Okay, so I’ve said several times that I’m going to start blogging regularly again. But I’ve fallen off that wagon faster than I’ve fallen off diets. But things are sort of starting to calm down in my life, meaning I ought to be able to give up a lunch hour or two every week to make a blog post.

So, where am I and what have I been up to?

Firstly, my husband and I bought a house in January and moved to beautiful Polk County, TN, within sight of the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachian Mountains, and 15 minutes’ drive from the Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater kayaking course.


Not the actual view from our house, but just down the road from our place. We’re actually so surrounded by trees, you can just barely see a little mountain peak from our front porch.

It’s everything we’ve wanted in a house: no visible neighbors, a creek, plenty of woods, and more. It even has a shed on the back of the garage that’s just what my husband has always wanted for a blacksmith’s shop.

Unfortunately, it has no internet. But, unlike many of our unfortunate neighbors in the area, we actually have the ability to get cable internet–if we only pay to have it run to the house. We’re over 900 feet from the road, so that’s no small expense, but we’re hoping to have it done in the next month or two.

And, of course, there are a lot of other projects and improvements to do around the house. We’re actually still trying to get unpacked and figure out where everything goes. (Although I did make good progress on my craft room recently; it will be ready to use soon.)

Secondly, I’ve finished the proofreading of The Flames of Prague. I just need to order a proof copy, check the new cover and the formatting, and format the print book for ebook. We’re going to a big event in a couple of weeks, but after that, I should be able to get the final formatting done. So the publishing date for Flames is no later than July 31st!

Thirdly, I’ve been hard at work on medieval stuff, including finishing my illustrated medieval history! So look for me to start posting those again. I’m also going to start blogging more about my medieval projects because I want to showcase what I’m working on. And I’ve about been talked into doing some YouTube videos of 14th century hairstyles. (I just started teaching them as a class at our SCA events.) IMG_20160321_143701_889

Fourthly, we have a dog now. We were planning on getting one once we got fully settled at our new place, but she found us first. (Someone apparently dumped her out at the storage place on a night that was too cold for a short-haired pup and far too close to the highway. She now has our sunroom as her very own room and a 5 acre yard to play in.) Based on her coloration, confirmation, and temperament, we believe Zorra to be a black lab/smooth fox terrier mix. Her hobbies include finding trash we didn’t even know we had in the yard and bringing it up to the house, chasing cats, and barking at the cows, horses, and donkeys in the field next door. She loves fetching a ball more than anything. She’s about 6 months old.

Fifthly, I finally started that garden that I wanted to do X number of years ago (and had given up as a pipe dream). All of our stuff is looking good and we’re just waiting for our first tomato to ripen. Biting the bullet and actually doing the work necessary to have even a small garden was hard, but now that we’re over that hump, I don’t think it will be so hard to get started in future years. Even though we haven’t harvested anything yet, we’re really into watching our herbs and plants grow. I mean, I’m counting blooms daily just to see where we stand. I think once we start eating what we’ve grown, we’ll be well and truly hooked. I already have plans for expansion next year! (Not to mention we want to start planting fruit and nut trees this fall.) Up next: chickens!

So, now that we have our own place, we can settle down and start working on long-term and outdoor projects. It’s a lot going on, but it’s a lot to share, too.

Taking a Writing Staycation

I finished proofreading my book Friday night. I’d dance for joy, but it’s too damn hot. Here in Tennessee, we’re still over 100 degrees every day, and we only have two window air conditioners going in our house because our central unit broke (I daresay running almost continually was just too much for it). Currently, at 5:00 PM, it’s 90 degrees in the kitchen. Who will cook dinner has now become a serious argument in our house. Meals are sometimes skipped altogether.

Anyways, I told myself that I would take a vacation from my book for a week before I start in on the task of formatting it for e-book. (I also know that I’ll read through it one more time, looking for more typos). In fact, I may take off two weeks.

But don’t think I’ll be lying in a hammock outside, sipping pina coladas. (Way too hot for the hammock, although I’d never turn down a pina colada.) No, I have a list of writing chores to do during my “vacation.” (I only said I’d take a week off from my book, not from the rest of my writing.)

While I was in the editing zone this weekend, I went ahead and proofed a novella I’ve had sitting around for a few months. And despite having already made multiple covers for it, I made one more last night and decided I liked it the best.

So, my chore list for the next two weeks is:

1. Get my website fully functional. I have a skeletal version up, but I’m having trouble with some of the pictures loading and I just can’t get it to cooperate on dial-up. So I’ll have to stay late at work some evenings to beat it into submission.

2. Publish The Widow on Amazon and Smashwords. This requires that I actually study Smashwords’ style guide and apply it. Of course, this is also practice for my book, since I’ll have to do all the same things to it.

3. Go back and format “Vampire Lawyers” to comply with Smashwords’ style guide. While you can download the first volume from Smashwords, it’s only available on Smashwords. If I make it comply with the guidelines, there is the possibility that it will appear other places–like on Apple’s store, Barnes & Nobles, Amazon (I can’t list it on Amazon for free myself), etc.

4. Create the second volume of Vampire Lawyers and get it up on Smashwords.

I wasn’t kidding when I said my writing is a part-time job–bordering on full-time. I just hope, after three years, I can start making it pay. We sure would like to get a new air conditioner.

Tennessee Storms

Rather than posting on my cover letter/resume series yesterday, my husband and I spent our day trying to avoid tornadoes.

We were awakened at about 5:45 AM by the wind, followed by what sounded like some rather large hail on our metal roof. But before we could figure out what was going on, the wind stopped blowing quite so hard and the flow from Niagra Falls which was hitting our house ratcheted back to a just a hard rain. As the daylight strengthened (and I got my contacts put in by candlelight) we saw the damage.

We didn’t have hail hitting the roof; it was pieces/parts of trees. It’s not clear if we actually had a tornado go over the house (it certainly didn’t touch down), or if we just had straight-line winds, but for about one mile along our road, there is much worse damage to trees than there is anywhere else along the road.

We have a large hickory tree uprooted and laying on our truck. What you can’t see in the picture, though, is that there is also a small horse trailer parked in front of the truck. The bulk of the tree is laying on the hood of the truck, and the trailer is only under the branches. There doesn’t appear to be any damage to the trailer. Which is unfortunate; when we looked out our bathroom window and saw a tree over both, we hoped it was on top of the horse trailer, not the truck. Neither has full coverage insurance, and we’d much rather lose the old trailer than our truck.

We’re hoping the truck is covered under our homeowner’s. If it’s not, we’re hoping it’s not crushed beyond use. If we have to, we can bondo any holes in the roof, replace the windshield and find a way to bolt the driver’s-side mirror back on. But if the hood is now inside the engine, we’re shit out of luck.

We lost trees all around our house, but luckily none fell on the house (the branches that landed on it don’t seem to have done any roof damage, but we need to make a visual inspection).

We lost one large hickory tree, one smaller one, and a medium-sized branch in a third. My husband said he’s set on hickory wood for the meat smoker for a very long time. I’ve heard of making lemonade from lemons, but smoking chips from broken trees?

Our worse tree loss, though, was a large cedar tree on the corner of our property, next to our driveway. This was a tree that you could barely wrap your arms around. It helped hide the house from the road, giving us privacy. But now it’s gone–sheared off about 12 feet above the ground.

We lost part of another cedar tree on the road frontage, but it’s not so bad that we have to cut it down; it should survive as is.

But here’s a really weird thing: when I was out taking pictures, at about 8 AM, I heard something in the yard; it sounded like water gurling in a drain, and it sounded like it was coming from the ground.

I went towards the sound, then knelt down in the grass and dug for it. There I found a hole in the ground–a little smaller than a bathtub drain–and the water ponding in our yard was draining into it–just like water spiraling down a bathtub drain. I knelt there for a couple of minutes, but it never stopped. I knew then it was not just a mole hole filling up (and we have some extensive subturranean mole networks in our yard).

When we got home last night, at 8 PM–a full 12 hours later–I listened and heard it. I took my husband over to it, and he shined a flashlight on it. It was still the same size and still draining away. I just hope it doesn’t end up as a sinkhole in the middle of the front yard. We have a few other sinkholes around the property, but they’re mostly out of the way (the one in the ditch, by the road, is even useful; we never have flooded ditches); having to mow around one in the yard would suck, though. Filling them in doesn’t work, because water will continue to drain in that spot, and, over time, it just flushes all the dirt down the drain.

Query Letter Angst: Part Three

I gave my query letter to my husband to read, and after a little prompting, he admitted that my new letter does not make him interested in reading my book (although he has read it, and does very much like it).  He suggested that I look at the backs/inside flaps of some of our fiction to see how books are sold to readers—and then apply that to my query letter. I think he has a pretty good point.

(He also joked that I needed to make it sound like a “bodice-ripper,” using words like “pumping” and “throbbing.” “There’s no such thing as false advertising when it comes to getting an editor to read your book,” he said. I think I’ll pass.)

So here’s an example of a book summary. I bought The Betrayed, by Lisa T. Bergren simply because it sounded interesting (and it was only $1.00). I’ve not actually had the time to read it yet, so I have no idea if the book is any good or not; I purchased it by summary alone.

The Year of Our Lord 1340

The secret, a half millennium old, has been revealed. An illuminated letter, long buried by the Church—prophesying a fellowship of men and women possessing powerful spiritual gifts—is the catalyst for a profound war that will being either a new age of enlightenment or a darkness the world has never seen before. As the Gifted gather and gain strength, and find further clues as to where God is leading, their enemies grow more intent on controlling them.

There are two paragraphs to the summary, but let’s start with the first one. This is not too different from my own book, it seems. It sounds like there is an element of the supernatural involved, plus there’s some sort of war about to break out. I have both.

So, what is the catalyst for the war in my book? Well, that’s actually a secret that won’t be revealed until the third book, but Ciaran is the catalyst for the skirmishes that break out in the first book. But note that there are no characters mentioned in this first paragraph (they’re not introduced until the second).

In a small group in Tennessee, more than 2,500 years of peace has been shattered. For years, rumors have been flying among the Canichmehah that there was a new type of vampire in existence—the “Others.” They have mainly been known by the dead humans they leave behind. But one of them has defected, and the truth is worse than the rumors. The Others turn or kill every human they bite, they appear to have no laws or morals, and they are organizing themselves for some secret purpose—although their intention seems obvious: wipe out the Canichmehah and their human servants.

Okay, so let’s have the second paragraph from The Betrayed.

Watching the Gifted from afar in Venezia is Cardinal Boeri, who is determined to use the blessed power of the Gifted to secure his own place in the hierarchy of the Church. The doge, the duke of Venezia, has reasons of his own to seize control. But the greatest menace is the evil Lord Abramo Amidei, driven to turn the healer Daria d’Angelo to his own fold or destroy her in the process. He is determined to tear apart the firm fabric of her faith as he preys on the weaknesses of those she loves. For Amidei knows that together the Gifted are undeniably strong and growing stronger. But if he succeeds in dividing them, the Gifted—and then the world—will be his.

Here we see an introduction to the main characters and what roles they play in the plotline which was laid out in the first paragraph (the vagaries of the plot in that paragraph are also more defined here).

Kalyn is a star student in her junior class, a cheerleader, and just sixteen when she takes her place as an adult among the Yaechahre—the vampires’ human servants. She is placed in the care and tutelage of Anselm—an 800 year old vampire who is introverted, perfectionist, and rather fond of Monty Python. Under normal circumstances, the only excitement in his life comes from his adopted brother, Micah, who is his Odd Couple opposite: disorganized, lighthearted, and irreverently Jewish. But when Anselm rescues one of the Others from being murdered by his own kind, he, Micah and Kalyn lose their perfect, peaceful lives, and become the sole defenders of their people in the front lines of an emerging war.

Okay, there’s a start on yet another query letter (my third attempt, I think). I wasn’t kidding when I said this could drive a person mad. At some point I’m just going to have to say “screw it” and send it out. I may or may not get any agents’ interest with this letter (or any of its previous incarnations), but I sure as to hell won’t generate any interest if I never send it out.

September 15, 2010 – Blood Sausage… Why Didn’t I Think of It Sooner?

I can’t seem to quit tinkering with my book.  One of the agents I was going to apply to wanted 50 pages up front, and that sort of threw me for a loop (pretty much everyone else just wants the synopsis and no materials), so I started re-reading to make sure I had everything as grammatically perfect as possible (and in the case of dialog, as realistic as possible—which is not necessary grammatically correct, especially where Southern people are involved).

To make a long story short, I had a thought that now has me rewriting part of my Prologue—why does Ciaran have to have human blood?  Poor Ciaran has been a vampire (Imuechmeh) for a year, and he has to have blood once a week.  He doesn’t bite people, because anyone he bites turns, so he sneaks up on someone who is out alone and knocks him out and bleeds him.  (Kind of like the urban myth of the kidney stealers, LOL.)  But if you think about it, life would be very stressful like that.  In a year you’d have to hunt down 52 people.  And Galway, Ireland, is not exactly known as a centre of muggings. 

Then it dawned on me that vampires can drink animal blood—to an extent.  Among the Canichmehah, it’s against religious law to drink animal blood.  I kid you not, but it’s not kosher (even vampires have to have some standards).  But Ciaran, being Imuechmeh, would not have known that rule—not that it would have applied to him anyways.  So, what’s a kind-hearted, rational vampire going to do when confronted with the desire to drink blood?  Eat raw meat, I think.  Or—in an even more brilliant idea of mine—order blood from the butcher.  Blood pudding/sausage (aka black pudding/sausage) is made from—you guessed it—blood.  Eating it is not a substitute for drinking blood (it’s a lot like eating stuffing/dressing, only with a sausage taste), but butchers in the UK surely will sell blood to people wanting to make their own.

Animal blood does not meet all of a vampire’s nutritional requirements, so they can’t live on it exclusively, but it will work for a little while.  Suddenly Ciaran is only knocking out people and stealing their blood once every few months.  Life is easier. 

It’s not going to be hard to write that little part into the Prologue, but I am going to have to give a look over other parts of the book and see if I have to tweak any information to account for the addition.  Kalyn’s father, Rob, will still be feeding Ciaran once a week, once he moves in with Anselm, because the Canichmeh are sensitive about the drinking animal blood thing, and they wouldn’t make him do that unless there was no way around it.

July 25, 2010 – Writers Conferences

Well, intrepid readers, I now have a job!  Yes, that thing which pays the bills and puts food on the table so that I can continue to live until my book gets published.  I start tomorrow.  This is probably going to mean many fewer posts, as I have to save my spare time for working on my book, but I’ll try to post at least once a week, just so you know I’m still making progress.

While at a medieval lacemaker’s guild meeting, I actually met a couple of ladies who are also writers—one is a published children’s author and does that for a living.  We talked books for a while, and they both recommended that I look into attending writers conferences—that this was a good way to meet editors and agents both, and it could sometimes shorten the acceptance process.  So I have begun the hunt for writers conferences in my area.  If anyone has any they recommend (anywhere in the world, although I, personally, am only going to attend those in or near Tennessee), please post them—preferably with a link—in the comments section below.

One of the ladies also recommended writers groups/clubs as being a good way of networking and especially to find out which agents and/or publishing houses are interested in purchasing work in your genre.

A place I found to start: http://www.tn-writers.org/Home.asp

By the way, I am working on putting some important reference material in a quick link on the right side bar.  The “About the Book” link goes to my proposed back cover synopsis, which is a good summary of what my book is about (hence the name!).  I will be linking character bios there when I have time, so you don’t have to go hunting for them.  I guess I’ve actually managed to make a surviving–even thriving–blog if it’s so big I now need to organize it a bit better.

July 16, 2010 – Memories………

Last night I was working on my second book, when I needed a tidbit of information I knew I had somewhere in my notes. I have a large, 3-inch binder, that I’ve had since college, which contains everything I’ve ever done for my book (including Incarnation Two). There are handwritten pages where I’ve worked out the Canite language (complete with conjugated verbs and everything); chunks of research on the Old Testament, apocryphal books, and various nomadic tribes related to the Israelites; my first draft of the Canichmeh scriptures (yes, biblical-style books); and pieces and parts of Incarnation Two.

Some papers fell out of the binder, and I picked them up and started reading; they were the first encounter between Anselm and Kalyn in Incarnation Two.

And, OMG, they were horrible! LOL. Didn’t stop me from reading, of course, but that was just out of curiosity; I’ve been so far removed from that story for so long, I didn’t even really remember how it went. Thank goodness when I started my book last November, I started over from scratch. Urgh, it’s embarrassing! It’s amazing what a difference 10 years can make in writing quality.