Wednesday, May 31, 2023

A holiday week

Honoring those who have fallen in service to our country. In my family, we have a cousin - he would have been my second cousin once removed, actually - who died in service. In tribute, the male children born into that family since have been christened with his name. 

I've been continuing to work on the book that follows Horned Owl Hollow and am pleased to tell you I've made good progress. Still a ways to go, though. But this brings up an important announcement. The audiobook is done! It takes a while to find its way to all the sales outlets (although a couple of people have already found it through at least one of those outlets!) and once it's live "everywhere," I will be sending out my next newsletter. I have some thoughts on the performance of the audio, but I'll keep those to myself until I've seen what other people think. If you're an audiophile, you'll want to make sure you're signed up for my newsletter!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Spoken Word

You may remember when I mentioned a couple years ago how I learned how to pronounce "Triquetra." It was thanks to the magic of the "read" feature in Word. Part of the editing process for me includes reading a story aloud to make sure I "hear" any mistakes that my eyes might miss.

I'm listening to the audiobook of Horned Owl Hollow - editing my narrator in a manner of speaking. Making sure she didn't miss something, or change something inadvertently. Overall, she's done an excellent job, but she read one word that jumped out at me - detritus. Is it possible I've never heard the word spoken? I'm familiar with it, obviously, since I used it in the story, but have I only read it in the past? Or have I heard it mispronounced? Before I tagged it as a "pickup," or a change I wanted her to make to the narration, I went to the Google machine and asked it to pronounce the word for me. Hah. Joke’s on me. I've been mispronouncing it all these years. She's right. 

Which brings me to another thing that annoys me. I have one review somewhere, I don't remember for what book or at what outlet it was, where the reviewer accused me of "obviously using a thesaurus and not understanding the words I was finding that were clearly out of context." I'm not going to argue with my reviewers, as a rule, and I didn't respond to her comment, but in this forum, I feel I must. As a reader, you are exposed to millions of words. I have a HUGE vocabulary that I'm careful not to overuse, especially after my mother-in-law pointed out my "big" words in my first book. When I was in school, I used to ace vocabulary and spelling. That doesn't mean I have to use all the words I know or have learned. Detritus might well fall under that umbrella, but it fit, and so I used it. Likewise, for the reader who accused me of consulting a thesaurus and using words out of context, here's my response. Yes, I do consult a thesaurus from time to time, and the reason is generally because I can't think of the word I want. You know, it's like this one, but that's not the right one. I've even been known to Google "what's the word for..." when my mind goes blank. Or consult one of my critique partners to help me pull the word out of the dark corners of my mind. We're not talking "big" words or "fancy" words, necessarily. Just words that are playing hide and seek. And you know what? Sometimes I consult the thesaurus for a "less fancy" word to use. Maybe I should have done that in this case - use "garbage" in place of "detritus" - except detritus seemed a better choice in this case. 

I've finished listening to the audiobook version of Horned Owl Hollow and sent back my "pickups" to the narrator, which means it will be coming to all the audio outlets soon! I've posted up a taste at my website so you can get a sneak preview!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Writer's Block

I've always said I don't believe in writer's block. I still hold to that, although there are definitely writer's speed bumps.

When I get stuck with writing, I can spend hours going down rabbit holes and chasing distractions (Candy Crush? Words with Friends? or my latest is online jigsaw puzzles). None of those are productive. What IS productive is writing. Even when it isn't part of the story. What does that mean? 

As I was writing last week's blog post, I was using my blog as my distraction. Stuck in a time warp, not knowing how to move forward and out of the ONE DAY my story has encompassed so far. As I wrote the blog, I shook loose an idea. Writing ABOUT the story sometimes gets me past one of those speed bumps. I also do this regularly by emailing one of my buddies to hash out what in the story has me tied up in knots. Talking through (or typing through, as the case may be) the roadblock will often help me clear it. 

As I was writing that blog, I started thinking about a character I'd introduced (and who I have been referring to very vaguely over the course of two books now). I gave him a name. Rule of thumb, if a character has a name, they deserve a place in the story. So as I was wondering what to do with my "problem child," I considered this newly named background character. (Problem child being the person in trouble in this book.) I can't leave them on their own, and they aren't going to put up with a "minder" (as they say across the pond). Enter the character who has been named. They have a vested interest. They don't know what's going on, but they do know they need that character. So while my problem child is "lost," the character who has been named can unwittingly care for them, which benefits both parties. And now my character who has been named has a reason for being named. They now have an active role in the story. All as a result of writing a blog and working my way through one of those speed bumps.

Which brings me to the subject of "how many drafts should a writer write?" I know one author who says one draft is all you should have. I'm not a subscriber to that way of thinking. For me, especially when I get stuck on a speed bump, my writing can become notes that needs to be expanded on. Then, maybe I expand on those notes so that now its a story. Except the story isn't always "good" after the notes are first transcribed, although they are more "story-like." My next step is to make sure I'm not leaving out important details. For instance - someone died. And maybe that's what I've written. Ho hum. Important details might be the characters' reaction to that death. Is it an OMG moment? A trigger moment? A sad moment? A welcome relief? And there are descriptions to be added. Something that stands out about a character or a scene. What does it "look" like? These are all ways to get words on the page and break loose more words. If I can see it in my head, if I can feel it in my soul, there are more words waiting to follow on. Sometimes just flat words that will need to be fluffed up later, but at least it gets the writing going. That's what drafts are for. Get down the ideas, and you can expand on them later.

Writer's Block? I've always heard the cure is to "just write." I subscribe to that idea, including writing even when it isn't "words in the story." Write notes. Write ideas. Write to someone else about what is stuck in your head and often that logjam breaks apart. Bottom line? Write. 

I did promise you an excerpt of the new book, but I'm not ready to share quite yet. There's a certain matter of writer's angst yet to deal with. (Is anybody going to read this next book? Will it be as good as Horned Owl Hollow?) I will take the leap next week and share a piece I hope will interest you!

In the meantime, have I mentioned Horned Owl Hollow is coming soon to audio? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Muddle in the Middle

Yep. I'm in the middle of the new book and feeling boggy. 

I've done a rough outline so that I make sure I stay on task. There's one character who wants a bigger role (and will likely get one). Because of the outline (and this is why I avoid them most of the time unless I'm wandering aimlessly), I'm eager to get to the plot points that are on the horizon. I spent one day writing, then went back to look at my chapter points and realized I'd jumped ahead. Went back to the start, kept what I'd written (because it will happen eventually) and followed the road I needed to get there. 

Which brings me to my problem with time. You've probably heard me go on about how I lose track of what day of the week it is, or what month, or any number of time concepts. In this book, I seem to be stuck on one day. For almost 20 chapters, it's still the same day. At some point I'm going to have to move on to "the next day." My future chapter notes that are waiting for me cover at least a week, so I need to figure out what to do with my "problem child" for a week. 

Muddling. Stuck in the middle of the story and trying to get my feet out of the mud. But you know what? That's what first drafts are for. Once I get to the figurative other side, I can go back and mop up my muddy footprints. 

In the meantime, I'm still trying to decide on a series name for my haunted house books. I've had a couple of good suggestions that I'm chewing on, but still undecided. Ran a contest in my newsletter, and now I'm opening it up for my blog audience. What do you think? Here are some of the suggestions I've received so far:

Elle Barclay’s Eerie Happenings
Mysterious Phenomena
Haunting Spirits
Shades of Elle Barclay
Specters of Elle Barclay
Restless Spirits

You can send me your suggestions HERE. If I choose yours, I'll give you your choice of one of my books (including the upcoming new release). 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Applying all that I've learned

Thanks for touring around Spain with me these past several weeks. I saw SO MUCH, and really had the best time. Since we've been home, I've been trying to capture much of the experience into the new book--the locations, the food, the atmosphere. And most of all, one of the ghost stories I heard.

I spent so much time absorbing everything that I didn't even consider the new story until I got home. Well, that's not entirely true. I did take the Paranormal Tour with the intention of finding inspiration (and I did). But for the rest of the trip, instead of taking copious notes like a good author, I chose to live the experience, to be present. Then, on the last night, we were walking past a storefront (one we'd passed every day while we were there, but apparently not at night), and I saw something that screamed (take a picture!). What was inside was unexpected. It wasn't a store, per se, more of a storeroom with a glass window. Aside from the ghost story I was clinging to, it was the only thing that caught me off guard enough to take notice. I'm hoping to use that photo for the cover of the new book, but we'll see if/how I can incorporate it. 

I managed to write all the Spain blog posts shortly after we returned home, and then I buckled in to begin work on the new story, which is coming along great, thanks for asking. I'm about 20k words into it, and dreaming up all kinds of trouble for Elle and Laine and the other people in their lives. I'm also reliving my trip through their eyes, and borrowing experiences from some of the other people who also took the trip to throw at Elle. I've created a Pinterest board to refer back to. Many of the references are in Spanish, but with the magic of the Internet, those pages are easily translated. Not all of the pins will make it into the new book, but they were all things I wanted to know more about after I'd seen them.

Am I using the story I heard while I was in Sevilla? Yes and no. All good stories have to start somewhere, and while I was inspired by some of the things I learned, I've put my own spin on the places I visited and the history that goes with them. Expanded on a theme, you might say. The funny part is that while I'm doing research, I forget the "my own spin" part. While chasing the "real" story, I suddenly find I want to stick to just the facts, ma'am. The research took me to Granada, which is one place we didn't visit. Then I remind myself that the story is loosely based on the legend. I don't have to reference Granada. I can have my characters go someplace I went while they chase leads, like Ronda, for instance. I'm an author. I get to take artistic license. I get to make things up! This isn't something anyone else is going to know and scold me for getting wrong (as opposed to facts that can be verified and checked). It's Fiction.

So back to work, and next week maybe I'll share a snippet with you. In the meantime, if you haven't already read Horned Owl Hollow, get acquainted with Elle Barclay and her ability to see those spirits whose energy remains in this realm! (And don't forget to let me know how you liked it!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Spain - Day 7, Gibraltar

We got up bright and early on Day 7 to go to Gibraltar. After scoping out our directions the day before because, you know, we got lost every day, we were confident we'd find our way. Maybe. And then they changed the meeting point. No worries. We had it figured out. Until we got lost. Again. *sigh* But you know what? We made it to the new meeting point on time! And off we went to the Rock of Gibraltar.

As you may know, Gibraltar is a British holding right there on the tip of Spain. As far from Britain as you can get with a whole country in between. As such, we needed our passports to cross into it, and wouldn't you know? One of the people on our tour didn't bring theirs. Instead, they brought a passport card, which didn't allow them admittance into the country. Long trip to be turned away! Our guide, Zoraida, escorted us across the airfield to the border (yes, we crossed a runway to enter the country) and to the guide on Gibraltar who took over. 

The Rock of Gibraltar
Of all the places we saw, I have to say this was the most commercial. There's a whole town on Gibraltar and people who live there and work there. As our guide told us, there are more jobs than people. They are reclaiming the land from the sea (this author has mixed feelings about that, but who am I to judge). On one side, the Mediterranean, on the other, the Atlantic Ocean. As tourists will, we went up the rock to see the views from the top - you can see Morocco from Gibraltar - and the monkeys. Monkey, you say? Yes. with repeated warnings, those little critters are quick to steal from you! They'd warned us they would show up at the first sight of food, and told us what to do if one jumped on our shoulder. What they didn't expect is that one very bold monkey actually came into the restaurant and stole a man's ice cream right out of his hand! (They'd warned us not to walk outside with food.) I think what annoyed me was that when I walked outside, two women were teasing the monkeys with their ice cream, staring them down and all but daring them to take it from them. These are wild animals, ladies. Well-cared for, vaccinated, fed, but still wild animals.

monkey with purloined ice cream

Barbary Macaques

Also at the top of the mountain was St. Michael's Cave. Inside, they've rigged up light shows for the tourists, and I have to say I was impressed by the angel of the cave.

The guide took us back down the rock and left us on our own to find food and shop (I mentioned the commercial part, yeah?) and after a day at the rock, we were on our way back to Sevilla.

The trip was action packed and adventure filled. I enjoyed Sevilla very much and it ranks up there with one of the places I'd love to go back to one day. 

Hasta la proxima vez, Sevilla!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Spain, Day 6

After all the hoopla, we didn't schedule anything for Day 6. Instead, we walked past the Torre de Oro, to the Guadalquivir River and took a boat ride to see the city from there. They have a lovely riverwalk, and this is where we saw the Columbus-like boat. I got a kick out of a father pushing a stroller and singing/humming/duh-duh-duhing the Pirates of the Caribbean song for his son. It was a laid back kinda day.

Torre de Oro

Cat by the river!

Nina? Pinta? Santa Maria?

We continued our walk over to the bullring, the largest in Spain and saw the memorial garden for one of the famous matadors. We had empadillas for lunch (yum!) and did some souvenir shopping. Our last day in Sevilla (another excursion planned for day 7).

Day 7: The Rock of Gibraltar