Archive for February 2010

As February Leaves

February 28, 2010

Do Days Really Have Empty Spaces?

Several things happened this week.  

Oh, many eventful events have occurred in the world, not the least of which are the Olympics which are winding down this weekend.  Or the horrendous earthquake which happened on Saturday in Chile and the tsunami warning out now for the South Pacific.  Or the continuing wintry weather battering the mid-Atlantic and northeast US states.  

I haven’t even mentioned the continuing dismal economic news or the mid-east battles or the fact that gasoline has risen once again. 

I’m talking about my own little world here on the western shore of Lake Michigan.  So what happened? 

Working with the Puzzle of Time

Well… 

This week I learned I’ll be a guest columnist for our local newspaper.  I figure these weekly posts are excellent training for what I’ll be doing about every three months on a Friday.  The column is title MY TURN and after talking with the editor, I pretty much can write about whatever I want that might be of interest to local readers.  Downside?  My photo runs alongside my column.  The first one is due April 9th

I’ve been feeling very honored these past few days because this is yet another method of getting my name out there to possible readers.  All the while writing about what interests me at the moment.  🙂  Sure can’t beat that. 

Next event was more family-related.  We had a visit from my Seattle-based cousin.  While his profession and family have taken him to another city, we remain close.  He’s a very interesting man and filled with ideas and opinions.  As we talked I kept thinking about all that he was saying and some of the experiences he described relating to his work.  Watch out, Mike, you may end up as a very interesting character in a book. 

Needless to say, while those few hours weren’t spent working in my office, I know they were well-spent.  I most likely meet my deadline of finishing the rough draft at the end of February, but it’s near.  So close, I feel its breath on my neck at the moment. 

In my forever friendship circle we celebrated one of our birthdays.  Celebrating birthdays are the best.  Why?  We’ve lost a few women in this group already so those special days are more treasured by all of us.  Our friendship endures—no matter what we deal with. 

Regarding friends, I also spent a day with a writer friend.  When we are together we never quit talking.  Despite the heavy snow we got the night before, I never thought twice about cancelling the 90 mile drive to meet her.  The time was so well-spent and valued because we see each other rarely. 

Finally, I moved from the Paleolithic era of computer technology to modern day.  At least until I get the new machine up and running.  Then it will be obsolete sooner than I master all the new gadgetry.  But I kept telling myself,  “You must do this,” as I discussed options with the salesman who surely was a doppelganger for Shaun White, the Olympic snowboarder.  But I saw no evidence of a gold medal or snowboard.  🙂

Late February Dawn

There you have it.  Big events in my week and the reason I haven’t finished the rough draft yet.  But next week?  Here’s hoping…

How has your week been?  Or is the week ahead a real beast?

Winter Blahs

February 20, 2010

This time of year in Wisconsin many of us suffer from “winter blues.”  We could look at the more positive sides of the calendar.  After all, February is more done than just starting.  The days ARE getting longer. This year, lucky for us, we’ve had temperatures NOT in the frigid zone for long stretches.

But…

We still have snow piles at eye level.  Some amount of snow falls at least a couple times a week.  We can’t hide the snow shovels yet.  And that white powdery residue of ever-necessary salt to dissipate the ice that forms each night causes more work for those who try to keep their entrances somewhat tidy.  Ice problems and worries occur for any potential visitors.  What if they fall and hurt themselves trying to enter our homes?  Thus, salt and its mess gets strewn about to handle any ice on walkways.

And why the ice?  Well, if the temps warm a bit and we get some welcome February sun, the downside of both is melting snow—then night falls and the melted snow freezes.  Yup.  Ice.  Equals salt.  Result—messes.

Our cars look like tired, very dirty kids after a solid day of playing in the muck.  Washing them is dangerous as the locks might freeze up; that creates more problems.  If we have errands to run, parking becomes an issue as parking lots have rows of parking slots used up.  Why?  That’s where all the plowed snow goes.

And this pristine snow you always see photos of?  Well, after a few days it turns grungy and looks more putrid gray than blinding white.

Oh, I could go on, but when someone asks how I’m doing in mid February, I’m likely to answer ready for spring.  If I ask the same question to others, nine times out of ten they answer the same way.

So what’s the solution?  You might suggest, hop a plane and go somewhere warm.  Anyone tried depending on air travel in the winter if you’re flying out of one of the midwest’s many airports?  Oh, think O’Hare or Minneapolis or Milwaukee?

Snow and ice play more havoc with flight schedules than I care to think about.  This winter at least two newscasts a week show stranded passengers waiting in an overcrowded airport.  You guessed it.  Because of weather.  Even if our weather is fine here, that doesn’t mean “on time” travel.  This past winter everyone’s getting snowed or iced in.  Think Baltimore, New York, D.C., Atlanta, Dallas.

No thanks.  I’ve had that happen.  NOT FUN!  Nothing is worse than being stranded in an airport where the restrooms are overused and undersupplied, babies and kids are cranky, food supplies are limited or non-existent, adults are frustrated, an you have no place comfortable to settle in.  Add in a few stranded passengers who’ve been over-served at the terminal bar and the discomfort quotient hits the stratosphere.

At least at home, I’ve my beautiful fire place, my own bed, a comfortable chair, a well-stocked pantry, clean bathrooms, and the certainty that I really don’t have to go out if the weather is truly horrid.  And for this year, if I want to see great winter scenery or be entertained by crowd antics, I can watch the Olympic games.  At least what snow they have in British Columbia looks much more beautiful than ours right now.  🙂

Spring will come

So what’s your take on winter, snow, ice, and wishing it would end soon for this year?  (And spring will be officially here on March 20 at midnight) Am I just being incredibly grumpy or do I have legions lock-step with my views?

Whispers From An Author’s Life

February 14, 2010

Think Summer, Not Snow

Earlier this week I gave a presentation to the Women’s League at our parish.  Since November their representative has been trying to coordinate one of their meeting times with my schedule.  Last week worked. 

However, I really didn’t have a direction from them as to what topics they might be interested in, and I knew the group would be diverse. 

I’ve stewed about what to do and how to present whatever I chose. Then I added the talk to my ever-expanding list of items to worry about.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have a great deal of experience in public speaking and dealing with different types of groups.  But this group was different.  I’d see these women regularly when we came together to worship each week.  

What might really interest them?  Especially as I was sure I wasn’t dealing with a group of writers.  I would bet my first royalty check they would be friendly, but interested if I chose the wrong topic or developed it in too much detail?  And how much was too much? 

Only the day would tell. 

Their representative had mentioned the group wanted to meet a “real live author.”  I took my cue from that, and as I looked around the room, I saw many familiar faces.  So I started out with the idea that authors are like everyone they knew already who have talents.  It’s just our talents lie with creating stories, finding the perfect words to describe a situation or setting, developing characters that live on after the book is finished.  I added a bit about my writing process and the hours I spend writing.  And lots more.  I have to say the hours I mentioned produced a gasp from them. 

I could tell from their body language they were interested in what I was saying.  They asked great questions.  Those questions provided more topics for me to touch upon. In all, the 40 minutes was a highlight I’ll not forget.  Another new experience on this road I’m traveling as a published author. 

Yesterday as I entered our church several people came up to me and spoke about my little talk.  While they hadn’t been there, they heard about it from friends.  They were interested and asked questions.  They told me they had bought Black Ribbon Affair or were reading it from the library. They were excited for me.  But imagine how excited I am and their words. 🙂 

These are the memories that I must bring to mind when a scene gets tough or the words aren’t flowing as I want on any given day. 

Happy Valentine's Day

 

What about you?  On a day things aren’t going well, whether you’re writing or living life, what helps you get through?  Any special memories of moments past?

Ahh, Book Reviews

February 6, 2010

Crossroads

Book Reviews are the written opinion of  others on a book.  Authors wait for them.  Worry over them.  Want them to be good.  Because they reflect approval.

A bad review can devastate us if we let it.  A great one can keep us chained to our computers clicking away on the keys to produce our next book.  A favorite New York Times best-selling author advised a group of us (and I’m paraphrasing) to avoid reading the bad ones because you can’t please everyone all the time.  Just dwell on the good reviews.  Good advice for a new author without a rhino-hide.

Today I’m dealing with two types or reviews: reader and professional.

This past week I learned about a “professional” book review published and on the web for Black Ribbon Affair.  This means on a website that regularly posts reviews and maintains a staff or reviewers to do so.

Some review sites are very prestigious.  Think NY Times Book Reviews or Publishers Weekly.  Many larger and local newspapers have book reviews and you see tidbits from those reviews on the “brag page” of an author’s book.  People read these and think: “Yeah, I’d like to read that.”

Publishing houses send out advance copies to these places for “professionals” to review or sometimes authors submit a books for review.  My publisher The Wild Rose Press has a list of approximately 30 – 40 review sites that it sends its new books for reviews.  The one I’m talking about today was one of those.  My Google Alert told me to check it out.

I held my breath.  Would it be awful?  Would I like it a titch? More than a titch?  A lot?

I stared at the link,  almost clicked on it, then chickened out.  No, I couldn’t face it, not without another cup of coffee.  After all, it was early morning and a bad review could ruin my day’s outlook.  I read email and called a friend—all to ease my anxiety and stave off the moment of reckoning.

Finally, my courage bolstered, I clicked on the link for Long & Short Reviews.  And read a wonderful review.  My first “official” review.  I’m validated.  I feel like I’ve been nominated for a Golden Globe.  Did Meryl Streep feel this way with her first great review?  Or Nora Roberts?

This positive review brings a certain kind of satisfaction.  And hosannas to a reviewer named Camellia which means gratitude.  I am grateful she “got” my book.  So have my readers who’ve posted great reviews.  Thank you for that.  Good reviews and word of mouth help sell books.

Book sales bring profit to the publisher.  If a reader loves a book and tells other readers about the book, then those readers go out and buy the book.  This makes the publisher happy (and the book seller, too) because the book may earn back what it cost to produce and stock.  Of course, sales make the author happy because she will get a percentage of that sale.  Anyway, that’s a simplified version of the process.

I make it a point to read the blog Magical Musings every day.  I find the topics these women write about both inspire me and provide a sense of connection to our creative spirit.  Imagine my delight to see a wonderful review of Black Ribbon Affair on their site.  Every weekend they give a review of a book.  Their book selections are as individual as the women themselves.  But most often after I’ve read a review from there, I click on the buy site and purchase the book.  I’ve not been disappointed yet.

Joyful Bubbles

I’ve climbed another step this week.  Of course, I have more steps ahead.  Realistically, I’ll likely suffer some slips.  But I’m holding on to the memories of the exciting glow of “job well done.”

I thank you all for helping me get there.