and last, I think) round of edits for Hurricane Breeze. Now that the story issues have been resolved, and thank goodness they were minor--primarily clarification, not plot--it's time to print it out and read it for all those little typos that sneak in when you turn off your computer.

And, I heard from the Five Star Publishing editor I'll be working with on When Danger Calls as well. She's given me her timeframe, and it's going to be a challenge not to try to scramble through it before I leave on my trip in November. However, she doesn't need it turned around as quickly as the Cerridwen Press editors do, so it seems like a luxury to be able to take more time.

Oh yeah -- and then there's the 'real life' job ---the one I get paid for, the one that's paying for that November trip which is part business--which will be getting crazy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is it real yet?

What I'm reading: Sweet Revenge, by Diana Mott Davidson

What I'm writing: Chapter 23

I got my very first advance check the other day. It wasn't anything remotely resembling what those NYT Bestselling authors get, but it made me feel one step closer to being a 'real' author--especially since the check came from my agent, with her cut subtracted. It motivated me to pull out the book that's been sitting around waiting to see where it might find a home. It's a kind of spin-off to When Danger Calls, but I'm editing it so it can stand on its own.

Then, in another reminder of what this business is like, I got a request for a partial for When Danger Calls from an agent who saw the first chapter in an on-line contest I entered several months ago, before I'd found an agent or had my contract offer. While it's nice to know the work is strong enough to garner attention, it's total frustration to get this request because that same agency had the first three chapters of the book for over six months and turned it down. Not only that, but when I had my contract offer, they turned me down because they didn't love the work enough (at least that's the reason they gave --- although there's this niggling suspicion that the low advance helped make their decision.) Felt kind of strange being on the sending end of a 'rejection'. But nice, too.

On the other side, I'm one of the featured authors at The Romance Studio, so that must mean I'm a real author, right?