Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Binge reading ... and what's next

I'm at the stage between books. All the things I've been neglecting while trying to perfect my latest love child are staring me in the face. "Spring cleaning" the house, catching up on my favorite authors, visiting friends and venturing into the outside world.

I dusted my house. Top to bottom. Cupboard fronts, door panels, everything. It's a start.

I'm reading +Jill Shalvis, adding the rest of the series that I haven't read to my wish list so I make sure to read them all. Was reading one last night and had a laugh out loud moment, which prompted the Big Guy to look up from his Kindle Fire to ask what I was laughing about. The book.

Had lunch with one of my dearest friends.

And in a couple of weeks, I'll be meeting and greeting at the Elgin Literary Festival.

But an author's work is never done. While I'm fine tuning, waiting on my critique group to catch up, and preparing Gathering Mist for the editor, I'm thinking ahead to "what's next."

A few years back, I wrote a book that I shelved. Epitaph. It's a ghost story, and a love story. But it was deeply flawed in several places. At the time, I wasn't sure how to fix it, so I set it aside and moved on. The story still haunts me (hah! a ghost story haunting me!), and I'd like to fix those flaws. I keep telling myself it will be next up when I find myself short of story ideas.  WHOOPS! No shortage of story ideas? So now I'm doing a balancing act again.

Remember when I mentioned, before I started writing Return to Hoffman Grove, that I couldn't decide between Cinda's story and Kundigerin 2? And then Cinda tapped me on the shoulder, demanding page time. Decision made. And now? I'm trying to decide between THREE stories. Kundigerin 3 - Max's story, fixing Epitaph, and the idea that keeps nagging me about Tromp L'Oeil. The first two are no brainers, I know the stories, just have to put them down, so it makes sense to tackle them -- plus people reading the Kundigerin series who are enjoying it might be anxious to see that resolved. But it's the tromp l'oeil story that has been occupying my mind.

Friends, fans, readers, anyone care to push me in one direction or the other?

1. Kundigerin 3 - Max's story. Finish the Kundigerin trilogy. Marissa and Wolf have two new friends, (you'll meet them in Kundigerin 2) and the four of them need to stop an evil genius. The plan right now is that it will be told from Max's point of view (Marissa's little brother) - he is the new secret keeper and has to chronicle the family legacy, along with the confrontation that is to come.

2.  Epitaph - a haunted house ghost story about a willowy young woman and a newspaper feature writer, haunted by the newspaper guy's dead sister and chased by her killer.

3.  Murals - a mural artist paints to escape a troubled past. This romance will not be a paranormal.

Anyone care to weigh in?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stepping out into the world

Next month, I will be taking part in the Elgin Literary Festival, an event organized to promote literacy and celebrate the written word. I will be in stellar company, including the NYT best-selling author, Simone Elkeles (and if you've ever met her/seen her/heard her, you know she's a hoot. I swear this woman has no filters). She's the keynote speaker, and every address I've heard her deliver has been highly entertaining (if slightly "blue").

Authors, by nature, tend to be introverted sorts, so stepping out into the limelight can be overwhelming. I've posted on this blog before about "gearing up" to meet people. I'm not painfully shy, although I am the one who would prefer to stand quietly in the corner of a room and observe rather than step up and introduce myself to everyone at a party.

I am always happy to meet the people who buy my books, happy to introduce newcomers to what I've written. I'm excited to be part of a panel at this event, which more or less puts me "on stage." Excited by the opportunity, and yet it will require a skill I've only developed within the last ten years (and probably only six, but who's counting?): speaking when I have something to say.

As the youngest of four girls, I grew up in the shadow. Don't speak unless spoken to. Mine was the fourth (and therefore least important) opinion. For years, I deferred to my older, and therefore wiser, sisters. Eventually, we all grew up. I'm not that mouse in the corner anymore.

In my professional life, I was able to speak to people individually with ideas, but often struggled in large groups. Those individuals helped me to break out of that. One friend in particular encouraged me to share my "great ideas" with the group. I credit one of my mentors/bosses with giving me the opportunity to prove myself, and there were enough "individuals" who'd heard my voice to push me forward and give me the confidence to speak to the groups.

As an author, I've been able to translate this confidence into approaching people I don't know, especially at events like this one. If they're at a literary festival, that means they like books. I write books, what a coincidence! Instantly, we have something in common, something to talk about. And if they like MY books, well, that's a bonus. And that's what keeps an author writing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baby its cold outside!

As I'm trying to think of what words of wisdom/glimmers of brilliance I can share today, the only thing I can think is BABY ITS COLD OUTSIDE.

Ruby's @ Bryce Canyon, 5/2013
I'm a summer person. I don't mind the 90 degree heat (although I could live without humidity and be much happier). I'm not going to complain about how hot I am during the summer, and that's because of days like today. Arctic air is spilling down into the Midwestern United States. We've had a relatively mild spell, and not much snow to worry about, but we couldn't escape winter forever.

So my mind wanders to other times and places to escape the lethal wind chills. Like my visit to Utah, during the spring, when the weather was changeable. Warm and 70 one day, 32 and snowing the next. Or Arizona at 110 degrees at 10 p.m. That's the thing about the United States. We get it all, from the arctic tundra, to the sizzling deserts and everything in between.

But enough whining, complaining, shivering. Still working on edits for Kundigerin 2. I think I have all the plot holes filled, so now it comes down to readability, flow, and then to the "fine grit" sandpaper of pulling out overused words, unnecessary words, etc. So I better get back to it.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Greetings and felicitations.

Keeping this post short because I'm BUSY EDITING and must maintain focus. So first, let me wish everyone a Happy New Year. A fresh start, a new beginning. Celebrate safely.

The first draft of Kundigerin 2, tentatively titled Gathering Mist, is complete and I'm working through the kinks. Have to say I'm happy with the end result, even as I worried that I was meandering aimlessly through for a while. That doesn't mean I haven't botched some of the details, which now have to be corrected and cleaned up. I'm on my editor's calendar for the end of February, so release date is looking like sometime in April. I'll keep you posted. And for some reason, the main characters' names aren't sticking, mostly as a result of "writing rules." Marissa and Wolf will make an encore appearance from Mist on the Meadow and will be joined by their new friends.

I wrote my first royalty split check to the crisis center for the first quarter after the release date of Return to Hoffman Grove. The book has been getting positive reviews to date and I hope that if you've read it, you will leave a review of your own and tell your friends to buy a copy. I will continue to split royalties for the first two quarters of 2015 with the crisis center. If you're concerned that the story is about domestic abuse and might be heavy-handed, that part of the story is a subplot, a cause for Cinda to champion. Domestic violence is addressed, but it does not take over the story. Those people who hated Cinda in Living Canvas have reported back that they loved her in Return to Hoffman Grove! Please help me in supporting the crisis center and buy a copy of the book. You're not only helping a good cause, you're getting a good read.

And now, back to work. The Kundigerinen are battling evil forces to save the world!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recreational Reading

Yes, I know it's Christmas Eve, but I posted my Christmas wishes last week (and am happy to repeat them again this week!). Merry Christmas!

True confession time. I used to HATE reading Harlequin romances. Why? Their editors weren't very thorough. When I'd read them, I'd spend more time noticing the mistakes than reading the book.  The stories often didn't hold my interest enough for me to overlook the problems. And that was before I became a copyeditor at the day job, before I got serious about my own writing and KNEW what to look for.

Harlequin has come a long way. I still wouldn't jump to them as a brand for a first read, but they have spawned some of my favorite authors, and I do believe their editors have increased in caliber.

Along those same lines, I've come a long way. When I read a book, I want to get lost in it. I don't want to pick at the quality. The single most important advice I would give to an indie author is to get an independent editor. A REAL editor, not your best friend or your mom. As an author, we know what the book is supposed to say, so doing self-editing works to a point, but speaking from experience, every time I read one of my books, I find one more thing I missed the last time. It's a vicious cycle. So finding that editor, a disinterested third party, gives you another level of quality control.

I've read several books over the past few years that had good stories, but the editing was so horrific that I couldn't recommend them. As a society and with the advent of indie publishing, we are seeing more of those old-style Harlequin novels, but readers are more sophisticated. In addition to noticing the typographical errors, they know when you haven't developed your characters, when your dialog isn't working, when your settings are one-dimensional. And yet, I read Jane Eyre a couple of years ago. We're talking classic literature, and the writing was very shabby in parts, and yet Jane was such a compelling character that readers can overlook the rough spots in favor or a stellar story.

At the day job, I've been interviewing candidates for a proofreading position. Many of them were English teachers or had degrees in English, leading to some very interesting discussions off-topic on literature. What makes a book required reading in our schools? Who decides what makes a classic? And some of the books are so dry, so stale, so "against the rules" from a technical standpoint, that even the teachers hate reading them.

Traditional publishers still hold the power of a compelling read. They have the quality assurance processes in place to make sure you get the best book possible, without short-cutting it. I like to take chances on indie authors, and have found many that I enjoy without the switch flipping in my head from reader to editor. But there are still too many who have the skills, but don't realize that it's nearly impossible to edit your own work.

I've read reviews on some of the books I purchased for my holiday binge reading session, and some of the comments are very insightful. As I mentioned, readers are much more discerning these days. They are more educated. Some can be overly critical. One more reason for indie authors to make sure they are presenting the best book possible.

I have a review page on my blog - but I don't always post reviews there on the books I read. For one, recently a book blogger came under criticism for expressing her opinion. Some authors don't like to hear the truth, and feel they can strike back when someone doesn't like their book. You know what? It's all subjective. Thank you for taking the time to read my books. Not everyone will like them. BUT that doesn't give you license to take a pot shot just for the helluvit. As I mentioned, I've recently read several "good" books that would have done much better with an editor's tutelage. I did write reviews at the request of the authors, and I tried to highlight the good things, but to be fair, readers need to know what they're getting into, so I feel obligated to point out the shortcomings (I try to be gentle). When the editing isn't there, many readers will give up without reaching the end. I know I would have, if I hadn't been asked for the review. (I'm also OCD about finishing what I start.) And not everyone will like every book. Some just aren't my cup of tea, even when they are well written.

But enough rambling on for today. My favorite high school required reading book was "When the Legends Die." Yeah, I liked the Iliad, and I liked the King Arthur book, too. But most of the rest of it was torture. Now I'm looking forward to my recent book purchases that will keep me curled up in the corner on the upcoming winters days/nights.

Which "required reading" book do you remember most?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Holidays

In my house, its Merry Christmas, but to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukah.

I've already celebrated with my children once, traveling to visit my Darling Daughter and her family along with One Young Son. There's a certain amount of freedom knowing that the last-minute crunch is over (although that meant it came early this year). We will celebrate again on Christmas Day with more family.

For me, the holidays this year mean excusing myself from the day job for two full weeks, during which time I intend to polish up the second in the Kundigerin series and the sequel to Mist on the Meadow. As I write this post, the only original writing left is the last chapter, and I know what it needs to say, so that's just a matter of time to put it down. It's coming along nicely, I'm happy to report! I have a date with the editor in February, so I'm on schedule.

AND holiday time for me is binge-reading time. I have five books on my TBR list, four of them are paperbacks! (One was a Christmas gift.) If I know my DH, I'll have a gift certificate to buy more for New Year's week.

What's on your to be read list?

From me any my assistant (below), Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Christmas Cookie Time

I have a page on this blog dedicated to some of my favorite recipes, and more that I've scrounged on Pinterest. Why? Because I'm a cookie-holic. It's a trait handed down through the family.

Every year, my sister hosts a cookie baking party, which I have snobbishly snubbed several times in favor of my own private baking party with my kids. This year, however, my nest is empty and the kids are more difficult to round up, so the prodigal sister is joining in the fun.

My signature Christmas cookie is the pinwheel. It requires a lot of work, but they're pretty on the plate, and they taste out of this world. They lend themselves to several variations, including sprinkles on the edges, or a mint layer, but I tend to stick to the standard chocolate and vanilla. We also make tassies (mini pecan pies), toffee bars, the essential cut-out cookies and/or spritz cookies (which keep the next generation of little ones busy). I've recently (!) discovered that my DH loves shortbread. Now, I knew he liked the pecan fingers (which are shortbread in nature), but since I'm not a nut aficionado, I tend to shy away from those, although I make a token batch just for him. This year, I'm trying another shortbread recipe that looks pretty and festive. Maybe I'll throw some pecans in for him.

I'm cutting back on the cookies this year, mainly because of my inability NOT to eat them (and I need to pay attention to my weight), but cookie baking is part of the holidays--a longstanding tradition that I won't soon part with.

Do you have a favorite holiday cookie? I'd love to hear what you make, and if you don't have a favorite cookie, check out my Pinterest cookie page for some fun ideas, or my Pinterest Christmas page!

Don't forget - in case you haven't already read Touched by the Sun or Intimate Distance, both books are still $0.99! My Christmas present to you.