Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ROW80: Weds night rather late . . .

Writer's group met today, and I got some feedback on my hopefully-close-to-final draft of Rivers of Stone. While I'd like people to fall in love with my story, critical feedback at this stage is more useful than happy faces scribbled in the margin.

But this beta reader told me (as tactfully as possible) that none of my main characters are likable. At least, not in the first 50 pages. How can my readers care about the story if they don't like the main characters? So do I wait out the rest of May, waiting for other comments before beginning to revise? Or do I dive in and work on the character motivations and arcs, setting aside the novella?

I've been working on 'the novella' (no real title yet), and completed about half the steps Randy Ingermanson suggests with his SNOWFLAKE method. The last two days involved writing the story line from each major character's point of view. It's been fun to discover some of their hopes and fears, along with bits of dialogue, plot twists, and lots of research questions. I've never done this kind of organized plotting before. Usually, the story emerges and evolves scene by scene. IF I continue with the novella, the big next step is to further develop the story with a four-page synopsis.

Goals for this week:
Purple = some progress. Red =  not yet. Blue = Done!

  • Another 1,000 words on the novella? 500 words so far. A little research. Just enough to know that more is needed.
  • Send monthly newsletter by May 20. 
  • Read a book by an indie writer and review. Started reading Annette Drake's Stay at Celebration House.
  • Read other ROW80 writers: So far have read x6.
  • Finish organizing that marketing material/research into a REAL PLAN.
  • Declutter e-mail down to under 100. Actually now at zero!

I have reorganized my e-mail (consistently over 250). Taking advice from  Michelle Schaeffer on how to tame that inbox, I set up folders labelled ACTION, REPLY, READ, and REVIEW. The result so far (after sorting through everything), is that some tasks moved to that ACTION file, which were a higher priority, actually got done because they weren't invisible any more.

I'm still undecided about what to work on for my writing. Guess I'll decide tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, make it a good week. 

Check out what others are doing for A Round of Words in 80 Days either HERE or on Facebook.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

ROW80 Sunday Check-in: Hail? Gotta love spring.

Just sitting down to my computer this lazy Mother's Day Sunday to check-in for Row80 with a nice cup of peppermint tea. Outside, a green, but cloudy spring day. And then those clouds opened up. and a steady stream of ice chunks hit the ground.

What happened last week? Well, a little extra babysitting of the grands as their Mommy was away at a conference all week, and a doctor visit, so a few distractions. But some work got done!

--Added 2,200 words to that novella in progress. Took working synopsis to writers' group and so appreciated their feedback on character arcs and conflict.
--Wrote a blog post on my writing blog with a little more about the novella.
--Finished that beta read and sent comments.
--Read only 2 other blogs. Sigh. Big improvement needed here.
--Swam 1x and walked 4x.
--Didn't work on marketing much. No reading and no organizing. 
--Did work on the newsletter and MailChimp. Still don't quite know how to attach a PDF to a newsletter through MailChimp. 
--Did play around with a marketing meme, using PowerPoint. What do you think? Not sure green works. Anything missing? Too many font changes? I'll add the link to Amazon once the book is available online later this summer.

What's on for next week? Maybe a little more progress next week as the calendar looks pretty clear. 

--Another 1,000 words on the novella?
--Send newsletter by May 20.
--Read a book by an indie writer and review.
--Read other ROW80 writers x6.
--Finish organizing that marketing material/research into a REAL PLAN.

I'm having fun working through Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake for the novella. I'm at the writing-character-sketches stage now (Step 5), and little bits of dialogue are coming through. For example, Dylan will say somewhere: “Ah, Moira, my heart. If you had only told me, I would have taken you with me.”

Novella's working title: "The Island Wife." What do you think? If most of the action takes place in Inverness and Edinburgh, how could I call it "The Island Wife"?

Make it a good week. Check out what others are doing for A Round of Words in 80 Days either HERE or on Facebook.

Four-and-a-half years old!
The two-year-old!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

ROW80 Catchup and a Freebie!

Today's the day that Annette Drake's cozy mystery BUILDING CELEBRATION HOUSE is up for free on Amazon. 

Why not hop on over and grab your copy? This well-written book plumbs a rare topic -- the relationship between two stubborn sisters. And that's against the backdrop of an antebellum Southern mansion and a few ghosts.

Now on to reporting for ROW80. Well, this week has been one of accomplishment! Only some writing, but I finished a queen-sized quilt (will post pic later . . . as this one is a surprise). 

I did make really good progress on mastering MailChimp's newsletter templates, and my novella is about 1,000 words richer. With the hero from Ireland, I have an excuse to do a little research.

A few tweets later, and I met online two writers who write historical fiction. Both look fascinating. Margaret Pinard and Elizabeth Bell. Current reading? Sara Donati, Into the Wilderness, and a chapter from Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday.

Perseverance furthers. That and a good cup of coffee have seen me through a hectic week.

What is ROW80? A Round of Words in 80 Days wherein participating writers check in twice a week (most times) to let others know our goals, progress, and to share what's going on. Go HERE to read what others are doing or HERE on FaceBook.

I'll conclude by saying I'm very grateful for all the comforts we take for granted today, compared to the average person in the 19th Century. May you cherish your warm bed, fresh food from the refrigerator, and antibiotics (when needed)!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

ROW80: How about a rant?

It's time for the Sunday check-in for ROW80. We're supposed to report how we've done on our goals for the week and celebrate those little victories that make all else possible.

Except I just want to rant about what I don't know and need to know and haven't figured out yet. It's the end of the month with new deadlines and goals . . . and I'm so not done with April.

To the good: Got a major start on the current quilt (I balance writing with quilting so I don't sit down too long). Cleared out all those e-mails from 300 to under 100. Still too much I want to read. Wrote the article on podcasting for Spokane Authors. 

Really exciting? I finished a prequel to Standing Stones (short, just 8 pages) to use as a giveaway for people who sign up for my newsletter. This gives me more breathing room to work on the novella (sequel).

What's driving me bonkers? I can't figure out how to design a form on MailChimp that looks better than a big blue box for people to use when they signup for my newsletter. And I can't figure out how to automate the sending of that new Prequel PDF. 

Any other progress? Slower than I want to be on reading those marketing books. A writer sent me 68 pages for a beta review. Did read ROW80 posts by others x6 this week. And I'm making slow progress on my marketing/launch timeline/plan. 

Did add 1,800 words this week to that sequel, tentatively named The Island Wife. Fun to discover that in Standing Stones, Dylan went off to Inverness and then Edinburgh. Here I am, gnashing my teeth, for I wanted him to be closer to Inverness. Then I discovered the railway where he got hired as a 'navvy' (short for navigator) ran from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Hah! Still looking for research that talks more in depth about working conditions (not good) on those Scottish railroads in the 1840s, if you happen to know a title.

What's not done: Would love to have a concise and clear set of objectives for May. Maybe that's my goal for this coming Wednesday's check-in!

Do you want to sign up for my newsletter and let me know what you think of the thank you prequel? I'm taking it to writer's group on Weds and would love to have your feedback.

Meanwhile, spring has finally sprouted here in the Inland Northwest. Cherry blossoms, tulips, and beautifully green willow trees. 

Source: Bustle

May your writing -- and all else -- go well in the coming week. Check out what ROW80 writers are doing HERE and on FaceBook HERE . Why not join in?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

ROW80 Weds check-in: Spring showers but no tears.

My readers have been asking: "What happened to Moira and Dylan after Standing Stones ended?" So most of my writing work so far this week has been diving into that story. The goal? A novella that tells the rest of their story and that can serve as a giveaway. 

Usually my stories run away and wind up being three-year projects, with tons of research. And while I am looking into the fates of railroad workers in the 1840s on the Edinburgh/Glasgow line, my first step was to reread those parts in Standing Stones and start building character sketches, summaries, conflicts, and, yes, I'm using Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method. Maybe I can just tell a little story this time. Not ready to count words, but I've got a running start on plotting.

Round 2, Week 3: Updates on this week’s goals:

--WRITING: Setting aside Rivers of Stone for next two weeks (taking a break while beta readers work). 

--BLOGGING: Writing blog 1x/week, ROW80 2x/week. On schedule.

--MARKETING: No tangible progress, but I am reading and planning. Read another chapter in Bell's book, Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing. Very impressed by Jen Blood's setup to entice readers to sign up for her newsletter. She embedded her freebie 'magnet' right in the opening of her Kindle book. So I'm also reading her gritty dog story, The Darkest Thread. Use the 'look inside' feature to check out her beautiful images. Her book is still listed as free as of this morning.

--ONLINE COMMUNITIES: Read ROW80/IWSG: minimum of 6x/week. So far, only read 2x.

--DECLUTTER/OTHER: Get E-mail under 200. Ouch. Right now those unreads are 285. Maybe by Sunday. 

HELP WANTED: Does anyone know about Kickstarter and how it might help an author? This is for a writer I respect. Any suggestions at all will be helpful.

And that's it for a late check-in. Finished a comfort quilt last night instead, a lovely blending of simple purple blocks with a nice flannel backing to keep legs warm. 

Quilting is kind of like writing, you know. Start with a block or two, persevere, and you have something to give away! 

Check out what other ROW80 writers are doing HERE or on our Facebook page. Why not join in?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday ROW80: Poised to leap!

Sunday morning. First cherry blossom on just one branch outside my window. Buds beginning to unfold into leaves. I feel as if I'm poised to leap -- into something entirely different, my own season of change.

Maybe my reaction is inspired by this morning's e-mail from one of my beta readers that challenges me to rethink the opening chapter, and I'm a little afraid to dive in too soon. Poised to leap . . . and yet, not ready. But I can make a list of goals for the coming week.

Round 2, Week 3: This week’s goals:

--WRITING: Work on revisions from betas for Rivers of Stone -- after taking this week off. Draft supplemental materials (map, afterword, review list of characters, bibliography). Draft ideas for prequel, sequel (giveaway for newsletter subscribers). Plan newsletter schedule and contents.

--BLOGGING: Writing blog 1x/week, ROW80 2x/week. 

--MARKETING:  1) Map out events for June launch (party, promotions, readings, book clubs). 2) Request early reviews. 3) Review ACX resources on how to market audio books. 4) Amazon: Set up pre-order? 5) Continue to experiment and evaluate different ways to market my books.

--READING: 3 more chapters in James Scott Bell, Marketing for People Who Hate Marketing. Write 1 review/month of indie author.

ONLINE COMMUNITIES: Read ROW80/IWSG: minimum of 6x/week. Discussion of Chapter by Chapter begins May 17 on GoodReads. Rethink how I participate in GoodReads and Twitter.

DECLUTTER/OTHER: Get E-mail under 200. Write narrator for audio book, Years of Stone. Send Mike Faricy thank you note because he modeled how to interact with readers. Quilt. 

What about last week? Lots of last week's goals turned to blue -- Done! Including that big one of sending out Rivers of Stone to those beta readers. So I'm trying to look forward, analyze, prepare, and map out what's next. Those goals highlighted in bold above will be my priority in the coming week. I hope.

Resource for blogging? John Fox at BookFox wrote "50 Good Questions to Ask an Author" -- on the premise that many questions are used over and over. I'm not quite ready to think about author interviews, but his first question prompted a post on my own Writing Blog: John asked, "What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?" I want to say -- so many!

Check out what other ROW80 writers are doing HERE or on Facebook HERE. And have a great week!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ROW80 Weds Check-in: Celebrate Spring!

The yellow-headed blackbirds have arrived. We had our first sighting today as we walked by the wetlands near our apartment. Lovely. Now we can watch as the yellow-heads fight with the red-winged blackbirds over who controls the pond. Ah, control issues in nature?

This week has been fairly intense so far, with two marketing promotions I was (note was) quite excited about. One through Amazon for Sponsored Product (4,300 impressions, 3 clicks, cost $0.42), and the other through Google Express ads (42,000 impressions, 25 clicks, cost after 5 days, $7.20). No Kindle or paperback sales for either promotion. 

So, my question remains: How do I increase visibility without sounding like a door-to-door sales person? So much advice. So many choices. That's why I'm reading James Scott Bell this week and next.

My writing buddy, Annette Drake, published a lovely cozy story about a woman who decides to refurbish an antebellum mansion in Missouri (my grandfather grew up there and always called Missouri, miz-rey before he ran away to Wyoming to become a cowboy). 

Building Celebration House features a few ghosts and is informed with neat details drawn from nursing, Civil War buffs, and an insider's view of how to run an event center. But, her book is invisible. For certain readers who love cozy stories about strong women, this book shouldn't be invisible. 

So we're going to continue to scrutinize various marketing ploys to see what works (and I'll share info here). By the way, kudos to Annette, as BookBub just approved her promotion for May 7.

Now, here's the progress for Week 2 through Weds:

RED = top priorityGreen = in progress, and Blue = Done, Done, Done!

Wish I had better news to report, but there's still the rest of the week to go. My favorite quote this week (so far): "Writer's block is an indication of a larger plot or story structure issue -- step back and reevaluate." Brian Mercer

Check out what other ROW80 writers are doing HERE or on Facebook HERE. And have a great week!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

ROW80: Sunday check-in Celebration

That new cover came in for Rivers of Stone. early this Friday morning. You know I was excited and happy. It took courage to say, "Yes, I will finish the book, so it's time to order the cover." And Angie has changed her process a bit, so I had to select the cover image. 

The new cover matches the overall design of Books 1 and 2 in my series (scroll down to see covers on the right side of this page to see if you agree). 

I love the way the wilderness of the 1840s is reflected in this pic of the Athabasca River in the Canadian Rockies. Angie Zambrano of has done a wonderful job on all three of my covers.

That new cover was just the inspiration I needed to send out my first author newsletter in two years. Have you signed up for my newsletter? I can promise it will not be sent out very often! Click HERE if you'd like to receive that very occasional alert about new releases, giveaways, etc.

Any challenges? I still have maybe another week of revising to do before Rivers of Stone is ready for my beta readers. Goal? To send final copy to beta readers no later than May 1.

RED = top priority, Green = in progress, and Blue = Done, Done, Done!

Other challenges? If I'm to keep to schedule and launch by late June (for summer reading marathons), I've got a lot of wrap-around work to do as an indie writer (publishing, marketing plan and media kit, schedule, and launch party). 

My F2F writing group (thank you, Annette, Sandy, and Sue), has been wonderful with critical feedback that keeps me focused through these final edits -- at least until beta comments come back.

Is the rest of my life in balance? Well, that dratted cold is finally gone. I'm resuming exercise (swimming 3x/week), and still quilting. Daily walks bring the smells of spring close. Today we saw hyacinths and tulips and early azaleas.

Looks like ROW80 on Facebook will take off with a few more activities. Check out what we're up on Facebook or on ROW80's website and consider joining in -- if you haven't already. 

Make it a good week, one day at a time. Oh, yes, and take time to smell those spring flowers.

May is the time of Lilacs (Manito Park 2016)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

ROW80: Wednesday Already?

Time to check in already? This will definitely be short and sweet. Got a few things done, but that darn list is getting longer. I'm  hoping to see better progress by Sunday. 

Monday's surprise was a five-minute flurry of snow. In April?? Here's today's update:

  • I feel like I'm holding my breath, waiting for the new cover to come in. Due date: this Friday.  
  • The Amazon Sponsored Ad (ends tomorrow) was an interesting experiment. Over 4,000 impressions (where my little ad appeared), but only 2 clicks through for a total cost of .25c. No actual sales, though the final data will come in about 3 days after the ad ends. I did like the reporting system.
  • Two ideas found online on ways to reach readers: Post random chapters from your books right on your blog.Offer a novella or short story when readers sign up for your newsletter. That's a good idea, though I don't have a novella exactly right now. Maybe that's what I can work on while waiting for those beta comments.
Have a great week! Check out what other ROW80 writers are doing this week HERE or on FaceBook HERE

And here's a meme for writers from Sandy Brown Jensen, posted on Flickr back in 2014:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Row80: Sunday, Sunny Sunday

Good morning, ROW80. Since revamping how I track weekly goals last Weds to show priority and status by color, checking in for  ROW80's 2x weekly posts is much, much easier. 

My schedule-at-a-glance: 

Now, right under this weekly schedule, I add weekly goals (RED = high priority/not done yet, GREEN = in progress, and BLUE = Done). Each day, I also add a summary of what's going on (notes, questions, etc.). Here is this week's progress: 
This week, I'm most excited that all 4 beta readers (writers I know and trust) have responded with a "Yes!" Somehow, keeping those weekly goals right in front of me enabled me to work on those marketing action steps that tend to fall to the bottom of the list.

About the new cover. I'd like to have a face on the cover since the characters move the story -- but, covers that feature people in varying states of dress or missing body parts (you know, the body of a woman in a revealing gown with her head cut off), lean to romantic historical fiction. 

Covers for fiction by writers like Rutherfurd and Follett tend to show historical scenes on their covers, rather than people.  

So I've asked for a cover that will fit in with Books 1-2 (see right sidebar). But just maybe, by the end of the year, I'm thinking new covers for a boxed set that will feature the main characters for all three books.  

What do you think of this strategy?

And that's the news this Sunday. A new week beckons with potential, deadlines, goals, and writing. Mike Faricy continues to inspire me to rethink that newsletter and how to reach out to readers. Expect more progress this week on that newsletter!  OK, have YOU signed up for my newsletter?

May you have a good week.

Heartfelt thanks to Eden and Shan Jeniah for all the work they do behind the scenes to make ROW80 happen. Join in (if you haven't yet), and check out what other ROW80 writers are doing this week HERE or on FaceBook HERE.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

ROW80: Wedsnesday maybe?

I always feel a bit rushed by reporting in to ROW80 on Wednesdays, but maybe I just need a slightly different system. 
So, here goes. 

I keep a Daily Work Log to track writing progress, etc. Now, I'm adding a Weekly goals list. Here's this week's schedule and weekly goals list. I post a daily journal entry underneath.
Here, red means I really want to complete this action step.

Meanwhile, I'm still celebrating being ready to send off Rivers of Stone to beta readers and starting on the copyediting (book blurb, cover, ad copy). Wrote about this for IWSG's monthly post on my writing blog HERE.

The other exciting step I'm taking this week (and the rest of this month) is experimenting with online ads. A writing friend will post her FaceBook ad this month and will report her results. I'm running a ten-day 'Key Word Sponsored' ad through Amazon. Stats lag by three days, so we'll see how the overall promotion goes. But as I did research, I discovered Google Express Ads and learned I can target by location -- anywhere in the world! That opens a new promotion for Years of Stone set in Australia, but I want to run only ONE promo at a time so I can see what works.  

My F2F writing group only meets 2x this month instead of weekly. I learn from their wip as well as their comments and the simple process of reading aloud. I'll take the last chapter of ROS next time we meet.

For inspiration? My dear hubby showed me the opening lines of the book he's currently reading. Michael Chabon's Moonglow. He does that when he's truly hooked. Now, so am I, though I'm more likely to read Patricia Cornwell's Blow Fly (on my towering TBR pile).

Another bit of inspiration came this week from Mike Faricy, author of the very gritty Bobby Custer (amoral attorney at large), novels. I wrote him about the books and received a very nice personal e-mail back. So I joined his newsletter. Wow! That first newsletter was so personal and fun that it made me rethink what I write about on my blog AND in my own newsletters. So, inspiration can arrive when least expected.

And that's the news this Weds from the wilds of Spokane. May you have a good week. Check out what other ROW80 writers are doing this week HERE or on FaceBook HERE

Sunday, April 2, 2017

ROW80: Spring has sprung!

Each morning begins with writing. Now it's Sunday night after a sunny, warmish day. For those intrepid followers of ROW80, the online writing community that knows we writers have a life, we're on to Round 2. 

First, set goals that are measurable, then report in twice weekly. 

My ROUND 02 goals (so far):

  • WRITING: Write 6x/week on current project, Rivers of Stone (1840s historical fiction set in Canada). Send beta out x2 by April 30. Meet weekly w/writers' group. Work on ROS book blurb and cover. Begin to draft wrap around materials (afterword, notes, bibliography?, and links). Overall goal: Publish Rivers of Stone by the end of summer.
  • MARKETING: Jump start that marketing plan and media kit. Complete 2-3 action steps each week. Send newsletter by April 15. 
  • BLOGGING: Post ROW80/weekly on Sunday, Writing blog weekly, and IWSG on Weds, April 5. 
PROGRESS March 27-April 2:
  • WRITING: Actually finished revisions of Rivers of Stone. Now reworking those crucial last three chapters. Just once more. Key question: Does the ending tie together all those loose threads? Will it satisfy the readers?
  • MARKETING: Listened to Joanna Penn's weekly podcast on Amazon marketing. Took LOTS of notes. Began researching key words in my genre. Working my way through Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart's Building a Book Marketing Plan for Authors (
  • BLOGGING: So far, so good. Some notes for IWSG already. I decided not to participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year . . . because I want to focus on my primary writing goals.
Now here's the real deal: Being a part of A Round of Words in 80 Days keeps me focused and motivated. Schedules help. Positive self-talk helps. Digging into my work critically and figuring out what needs to be done next is woven throughout ROW80. Thank you for reading, writing, participating, and for those words of encouragement. Sometimes my best lessons come from your own honest assessment of what's going on with your writing!

May Round 2 be good to you all!

OK, just maybe I'm past editing, revising, and
editing and editing that first draft . . .

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ROW80: Happy dance at home!

Today's Sunday and time to check in for A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. We're supposed to be taking a break between the first round of 80 words and the second, with no more check-ins until April 2, but I'm checking in each Sunday. Because IF I stop, I truly do stop!

I'm doing that happy dance because (ta-da) I'm finally healthy again. After being nasty sick for over 4 weeks, the life force has returned. I leap out of bed and can get stuff DONE. Yippee. OK, ok, so sometimes in the afternoon, there's a little slump. But mostly, I'm back, still sipping hot tea to ease that lingering tickle in the throat.

More good news. I finished revising Section 04 (32K words), and Section 05 of Rivers of Stone, the last section has only 9K words. This means no more (fictional) facing white water or plodding through snow, as my characters come down the Great Columbia River to Fort Vancouver and the end of the story!

First sight of Mount Hood on the Columbia River
(called Mount Timm in 1846)
Painting by James Everett Stuart (Artnet)

Progress this week:

  • Revision: 13 chapters this week; added 1,173 words.
  • Marketing: Updated photo on all platforms. Handed out bookmarks.
  • Other: Finished a scrappy comfort quilt, met with writers' group, walked x3. Almost ready to resume swimming.
Goals for the coming week:
  • Begin last section, Rivers of Stone.
  • Marketing: Persevere with one more step.
  • Other: Work on Leah's recipes, quilting, meet w/writers' group. And swim!
May you ALL have a great week!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

ROW80: Sunday check-in at home

Today's Sunday. Time to check-in for ROW80, A Round of Words in 80 Days. 

My sister called this afternoon. It's 92 F in Tucson, quite a lovely comparison to Spokane's 37 F this morning. Guess we got a high of 54 F today. Not too bad for closing in on spring. Here's a pic of the wetlands near our house. Yep, that's snow on the ground, but I did see a few red-winged blackbirds.

We're still exhausted from our trip, still recovering from colds, but I did get a little more done this week (including mopping the kitchen floor). 

  • Wrote 1,600 words this week, revising and writing. Got some research done as well to resolve some dratted questions. It's summer, 1846, and Cat is slogging through mosquito-infested plains, somewhere south of Winnipeg.
  • Reviewed marketing materials and goals: 3 hours.
  • Wanted to resume exercise 3x this week. Walked 30 min/2x.
  • Completed promo for Spokane Authors.
  • Highlight: Met with writing group for the first time for wonderful, critical feedback.
  • Shelved Quilt Fiesta article as it's simply too bland.
For the week ahead, still keeping it simple as I seem to run out of stamina each day, especially in the afternoon, so more writing, more work on marketing, and that's about it!

I hope all you writers are working hard, meeting your goals, and enjoying each day. Thank you, Eden and Shan, for continuing to keep us organized! Check out what we're up to (or join in) on Facebook HERE or at our website LINKY HERE. And have a great week!

Upper Fort Garry on the Red River, now Winnipeg
Catriona arrives here August, 1846
That stone wall is 15' high!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

ROW80: Home, Sweet Home (more or less)

Yes, we drove a thousand miles home, arriving exhausted on Friday, March 3, just a little over a week ago. Nasty colds slowed us down considerably, but finally, I'm picking up the pieces, the car is unpacked, and I've resumed writing.

Though I only wrote a little over 500 words this week, today's big achievement was learning that Gurlay died of measles, not the smallpox. Did you know that one virulent strain of the measles affected the lungs and circulation, turning the victim's fingers and toes blue? But my heroine is finally off the Plains and just about back on the Saskatchewan brigade heading west from Norway House.

Goals for the coming week remain relatively unchanged: Write 1,000 words to finish Section 04. Other goals: Don't quite know if I have the stamina but before next Sunday: 

  • Meet with writing group this Weds.
  • Work on one marketing activity this week.
  • Resume exercise x3/week.
  • Draft promo for Spokane Authors' April meeting.
  • Finish article on Quilt Fiesta.
I'm pretty excited about quilting again and started my first machine applique . . . a Row by Row pattern of Cape Fidalgo and Mount Baker. Here's a snippet.

Quilt in progress March 2017

It's also great to be back in my own kitchen. Made a broccoli quiche last week and will try a mushroom one this week. Have a great week, everyone, and I hope you are grateful for your health, stamina, family, friends, and -- the joy of writing!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ROW80: Weds check-in Somewhere north of Stockton . . .

Maybe life has returned to "normal" as I'm checking in on both Sunday and Wednesday. Thank you, Shan Jeniah, for double-posting the check-in link at the linky AND on FB.

ROW80 Progress/Goals for Week 8:
  1. Wrote 1,009 words since Monday 2/27. Now editing Chapter 5  (Section 4). These revisions are coming too easily, making me doubt myself. Ah well, maybe I could call this a first draft revision and just keep moving forward! 
  2. Plan to write monthly blog post for Insecure Writers Support Group due today. Optional March question: Have you ever pulled out an old story and reworked it? How did that turn out?
  3. Need to finish article for Country Register.
  4. Read at least 6x for ROW80 and IWSG. So far read 2x.
Snippet from today's writing -- just for fun as Cat continues disguised as a boy on her journey from the Plains to Norway House in 1846. Cat, left behind with an ailing guide, Gourley while Canadian artist Paul Kane goes for help, was rescued by two men from the fort.

“Three days,” said Cat. “Somehow I kept Gourlay on the cart, and we headed north. I didn’t know if the wolves or the Sioux were going to get us, and then we got to the Stinking River. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to cross with him in the cart.”

“No river had a better name.”

Cat kept talking, as if she couldn’t believe she was with people again. “Mosquitoes everywhere. All muddy. No place to sleep. Our horse kept getting stuck in the mud.  I’m grateful you kept looking for us.”

The other man, a constable in a gray coat, pointed back at the river. “Kane told us he got lost out here in the mud, almost had to shoot his horse. Lucky for you he found the fort.”

Yeah, lucky for me, thought Cat. I might just shoot him myself.

May the rest of Week 8 go well for all ROW80 writers. We're still driving north, with over 1,000 miles to go. Our mantra, "What else could go wrong?" This morning, I woke with a bad cold.

Passed near Joshua Tree National Park yesterday, through the Tehachapi Mountains at 70+ mph, lots of traffic on the freeways, no one follows the posted speed limit, but we then dropped into the beautiful, rolling hills of the Great California Valley, highlighted by fields of flowering, sweet-smelling almond trees.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

ROW80: Last Day in Yuma

Still feeling weak and slow to recover from that illness earlier this week, but today's check-in has me reporting steady progress.

I really enjoyed reading Lisa Ann Verge, Heaven in His Arms, an engaging historical romance set in Canada about 200 years before my story. 

What drew me into the story was her deft and sensual descriptions of history and culture. I can work more on this skill in my own writing by reminding me to slow down to recount sense-based description that captures what my characters are seeing and feeling.

But here's a question: I tend to sidestep the erotic. My characters may kiss, but when they go to bed, I draw the curtain. Verge takes us very close to the intimacy characters share. I've never written any truly erotic scenes. How do you handle how much 'heat' to add to your story?

ROW80 Progress Week 8: 

1. Wrote 1,139 words. Now editing Chaps 4-6 (Section 4).
2. Posted promo for Spokane Authors March 2 meeting.
3. Some quilting, but not enough to consider this real progress.
4. Drafted part of article for Country Register

Have a great week. I'm hoping for good energy for us all and lots of words in the coming week. 

My goals are simple as we move to Week 8: Write at least 1,000 words and continue to edit/revise Section 4 of Rivers of Stone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ROW80: Checking in from Yuma

Life on the road, a writer's dream. We had that romantic vision when we started out. Time to explore new settings and make progress on the current wip while deciding each day where we'd go on this nomadic trip south.

Well, we hit snow on the way south from Washington State. Then a hairy rainstorm down the coast of California. Then came news that Allen's mother died. We left our car in Phoenix and flew to Philadelphia for a family celebration/memorial. Two weeks later, we flew back to Phoenix to pick up the car and ended up driving to Tucson the very next day for a family birthday/reunion.

We said farewell to my sister in Tucson on Saturday and began the 300+ mile drive to Yuma, mostly because we've never been here before. 

So I should have good writing progress to report. I picked up some food poisoning somewhere along the way, and the last three days have been a blur, so much that I haven't opened the laptop for the last three days. Does that sound repetitive? Even yesterday, I was walking around like an old lady. But I am an old lady! It's just I usually have lots of stamina. Slowing down only slightly. A humbling experience, hinting at challenges to come.

Sadly, dear hubby finished off my Dr. Pepper and followed me into that semi-coma state of painful slumber interrupted by frequent bathroom breaks. Yuck! But don't feel too sorry. For we are finally in Yuma at La Fuentes Inn for another four days . . . and this is our view (today's high 73F):

La Fuentes Inn, Yuma, Arizona
So one of our goals has been achieved. We are out of the snow zone for sure, more than a little wobbly, but ready to lie around the pool and stare at those palm trees.

Progress this week. Yes, I cracked my current goal of 1,000 words/week (if I count from before I got sick, this being the first day back), and I'm working on reorganizing Chapters 2-9. Made some breakthroughs on sequencing this section (using scaffolding and freewriting). A little snippet from Cat's bison hunt and how she meets Canadian artist, Paul Kane (1846).
Cat and Jacob made their way up a small rise to watch the buffalo hunters. Just ahead Cat spotted that skinny artist, his rifle at the ready, taking aim at a great beast, the herd thundering around him. Cat and Jacob held their ponies still as Kane took his shot, stunning the buffalo to a standstill. 

Kane leaped off his horse and knelt, with sketchbook propped on his lap. What was he doing on the ground? thought Cat. 

Suddenly, the buffalo roused itself and charged Kane.
For the coming week, I'm not ambitious.

1. Another 1,000 words. Write 5 of 7 days.
2. Post promo for Spokane Authors today.
3. Do a little recreational quilting.

So this week, I'm also thinking about what a reading group said about my stories. They like the stories and the characters very much and want more (not realizing it takes me about 3 years for each book, and it seems a slow journey). But they said my stories have a dark side, and they didn't always like that. I'm not sure what to make of this comment. Most of my stories revolve around the theme of survival under difficult situations -- as we all face. In various forms. I personally don't like conflict at all, but I hope my characters fight back. When needed.

And that's all folks. Have a great week of adventure and writing as we wend our way forward.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

ROW80: Back in Arizona

Two pretty hard weeks in Philadelphia. This morning, jet lagged in Phoenix. Family dinner tonight in Tucson. Between Tripadvisor and Trivago, I have no idea where we're sleeping tonight. So we'll hit the road in the next hour and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, back at the laptop, I've made final edits on 13 chapters, working 6 out of 7 days before everyone else was awake. Goal for the coming week:  finish final edits on 7 more chapters and start on Section 04. Yippee!!!

Fresh from Philadelphia (home of the Cheesesteak sandwich), I've picked up some wonderful recipes (Tortellini soup being my favorite) from Lynda, and we dragged Lynda and Gordy off to the Penn Museum of Archaeology (another favorite) before saying goodbye. 

For now, good memories ease the way forward. May your writing and all else go well in the coming week.

Carved, covered food dish, Zambia
Penn Museum of Archaeology

Sunday, February 5, 2017

ROW80: Sunday Check-in from Philadelphia

Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Sometimes we delve into these kinds of issues in our writing. Sometimes we live through them with our families. 

This week, we said goodbye to a generous, stubborn matriarch of our family. At 96, she influenced generations of kids, grandkids, and great-grands. She knew about each one and cared about their interests, whether soccer or stamp-collecting. She cooked family dinners of five courses, pulling gourmet soups and entrees out of her freezer at the last moment. She stopped driving 6 months ago, following years of protests. Now, she remains with us in memory.

So, not much writing got done this week. We're in Philadelphia for another week. I can only report the outlining for Section 03 is complete. Despite having added about 1,500 words last week, the coming week looks sparse, for I'm now working on the last minor edits for Section 03 (20 chapters). This outlining process showed me more clearly where plot/conflict lines need strengthening and where minor characters can be clarified and/or combined.

It's been a long week. 

One very nice aspect of writing on the road is that all seems simplified, reduced to essentials. The laptop. A card table. An empty apartment. A lovely winter view of the woods. And so I will work in the quiet mornings. May your own writing go well.

Joshua Tree National Park (January 2017)

Monday, January 30, 2017

ROW80 Update: Ooops! We're in Philadelphia.

I know change is constant, but still am unprepared. This week's update for ROW80, A Round of Words in 80 Days, that online writing community that recognizes we all have a life and yet persevere as writers . . .  this week's update is a bit of a challenge.

We're not in Arizona. My DH's mother is dying. We're now in Philadelphia for the next few weeks. Thanks to the kindness of dear friends, we have a temporary and quiet apartment. Unfurnished except for bed, card table, and chair. But that's OK. Last night I slept by my MIL, listening to her breathe and hoping she will not suffer.

So to report on the writing when all else is fragmented is difficult. Even though my laptop is balanced on that card table with an early morning lovely park view, I'm not writing just now. With the month soon ending, I can only report that:

  1. Section 03 is now complete for Rivers of Stone. I need to outline it before moving on to Section 04 revisions. Does anyone else outline AFTER writing? I've tried to 'scaffold' and that works, but a more complete outline for me just needs constant change as I revise drastically.
  2. I'm doing a little better in reading what other ROW80 folks write, just not since we left Arizona.
  3. Maybe this month I won't get to blog for IWSG.
My MIL always said, "When are you finishing that next book, Beth. I want to read it." 

At 97, she knows the value of tenacity. Some call it stubbornness, for mixed with her love of family, she was not always easy to live with. After decades, finally, I forgive her and will keep writing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

ROW80 Sunday update: By the numbers

We're on the road, moving from California into Arizona in the coming week. You can see a few pics on my travel blog.

Keeping a writing routine while on the road presents a few challenges. So far, I've learned I can only drive about 2 hours a day before collapsing at night. Writing before breakfast seems to work. 

Another surprise this week: Some revisions and new scenes crossed several chapters, so I'm working to tighten the structure of this section -- and to develop further Cat's emotional responses to what's happening around her. This was fun. 

Progress on January goals:
  1. Write 5/7 days. Goal: 1,000 words/week. Finish Section 03 Rivers of Stone this month. Week 3 met goals: Wrote 6/7 days, 1,589 words. 4 chapters remain in Section 03. I just might make this goal. Sent Chapter 15 to writing group & got wonderful comments back. Critted their work as well.
  2. Blog at least 2x/week. Week 3 met goals: Blogged 2x Travel blog and 1x ROW80 blog. Would like to blog on Writing blog.
  3. Reading other ROW80 posts. No goal set. Read x4 this week. If I read a minimum of 1/day, that's 7 per week. Want to read IWSG posts as well.
  4. Other writing. None. Decided Rivers of Stone is the primary focus. This means articles and Granny Vampire are set aside.
  5. Marketing. None. Still tiptoeing around sending out that next 'quarterly' newsletter.
Goals for last week of January:
  1. Write 5/7 days. Goal: 1,000 words/week. Finish Section 03 Rivers of Stone this month. 
  2. Blog at least 2x/week.
  3. Read at least 7 other ROW80/IWSG posts.
  4. Participate with my F2F writing group by e-mail!
When the writing is going well, I feel pretty much isolated from all else that's going on, as if I'm in a bubble, back in the 19th Century, struggling with snow storms rather than political storms. As the new administration takes office, I'm hopeful for inclusive policies and willing to wait and see. 

Meanwhile, we write, revise, and work to reach our goals. May your week go well.

Joshua Trees in California (Cholla Chamber of Commerce)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

ROW80: Sunday morning and no snow!

Yesterday we drove through the coastal range to the Oregon coast on an exceptionally sunny day. Yes, there were patches of snow here and there, and it was 28F outside, but by the time we negotiated the last curve and reached the ocean, temps had warmed to the 40's and the snow disappeared.

We've now been one week on the road, enough for a rhythm to set in. I wake early, write/edit, then we scrounge breakfast. By 11, we're back on the road, neither of us feeling very leisurely until perhaps today, with glorious views of the ocean ahead as we continue south.

Today's report for A Round of Words in 80 Days is simple. 

While my goal is very modest, just 1,000 words a week, I'm editing -- which means taking out as many words as I'm putting in. If I count hours, I'm on schedule. Words this week? 699 new words (before today's session), but yesterday I deleted nearly 1,000. 

Perhaps this draft I'm working on is rather like the road we're traveling. Parts ahead are unknown and sometimes bumpy, but behind me, the way is smooth and known. But if I focus on word count alone, I do get discouraged. So I'm adding chapters (4 completed this week).

Writing goal for the coming week: Write/edit/add 1,000 words and/or 4 more chapters for this section (25 chapters) of Rivers of Stone. Post an update to ROW80 on Sunday. Blog at least once on the travel blog.

Staying active in ROW80 keeps me focused, thanks to seeing what others accomplish. So, persevere. I'm sitting in an anonymous hotel room, my computer balanced on a chair, nearly ready to go to work -- and sending wishes for a good week to all!

Coos Bay, Oregon (from

Sunday, January 8, 2017

ROW80: Checking in from on-the-road

What to take? What to leave behind? What is essential and what is really not?

These questions are why I really love going on the road. DH rattles the suitcase, and I say, "Yes!" 

We left yesterday from Spokane for an open-ended three month trip to someplace warmer. After about an hour on the road, the snow began. Just now we're holed up in a Super8 in Kennewick for an extra day. The snow has come down all day, travel advisories and closed roads mean we'll make our way south slowly.

But my computer travels beautifully.

Here's my update for ROW80:

  • Writing = 1,000 words/week. By this afternoon, 959 words, but I'm hoping for another session later today.
  • Other writing = None.
  • Blogging = Posted Insecure Writer's Support Group ("Writing is Like Quilting is like . . .") on time. Posted to Travel blog, "On the Road Again 2017" (this will be an ongoing project), and now ROW80 (still once a week for now). Read posts by other bloggers x5.
  • Marketing = Goals set but no progress.
One of the reasons I like to read what other writers are posting is simply I keep learning new strategies (and have renewed appreciation for what kinds of work writers do to reach their goals).

Shannon Lawrence, on her blog, "The Warrior Muse," not only talks about the question-of-the-month (writing rules) for Insecure Writer's Support Group, but she 'gives back' to her readers by listing possible markets (primarily science fiction) and by listing her own progress in submitting her work for publication. 

View outside our Super8
This is pretty inspirational to someone who is knee deep in revision, because I haven't even been thinking about or subbing flash/short fiction. Why not? 

Writing a little science fiction (Granny Vampire?) sounds like a welcome break from slogging through spring flooding near Winnipeg in the 1840s.

What do you think? Have you written outside your primary genre?

If you are not yet a part of ROW80 or Insecure Writers Support Group, why  not join in? Both are also Facebook-based. May your writing go well in 2017.