Wednesday, November 14, 2018

If it's worth doing...

I'm very excited to tell you I've finished the first draft of Epitaph 7! That's when the real work begins, the checking through it for continuity and holes and "what was I thinking there?" The getting a finished product ready for the editor.

As I finish writing a book, my brain is usually spinning ahead to "what's next." In this case, I'd already decided to give myself a break over the holidays. Finish off Epitaph 7 and give my creative juices a breather. Wouldn't you know it, my imagination had other ideas. In between my OCD to finish what I have, I got excited to start in on my next project - except my next project would come with a February deadline. That's pretty ambitious, and for someone who was looking for time off, will I short-circuit myself? It would mean rushing through completing this one or rushing through writing the next one. This is where the old adage "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right" has been front and center in my head.

I always strive to bring the best product forward. The original Epitaph novel is an example of that. I started that book in 2009, but I couldn't get it right. Even I knew it wasn't working, but I couldn't let it go. It took me seven years to figure out what was wrong and fix it, but rather than try to force a sub-par book to market, I took my time. I'm pleased with the end result, and the rest of the series that it spawned, and I'm glad I took the time to get it right. Likewise, I can't rush the final installment to market until it's done "right," and I don't want to hurry the new story at the risk of making a muddle of it. Once I start the new project, I'm not sure I'll make the February cut-off, but the new story is speaking to me. In a loud voice. Clearly. So it will be written. If I miss the cut-off, I'll wait for my next opportunity to present it, or I'll follow Plan B (yes, there actually is a Plan B).

The moral of my story (and shouldn't there always be a moral?) is to follow your heart, and if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well/right, even if it takes a little extra time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When the antagonist is a family member

As I was working through plot points on my latest work in progress, I was trying to decide my antagonist's character arc -- and struggling somewhat since the antagonist is a family member. Coincidentally, I was concurrently reading a book by another author in which the antagonist was also a family member. Brilliant! I figured I could see how she handled the situation, even in a different genre, to see if I might be able to apply similar tactics.


Having a family member as an antagonist opens a whole new can of worms. In the leisure reading I was doing, the author actually killed the guy off! Family member and all! The hero was conflicted on several levels about what to do with him and actually told his law enforcement friends not to kill the only family he had left. Granted, the villain was beyond redemption and in a tough spot, but there were so many other ways the author might have dispatched him. Let's just say I was horrified at the route she took. The guy had assassins after him, for heaven's sake, and she let the hero mortally wound him and one of the law enforcement guys (who'd been asked not to kill him) shoot him dead, all while the assassins had a gun trained on the him. ARGH! My sense of honor was offended. My sense of "this is fiction! You get to decide how this man dies" was offended. Of all the options... and then "the hero is now free to live happily ever after." WAIT! WHAT? This is his last remaining family! Despite the antagonist being beyond redemption, there were other ways to dispatch him that might be less traumatic to the hero and the heroine he was trying to protect. Needless to say, I will not be applying any of these options to my antagonist. Which takes me back to how best to deal with dispatching MY antagonist.

In my work in progress, the antagonist is evil, but she's in over her head. I'm thinking she might get jail time, but I don't think its serious enough for her to be killed over (contrary to the book I just finished - that guy definitely deserved what he got, but as a reader, I would have preferred by other hands). So I'm back to muddling around inside my own head meting out justice to the bad guy to the satisfaction of our protagonists.

Sometimes this author stuff is heady!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

Are you a Halloween ghoul? Or a denier?

In my experience, people seem to go all in, or ignore Halloween completely. During my walks around the neighborhood, I encounter displays of giant spider webs, headstones with clever names (Ivan Churblood), ghosts, witches, and a host of other decorations. Me? I'm lucky if I remember to take out my haunted house candy holder (shout out to my crafty sister who made it for me!) Outside decorations? I'm boring. I don't even put out a pumpkin anymore.

I enjoy the spooky movies - not the slasher flicks, but the ones that rely on your imagination to scare the poop out of you. Which brings my to my newest binge watch - The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix (thanks, Stephen King, for the recommendation). I was a fan of the original black and white movie (the remake, not so much), and while the series does introduce tangible ghosts (which is less scary), it's an interesting interpretation of the book. Another of my favorite old time scary movies is The Uninvited.

And then there are the spooky books (insert EPITAPH series plug here - although my ghosts are less scary than the people they haunt). The book that scared me to read was The Amityville Horror. Couldn't have it in the same room with me when I finished (although I was fairly young when I read it). I recently saw a funny Halloween post where someone said their mother-in-law had read the Exorcist and had a similar reaction, threw the book into a lake. The person who posted thought it would be funny to buy another copy, soak it for a day, and put it somewhere her mother-in-law would find it. The book that wouldn't die!

What are your favorite Halloween traditions? Reading? Decorating? Binge watching? Or nothing at all?

The Epitaph Series

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Small town charm(s)

Every town has it's "thing." I grew up in the "Lilac Village," where they have a park filled with lilac bushes and tulips and every May they have a lilac festival when the flowers and bushes are in bloom. They have a parade and, while I was growing up, they also selected a lilac queen and her court. 

I recently visited a village founded post-WWII where their claim to fame is their chimney charms. 

For $10, you can walk around and look at the different decorations on everyone's chimneys. From Angels (#MyLifeIsAMusical, can you hear me singing Amy Grant's Angels Watching Over Me?) to Mickey Mouse, to firefighter boots and badges, to frogs and beyond. No, I haven't done the tour yet, but I fully intend to! In fact, a book or two ago, while I was thinking about what comes after The Epitaph Series, I was inspired by the row houses built for the returning vets, alongside free-standing houses. The neighborhoods are grouped together by alphabet - "I live in the D's" or "I live in the F's" - where all the surrounding streets start with the same letter. There's a statue of Normal Rockwell sitting before an easel in the downtown area. A fountain dedicated to Eleanor Roosevelt. A little girl statue twirling an umbrella.

What is your hometown famous for? Or where was your favorite "famous" spot to visit?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Christmas books?

All my usual book newsletters are sending me Christmas book recommendations. Now I am a big fan of Christmas, and I do love holiday-themed books, but it isn't even Halloween!

I suppose it isn't long before it's time to get in the holiday spirit, but I'm not ready! Should I add them to my TBR list in anticipation? For me, it's a "not yet."

I have a similar problem clothes shopping. The stores are always so far ahead of the seasons that I don't know what to buy. I want something I can wear "now," not in another month or two. Most likely, by the time we get past Halloween, those holiday reads will be harder to find. What's a reader to do?

I'm still looking for spooky reads, Halloween ghosts and witches. Give me another week and then I'll look for a Christmas read. Which brings me to recommendations. Are you looking for a ghost story? Checking out my Epitaph series. But if you're looking for that holiday read, Mist on the Meadow is my kooky way of incorporating a holiday into a book -- Christmas traditions, romance, and a mystery, too.

I'm working on the final installment, the last Benson, in the Epitaph series. This author wants to hear from you. Time for a new series. More ghosts? More romance? More mystery? Or something completely different?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Writing Romance in the MeToo Era

I have to say the headlines, especially in the last couple of weeks, have impacted me quite a bit, to the point where I questioned the wisdom of trying to write romance in a fractured world. I've heard several other romance writers express the same frustration, the same crippling sense of helplessness in a world of male entitlement that makes bringing two people together a challenge. I want to share with you what one of my friends told me, something that has helped me move forward. She put it so eloquently, I had to share.

"In contemporary books with strong female characters like yours, it's important to give women hope and an escape from the news... Imagine how sad our world would be if women gave up on the hope of a beautiful romance in their lives.  Your last book ... showed a woman surviving what so many women go through and coming out stronger on the other side with the help of a man who truly loves her. There will always be ups and downs in every romance, be it fictional or true life, but ... I think it's important to write those stories. I hate to see a woman's choice become all or nothing."
 Thanks, Jennifer. Me Too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The perfect apple

A couple of years ago, my son took us to an apple orchard in Wisconsin. It's just a small place, not like some of the mega-farms and orchards where they have mini-carnivals and a shop full of overpriced accouterments and mixes and what-have-yous. They sell apples, and make cider donuts, and have other apple related food -- and yes, they have a couple of the mixes and what-have-yous. I sampled some of their apples and bought some. Nice texture (not chewy or mealy), nice flavor (not too tart, not too sweet but definitely flavor). 

This year, on an excursion north, DH and I stopped at the orchard again and I got more apples, and I remembered why I liked them so much. The problem is I only bought one pound (for $1.00 a pound!). I checked the grocery stores around my house for that variety and came up short, so I went to our local pumpkin farm and bought a peck of apples I thought would be similar in taste. BOY was I wrong. Nevertheless, I was eating them. Then I stopped at a grocery store I don't frequent very often and discovered - MY APPLES! So I bought three pounds (for $2.49 a pound). Brought them home and they were .... mealy. More disappointment.

Last weekend, we took another excursion north and stopped at the orchard. Oh wait. I already have a peck from the pumpkin farm and three pounds from the grocery. (counting on my fingers - how many apples is that?) But these are the GOOD apples. So now what do I do? I bought a five-pound bag. 

I've been eating the apples from the orchard first (obviously), but I don't want to waste the others. So I started looking up recipes and found one for apple rings. Perfect for the chewy apples, I'm thinking (and I was right!) So I thought I'd share the recipe with all of you!  Happy October - happy autumn!

Spiced Apple Rings

Apples (My baking sheet fits about two apples, so you can plan accordingly for how many you want to make)
2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 200 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash and core the apples, slice them thin and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet (you might prefer to eat the ends raw rather than bake them).

Mix the spices together and sprinkle over the apples (I use an empty salt shaker to keep the spice mix). 

Bake the chips for an hour and a half. (Your house is going to smell heavenly while they're baking!). Remove them from the oven and flip them to the other side, sprinkle some more, and bake for another hour (up to an hour and a half). Check the crispiness for how you prefer them and cook them longer or turn the oven off. Leave the apples in the oven while it cools down. That allows them to get crunchier.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

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