Friday, October 31, 2008

The Pumpkin Carver

Happy Halloween, everyone.
My son's never gone for the traditional triangle eyes and jagged mouth kind of pumpkin. When he was younger, he did Hobbes. This year, he sent a picture of "Pumpkin #1, with promises of "Pumpkin #2" to follow. As soon as I have it, I'll add it to the post, so check back.

Daughter did this one

Meanwhile, don't eat too much candy. Hubby bought our supply this year, and while it's chocolate, most of it has peanuts, which is a good thing for me. I don't like peanuts, so I'll be able to keep my hands out of the bowl.

And... as a follow up to yesterday's Customer Service post, today, I look at the sidebar and what do I see? Amazon, in all its wisdom, changed the RIGHT price to the WRONG price, so now they have both books listed at $16.99. Try Barnes & Noble or the Publisher until you see them listed at the correct price (which should be $9.99, unless they have it on sale) here. It's a tough enough business without being sabotaged by the vendors.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And ... We're back to customer service

I had to deal with the dreaded "Customer Service" folks again lately. Three different companies, and three different experiences.

First: We live near one of the major theme parks in the area. They have roller coasters. They test these roller coasters by running them through cycle after cycle in the morning before the park opens. They're not supposed to start before 7 AM, because the constant barrage of low-frequency noise carries over great distances, and it's LOUD. Wake you up from a dead sleep loud. Or, they've got a concert and they neglect to keep the decibel levels within range. I've had MANY dealings with the man in charge of community affairs. Each time, he assures me it shouldn't have happened, that he's going to make sure it never happens again. Until it does, of course. And these events never happen while he's on duty, so there's nothing you can do except call and leave a voice mail. To me, this is Lip Service Customer Service. He's polite, sincere, but pretty much useless as far as being able to control the situation.

Next: check the sidebar on this blog. Several days ago, I noticed that the price for my book, What's in a Name? jumped from $9.99 to $16.99 at one of the sellers. Checking with the publisher verified that it is WRONG. The book is still priced at $9.99. Trying to reach Customer Service through the website is a lesson in navigating a labyrinth. And once you do find the right site, you have to figure out how your question matches the ones they want you to ask. Then, you get an answer that has nothing to do with your question. Can you reply? NO. You have to go all the way back to square one and start over. So, if you want to buy What's in a Name? either wait until you see the right price, or go to another seller's site. I finally went through my publisher, who has a more direct route to the right people. I'm waiting to see how long it takes to fix the problem ... I was told yesterday it would be within 24 hours. I'm watching. To me, this is Pain in the Neck Customer Service.

Lastly, due to my own total clumsy stupidity, I didn't pay attention to where I set my e-book reader when I went into the restroom at the hair salon, and I knocked it off the edge of the sink. It landed, as all things must, "jelly side down" and the faceplate was cracked. The device is way out of warranty, and it was totally my fault, but I emailed customer service and asked what I could do. Within hours, I had a response that although this was not an easy fix, if I'd send the unit back (with a check, but a very reasonable price considering), they'd send me a replacement. Not a refurbished unit, or a fix of mine, but a brand new reader. They told me exactly what to do, and yesterday I received notice that my new one has been shipped. AND, they gave me rather detailed instructions on how to get all my books re-loaded. To me, that's Good Customer Service.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How real do you want it?

What I'm reading: Last Call, by James Grippando

What I'm writing: Chapter 34

One of my crit partners said he had a problem with one of the elements of the story. There's a major plot thread that deals with a company dealing with research for treatments for "orphan" diseases. Those are the sorts of rare diseases that don't get much attention, because not 'enough' people suffer from them to make it profitable to do the research to treat them. The company I name doesn't exist, of course. Neither does the disease. My rationale was that if I used a real disease, I'd have to come up with some kind of treatment option that might actually work, and it might give readers the wrong idea. However, my crit partner (and at least one other person he discussed it with) said it would bother them. They didn't mind that I made up the names of towns, restaurants, or shopping centers, but they wanted a real disease.

This really confused me. Enough so that I was bold enough to try to make a survey. Will you take a minute and let me know what you think? If you want to elaborate, you can comment here, but I'd like to get an overall view of "yes/no/don't care".
Click Here to take survey

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Voting, Reviews, and Excerpts.

It's been over a week of trying to vote. Every time I've driven by the library, the places is jammed and there's no parking for blocks. Wait times have been two hours. Not my cup of tea. Today I revised my strategy thanks to hubby's suggestion, and arrived at our library about twenty minutes before the polls opened. Pleasantly surprised that there were still a few parking slots IN the library lot, I parked and joined the line of people waiting to vote. A cold front blew through last night, and it was about 48 degrees, which is decidedly brisk weather in central Florida. I should have anticipated that they wouldn't have the lobby open before the official ten AM opening time, but I didn't, so I didn't have particularly warm clothes on.

Things did move efficiently once the doors opened, and I was inside by 10:15 and out by 10:30. Check-in was very high-tech, but the voting was on a paper ballot using a black ball-point pen to fill in the bubbles. Since my hands were still frigid from waiting outside, this was more of a challenge than it might have been. The longest line was waiting to feed the ballot into the counter. But it's done, and I feel good that I've done my part. Now, if this information could somehow be transmitted so that I'd stop getting phone calls and, even better, so there wouldn't be any more political ads on tv, I'd really be in 'good citizen heaven.

Other news: I got my first review for When Danger Calls last night. And I've updated my website, so there's now an excerpt from the book. It's the first time I've used an excerpt that doesn't start on Page 1. My editor and I discussed it when I had to give them something for the back cover copy, and she thought something from chapter 3 was a better choice. If you check it out, let me know if it makes sense. Do you like an excerpt that comes from later in the book? I'm so anal about things being in order, I often feel like it's a spoiler if I know what's going to happen later.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On being a writer

I write books, and yes, I hear voices in my head, but aside from that, I don't think I'm much different from anyone else. However, I'm scratching my head about something that happened after my library presentation. The organizer had suggested I bring about ten handouts, so when the had to bring in extra chairs to accommodate about 15 people, I was delighted. I ran through my "How I Got Started Writing by Mistake" anecdote, and proceeded to run down all the things I was clueless about when I started writing, and what I've learned. I stopped after about 30 minutes and asked for questions, and those went on for another 30. I handed out goodie bags with chocolate (hey, I'm a romance writer, we live on the stuff), chapter booklets, magnets, bookmarks, etc., and even sold a few books. Everyone seemed satisfied, and I felt pretty good. After everyone was gone, the chapter member who'd come to make sure I had at least one person in the audience introduced me to her daughter, an exchange student from Germany. Since one of my daughters had been and exchange student to Germany, we started chatting. As we spoke, another woman who'd been at the program came back. She indicated that she'd wait, because she wanted to speak to me privately.

Once my friend had left, the woman proceeded to tell me that I had been very rude during my program. I was astonished, because I couldn't think of anything I'd done or said that might offend anyone. She explained that she'd come with her daughter, and I'd skipped right over her while I was chatting informally with the group as we were getting started. I absolutely could not recall doing so, and apologized profusely, and told her it was inadvertent, and probably due to people arriving, and my getting them handouts, or pointing to empty seats, that I must have lost track of where I'd left off and missed her daughter. She then said she might have overlooked that, but then I 'cut her daughter off' when she tried to speak. Now, I'm an old schoolteacher, and everyone in the group was raising hands to ask questions, so if her daughter had said something, I certainly didn't hear it, or notice. Again, I apologized.

The woman would not leave. She went on and on about how I had offended her daughter (who wasn't even in the room at this time), how her daughter studied Creative Writing, was a writer herself, and edited for a publisher that the mother was sure I'd be impressed with if I knew who it was. She told me I could never tell who was in the audience and how important it was to pay attention to everyone, repeating again that I had slighted her "important" daughter. I tried again to apologize, and suggested that I would have to come up with a way to make sure that I never overlooked anyone if I did another introductory "are you a reader or a writer" segment. At that, she rolled her eyes and said I'd just insulted her for the third time and she stormed off.

Now, things like that will get to me. I had no idea I'd done anything 'wrong', and normally, I'd have stewed over it for a while, because I don't like people not to like me although I know that's an impossibility. I know not everyone will like my books, and it's hard enough not to take that personally, but this was definitely an attack on me as a person. I've tried going over it again (and again, and again), and I still can't figure out what pushed her buttons so badly. I had slighted her daughter, she told me over and over, and she was coming to me as a mother protecting her young. All I can think is that maybe she wanted me to apologize by giving her a free book, and because I wasn't offering to do so (because to me, that would have been like buying her approval), she kept harping about how rude I'd been.

But, the kicker for me is that to me, the woman is a stranger. I have no idea who she is, or who her daughter is. However, she knows who I am, and she can give me negative publicity and she has the power to do harm to my career. It's one thing to have to smile and accept whatever the "public" says about you, but what can you do if they just won't go away? You certainly can't tell them they're wrong.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just for fun

What kind of dog are you?

Fun quiz. According to my responses.I'm a boxer. Not 100% sure I agree, but like I said, it's just for fun.

You Are a Boxer

You are playful and energetic. You bring joy to everyone who crosses your path.

You are hyper to the point of being a comedian. Everyone is wondering what you will do next.

You energy can get the better of you if you're not careful. You can have a destructive streak when you're bored.

You're very strong willed and powerful. You get you way without even trying to.

More "real" blogging tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Waiting and Blogging

What I'm reading: Rough Weather, by Robert B. Parker

What I'm writing: Chapter 33

Murder She Writes had an interesting post about blogging today. Made me think about what I'm doing over here. Judging from hits and comments, my posts about workshops seem to be the best received.

I also like sharing other aspects of "life as a writer" which, for the most part, isn't much different from "life as anyone else." And putting something up here regularly gets my mind into writing mode, although that's what I get out of it, not necessarily what readers do.

I almost didn't post, because I'm second guessing the value of my pieces of bandwidth, but I decided to go ahead. Today it's about waiting. (And if you're a frequent visitor, you'll notice that this post is later than usual.)

I'm not a very patient person. I think I used up most of my patience on my kids. I've got my annual physical soon, and the doctor wants all the labs done before he sees patients. They give you the paperwork, and then tell you to "just walk in" to the nearby lab.

The tests require a 12 hour fast, so I went to the Y for my morning workout as usual, and planned to arrive at the lab sometime after 9:30, since hubby slipped me some M&M's while we were watching CSI last night. I arrived at 9:55.

Now, I'm not saying I bring bad luck or carry bad karma, or whatever, but let's just say you don't want to stand in whatever line I'm in at the grocery store -- or the airport security line, or anywhere. I think my presence brings out the snafu gods. Something always delays the process. While all the other lines move along like bullet trains, I'm stuck on the local -- and it's the one that keeps breaking down.

So, today they were a person short on the intake end of things. It also turns out that the lab DOES take appointments, and those folks get shuttled in faster. So, when I finally got out of there at 11:15 (munching the granola bar I'd stashed in my purse), I continued on to phase 2 of my planned morning, which was to vote. I figured (silly me) that since it was the end of the week, the big rush would have petered out. Besides, it was a rainy day, so who'd want to go out just to vote? Everyone, apparently. There wasn't a parking place for 3 blocks. Having used up all my waiting credits for the day, I drove on home.

I'll try again Monday. I definitely believe in voting. I just don't want to have to wait around an hour to do it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008



Anyone recognize the above quote? I trust my daughters, for whom it's intended will, and that they might have a few fond memories. Enjoy your day, both of you. Wish we could be together.

I "met" someone at the Y today. The quotes are because we always nod our hellos, and we've chatted. First, about why we torture ourselves with working out. Then a little more personal--that we've traveled to some of the same places. But today, we actually met. Why? It started out innocently enough, a brief 'hello, how was your recent trip?' kind of thing. And somehow, the topic of writing came up. Turns out he's written a mystery/suspense/thriller and ... well, the connection was made. Suddenly, there's someone who understands all the things that drive someone to write. We talked about goals, both our own and how our characters must have them. About how much of ourselves shows in our books. About how he's waiting for his book to be perfect before he submits it. I told him it would never be perfect, just do it. That if your dream is to be published, writing the book is only step one.

You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist, you are learning your craft--then you can add all the genius you like.
~Phyllis Whitney

At the end of our chat, we'd finally exchanged names. He left, saying he was inspired to move forward. I left, feeling validated, that I've learned enough about the craft to be able to help motivate someone. Because if you're not writing, you're not a writer.

As cows need milking and sweet peas need picking, so writers must continually exercise their mental muscles by a daily stint.
~Joan Aiken

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

He Fights, She Fights - Part 3

What I'm reading: Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods

What I'm writing: Chapter 32

To wrap up the fighting workshop, we'll look at women fighting women. Compare these points to the ones in yesterday's post about men fighting men.

In a cat fight, anything goes.
Fights tend to be short and violent.
They don't stop when one participant is subdued.
Women never forget the outcome or the reason for the fight. (You remember that time in third grade when you scribbled on my homework?)
Women don't want their appearance diminished.
Women will go for what is most precious to her opponent. (Ruin expensive clothing, pull hair, etc.)
Women are embarrassed about fighting and seldom brag.
Women slap rather than punch, to avoid injury to hands.
A woman trained in fighting will be more violent and hold a grudge longer than a non-trained woman.
Women will sacrifice just about everything to protect their children and loved ones.

Advice to women (regardless of the gender of the opponent)

Make noise. Lots of noise. Attackers don't want to be noticed.
If you can get away, don't stop to look back. Get somewhere safe first.

In writing, remember that for characters in fights, all scenes have consequences, both physical and emotional.

Deb Maynard also suggested that unless you know a lot about the specifics of the various martial arts, it's wiser not to mention them by name. You might have your character performing moves that are totally out of place for that method. She divided the martial arts into two basic styles: Wrestling and Boxing.

Wrestling includes: Judo, jujitsu, Aikido and Hapkido.

Boxing includes: Karate, Kung Fu, Kenpo, Tae Kwon Do (which she pointed out is more martial sport).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

He Fights / She Fights - Part 2

What I'm reading: Playing Dead, by Allison Brennan

What I'm writing: Chapter 32.

To continue with my notes from Deb Maynard's workshop at the Emerald City Writer's Conference:

Men fighting women. (Women, these are things to be aware of)

1. Grabbing clothing or purse straps.

2. Grabbing long hair (wonder if hubby will accept that I'm safer with short hair!)

3. Grabbing from behind, around the neck.

4. Lapel grabs.

5. Pushing a women against a wall.

6. Ambush.

7. In bed asleep.

The way men fight other men. Again, as I said yesterday, these are all generalizations. We all know exceptions, but these are the basics for men who fight.

Men will fight for just about any reason.

Men fight until one gives in

Men enjoy the fight. Often it's, "Great fight, now let's grab a beer."

Men brag about fighting.

Men are more physical, they will take more damage without worrying about injury or appearance. In fact, bruises are often badges of honor. And again, it's likely to be, "Great fight, now let's grab a beer."

Men fight and then let go of the reason for the fight. When it's over, it's over.

Men anticipate a fight and are more aware of surroundings and possible outcomes.

Men see fighting as part of their nature.

Men are proud to defend and protect (goes back to that hard wiring and the his brain/her brain)

A man's ego is engaged in the fight as much as his body.

Men see fighting in terms of a winner and a loser.

Tune in tomorrow for the last installment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

He fights / She fights

What I'm reading: Just Breathe, by Susan Wiggs

What I'm writing: Chapter 31. My aviation scenes are mended, thanks to a very nice airline pilot who took a lot of time making sure I understood how things worked--and didn't work.

Today, I'll start sharing some workshop notes from the Emerald City Writer's Conference.

Martial Arts expert Deb Maynard presented a workshop on fighting—the physical kind. The notes I'm sharing, as always, are filtered through my interpretation and sometimes shaky memory or illegible handwriting. For this workshop, we also had the added excitement of a fire alarm going off about 1/3 of the way through.

The points here are based on her research, and are also generalizations. I'm sure everyone can think of exceptions, but for the most part, the following are the differences in the ways men and women approach fighting. And, if you've read my his brain/her brain posts, a lot of it is grounded in our basic hard wiring that goes back to men as hunters and women as nurturers.

Basic differences between male and female fighting instincts:

Men fight to feel power.

Men will aim for the face and head; women aim for a man's groin and face. (Note: men are always alert to groin attacks, so go for the throat.)

Women slap, pinch and bite. Men rarely punch women; they don't feel it's necessary to use that kind of force—they're more likely to backhand her.

Men want control. Women want to get away.

Men chase. Women run (and too often stop to look back to see if the man is still chasing her)

Men want to demean. Women want to get away.

Men don't care if they hurt someone. Women don't want to hurt.

(Interesting side note here. The other day our local paper ran an article about the upsurge of women using Tasers—the article called Taser demonstrations the "new Tupperware party." While a cop's taser fires for 5 seconds, which is considered enough to subdue the suspect, the civilian model delivers a shock for 30 seconds, which is designed to let the woman escape. While testing these models and watching the electrical display on the target, a woman said she really didn't want to have to use it because she didn't want to hurt anyone. But she supposed she would if her life was in danger.)

Men will kill in a fight. Women try to avoid killing.

Men will attack without thought of defense. Women defend themselves first, then attack.

Over the next day or so, I'll post more about differences between the way men fight other men, men fight women, and women fight other women.

Friday, October 17, 2008

More on character channeling

What I'm reading: The Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly.

More tidbits from Alicia Rasley's workshop.

A character's defenses will fall apart as you get farther into the book, especially regarding falling in love. After all, most romances begin with two characters who definitely are NOT in love at the beginning.

She stressed choosing the right POV for scenes, and as an exercise had us write a scene where a character walks across the room and puts a hand on the doorknob. We did it first in 3rd person, and then in 1st. First person, for most of us, allowed us to be much deeper into the character (although there's the fact that we already knew the basic situation after writing it the first time, plus she gave us a little longer for the second part).

Emotion drives characters to wanting what they want, and getting what they get.

Fiction should be equal to, not true. A story should become itself in the reading. Fiction is metaphor. And, she reminded us, let the reader figure stuff out. Don't tell everything.

She also spent some time on dealing with eliciting emotion in readers.

Some suggestions and examples:

Where to set the scene – coming home after Mom's funeral might have more impact than a 'tear jerker' at the cemetery.

Don't rush to the 'punch line.'

Create opposition in other characters so sympathy comes from the reader (but don't make the protagonist just a victim, which would lead to pity, not empathy.)

Use props-the character can search the closet for a special toy for a hospitalized child.

Try taking all the emotion-laden words out of the scene to see if the emotion is still there.

Speaking is tough in emotionally charged situations – watch the 'spilling of guts.'

Have the character try NOT to feel.

Break some punctuation and grammar rules (but know them first) to convey emotion.

Use the emotional event as the scene setting. The emotion is the background. Showing the aftermath of someone's death (funeral planning, donating clothes to charity) can be more emotion packed than the deathbed scene.

Show emotion in character interactions – conversations that hedge the topic, veer off, focus the emotion on the other character. Character might talk about what a survivor will do rather than focus on his impeding death, etc.

Steps back a little and keeps some distance. Self pity doesn't work. "If the character cries, the reader doesn't have to."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Channeling Your Characters - Workshop notes

What I'm reading: House of Lies, by Maggie Toussaint

Central Florida Romance Writers hosted an all day workshop by Alicia Rasley on Channeling your Character. Since for me, the book is nothing without characters I can care about, I found the hours well spent.

I loved her opening quote … "Fiction is true, just not real."

We identify with characters at a subconscious level, so she suggests writing in the 1st person POV of the character to get to know them (regardless of which POV you use in the book). She went on to hand out a list of 19 questions, such as, "How would a casual acquaintance describe your personality? How would the description be wrong? Why? What if your mother was doing the describing? Your spouse?" Other questions on the list covered knowing oneself, self esteem, fear, keeping secrets, trust, family role, and many more.

She said we all choose disguises of who we'd like to be. Who we really are is a mixture of who we think we are and who we want to be.

People who test others are probably testing themselves.

Our goals are clues to our inner selves, but they are external.

Our inner life affects how we behave in our outer life.

Her example was a flower: The stem represents goals (outer life), while the roots that support the plant represents our inner life. In writing, the statement and achievement of a goal can't be a straight line. And, she points out, achieving the goal should never entirely fulfill the inner motivation. Goals provide the ending of the book. A character might achieve the goal, but the result shouldn't be what they expected. Also, how they react when they don't achieve a goal is important. Their inner motivation will still be there. In romance, "Love" is often seen as the solution, but it's a motivation, not the goal. So, we need to take the internal goals and motivations and show them externally.

More tips:

The opening scene is where the author uncovers and the reader discovers. We want readers to ask questions. Contradictions show the complexities of characters. Remember to give characters room to grow. They should be less than perfect in the opening scenes. She stressed that they don't need to act "properly" but their underlying intentions must be good in order for the reader to care about them.

She suggests that if a character doesn't do the "right" thing, that we write the scene in that POV to show that the impulses are correct even if the actions aren't.

I'll post more notes tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Washington Photos

While I try to catch up, here are a few scenes from our trip to Washington State.

From the Taylor Shellfish Farm

Bellingham Bay

On the way up to Mt. Baker

Nooksack Falls

Nooksack Falls

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Home from the Emerald City

My travel reading: First You Run; Then You Hide; Now You Die; all by Roxanne St. Claire; The Secret Diaries of Miss Minerva Cheever, by Julia Quinn.

What I'm reading now: City of Secrets, by Katie Reus

What I'm writing. Writing? I'm still unpacking, but I'll be revising my Bad Stuff Happens on the Airplane scene thanks to a very patient seat-mate on the Seattle to Atlanta leg of my trip.

For me, the highlight of Saturday was the book signing, where I sold out. (Thanks to Allison Brennan for buying my last copy of Finding Sarah!). As with all conferences, networking abounded, and I met lots of new friends, and reconnected with some from the 2006 conference. Eileen Cook provided some great information on Why Smart People Do Stupid Things, and gave us some excellent psych fodder for our characters' behavior. Julia Hunter shared "Gadgets for the Busy Writer" tips, and Louise Knott Ahern shared PR tips.

Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks told us how to excite and editor (all the while pointing out that there were 190,000 new books published last year, and that out of the 900-1200 subs she gets, maybe 100 will be published. It's all about a good hook.

Sunday morning's first workshop was interrupted by a fire drill. At least it was late enough so most of us were in session on the ground or second level, and didn't have to go down 8 flights of stairs while carrying That Which is Essential (but are glad hubby took care of it). Allison Brennan's closing speech was the perfect wrap-up to the conference.

The trip home was more or less on schedule, and, as mentioned above, I found myself sitting next to a private pilot who was willing to answer my "I need a disaster" questions for a scene in my book.

Good to be home, although I sure miss the cooler weather. But, there's still shopping for food, unpacking and the requisite laundry to be done. And, I'll be realistic. I still haven't entered all my RWA receipts into a spreadsheet, so I doubt I'll be organizing my Seattle expenses any time soon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

And More from Washington State

A full day -- I was moderator (meant I read an introductory bio and made sure we started and ended on time) for Kerrie Droban's presentation on writing her True Crime book on the Hells Angels. More workshops, lunch (where I actually won a raffle drawing -- one of two I entered because of no room in my luggage because they were small. Got some nifty lavender scented stuff), and participated in the book signing. We're joining a group for dinner at a local brew pub, then there's a dance get-together, and another almost full day tomorrow. I'll have the usual sharing of notes once I get home and have more than ten minutes of Internet time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More from Washington State

Yesterday we went to the Shipwright Museum, then headed out to the University's Arboretum for more scenic views. This was taken from the observation tower with views of Bellingham Bay.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Whatcom Falls

Managed to convince my phone to email me the pictures I took at Whatcom Falls, a spot where we stopped on the drive from the airport. It's very near our friends' home in Bellingham. Although the name makes me think of some Internet site, the word comes from the Native Americans who settled in the area, and it means Noisy All the Time.

Yesterday we drove to Mt. Baker (with a stop at the Mt Baker Winery along the way for some very nice samples. The gorgeous sunshine didn't hold as we got higher, and by the time we got as far up as the roads allowed, it was snowing -- or icing. I don't know what you call it, but it was little bits of ice but it didn't seem to be hail. We stopped at a few spots along the way and took some pictures, but I used a camera for those, not my phone, so it'll be a while before I can get them to a computer to upload.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hello From the Road

Just a quick moment of Internet access to say hello from Washington State. Our plane trip worked out better than planned; once I griped to the code share airline, I got the "real" confirmation code and we actually could check in on line and change seats. We weren't together (no biggie--hubby just sleeps) but had aisle seats, and empty middle seats so the 6 hour flight wasn't as grueling as it could have been.

Our friends live in Bellingham, and have been running us ragged showing us everything. I promise pictures, but didn't bring the cable to move them from camera to computer, so it might have to wait until we get home next week.

Sun is out again today, and it's NOT HOT! We went for a nice walk in the woods yesterday, (hubby was busy finding and photographing mushrooms, althought I found the first one) and to Whatcom Falls, and to a shellfish farm, a great seafood restaurant (although the waiter dropped our lunches, so we spent a little more time there enjoying the view). Biggest mussels I've ever seen. And our hosts grilled salmon for dinner. That walk in the forest didn't nearly make up for all the food. They've been routing our itineraries based on local restaurants.

Today Mt. Baker is the tentative target.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Emerald City's next - and Customer Service -- Again.

I'll be out of the cyber-realm for the next week, headed for the Emerald City Writer's Conference.

My trip starts tomorrow with a visit to a very dear friend -- the kind of friend where time and distance don't make a difference. The kind of friend who says, "Pick you up at the airport? No problem. Drive you back on Friday, sure." Never mind it's a two hour trip each way, and gas prices are astronomical. She'll call from the market to make sure she's got all the foods you want--which flavor yogurt do you prefer? She and her husband recently retired to Bellingham, Washington, and I'm looking forward to spending several days with her prior to the conference. She's got all sorts of possible activities planned, weather permitting. Which leads to the next thing on my list: Packing.

I hate packing. I hate it more now that the airlines have made that second bag a price-ticketed item. But I've got to pack the professional style wardrobe for the conference, and the "maybe we'll go hiking" wardrobe for the visit. Plus, there are all the promotional items like chapter books, magnets, and postcards that take up luggage space. Plus, colder weather means bulkier clothes. I'm not good at deciding in advance what I'm going to want to wear, but now that I have to be more efficient, I'll have to forgo some of the "I'll decide which shirt to wear from the five I'm packing once I get there" and "What if I spill coffee?" backups.

At least my eBookwise is already loaded with reading material.

And then there's the airline grumble -- back to my old Customer Service rant. I booked our flights on our default airline--the one where we have Medallion perks. Great schedule, great price. Did everything on line as always. Only the Orlando to Seattle leg is on a code-share partner. No biggie, right? Wrong. What airline #1 doesn't mention is that in order to book 'real' seats, you have to call the code share partner. So, although hubby and I have seats on my itinerary, these are "REQUESTS." By chance, I checked with the code share airline. Yep

"You don't have any seats on this plane. We can give you 28 and 29E" That's two middle seats, back of the bus, in separate rows. Nobody bothered to mention this. But, she says, "You can always request a seat change at the gate."

The code share website has a nice "live chat" link for help with seats. However, the helper can't do anything about that, because her resources are limited to telling you why she can't help you.
So, when I call my regular airline to see what's up, I get: "Gee, I always tell people to go to the code share airline to get seats. I don't know why nobody told you."

"But, I booked on line," I said. Nothing on your website mentioned that."

"Oh, well that's a website issue, not my problem."

"Excuse, me, I'm a customer pointing out that a flaw in your system has inconvenienced me."

"Well, you can use the 'contact us' link on our website."

"I thought I WAS contacting you with this phone call."

"I don't have access to the people you need to talk to. You can call reservations directly."

Which was exactly where I started.
So, I may be arriving a bit grumpy and uncomfortable. Six hours is a long flight. But, my special friend has promised we'll go straight to a great Seattle seafood place and have some wine before heading to her home. See you all on the 14th!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Another Kind of Time Management

What I've been reading: Body Moves, by Jodi Lynn Copeland, Full Moon Rising, by Keri Arthur, Cupid's Web, by Carolyn Hughey

What I'm writing: Chapter 29

First: Some News

My last Cerridwen Press release, Hidden Fire, is nominated for A Night Owl Romance Award in Suspense/Mystery.

If you care to vote, you can go to this site, then scroll way the heck down to Suspense/Mystery in the center column, and hunt for Hidden Fire. There's also a link in the icon in the right-hand column of this blog. I can't promise to do anything about the economy or global warming if you vote for me, but just having a few votes on a ballot that contains some very big-name writers would be cool.

Moving along:

Today, I plan to hunker down and write. Yesterday was very productive, although I find myself in a too familiar dilemma -- handling time. My hero and heroine are apart now, and "real" time happens for both of them. However, on the page, a scene will cover a certain amount of time for one character, but the other character is obviously also moving forward in time as well. I find it a challenge to keep things clear for the reader so they can tell they've backed up in time at a scene break to 'catch up' with what the other character was doing. I definitely don't like using anything intrusive, such as, "While Fozzie was trying to escape, Torie had been busy confronting her grandfather." I also don't like putting little date/time stamps at the beginning of scenes (or I'd have to do it from the very beginning).

What about you? Have you noticed any clever ways authors can seamlessly move you back in time?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More on Censorship, and Assorted Odds and Ends

Continuing with the Banned Books Week theme, some more quotes on censorship:

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."
-- Mark Twain

"Adam was but human - this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent."
-- Mark Twain

"All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States -- and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!"
-- Kurt Vonnegut, author

"The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book."
-- Walt Whitman

"There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all."
-- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame." Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." -- Oscar Wilde

How many of these books have you read?

And, as for what's going on around home:

I've added a new Behind the Scenes entry on my website for When Danger Calls. Sometimes ideas for books aren't so much ideas for
books, but rather ideas for things that might happen in books. I tend to think of scenes, or even lines of dialog, and write around them.

For anyone who saw the gorgeous challah my daughter baked (from Tuesday's post), be it known that while she was out, her dog ate the rest of it. Yes, she should have made sure it was out of reach. But she came home and found crumbs everywhere (except in the dog's bed). He left her dessert alone.

After a few days of research, I'm closing in on the end of my current manuscript. I'd hoped to get it done before I leave for Washington on Monday, but since I'm not on deadline, I don't want to sacrifice quality just to get to 'the end.' Although since it's only a first draft, I might see if I can barrel on through. (This is where we give thanks for the hubby who says 'no problem' if I say, 'find your own dinner, I'm writing.)

However, I'm going to 'lose' a whole writing day on Saturday because my RWA chapter is having an all day workshop on characters. As always, I'll try to post my notes, but no promises as to when, since I'll be busy packing. I'm really looking forward to spending the first 4 days of the trip with one of my long-time best friends from jr. high and high school. The kind of friend where distance and time don't seem to make a difference; you pick up as if you'd never been apart.

And, last on today's list:
Want a free e-book? All Romance eBooks will be giving special promotion codes on November 1st. All you have to do is go to their site and register. So, if you've been wanting to try a new author, this is a great chance to do it for free. (And, yes, all my current books and short stories are there -- check my website, find one that interests you, and you can have it for free.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Banned Books Week

What I'm reading: Ghosts and Roses, by Kelley St. John

What I'm writing: Chapter 28

We're in the middle of Banned Books Week, as evidenced by my quotes of the day.

The trouble with censorship is that once it starts it is hard to stop. Just about every book contains something that someone objects to.
~Studs Terkel

A Texas town has banned the Harry Potter books because they glorify magic, and learning to read.
~Craig Kilborn

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
~Joseph Brodsky

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4). For more, click here (and please do. It's an informative, interesting, and perhaps unsettling article). And there's more here.

When I was it high school, it was Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and Lady Chatterley's Lover that were making the headlines. I wonder how many of the books I've been reading lately (heck, even the ones I've written) would fare by those standards.