Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mid-Week Check-in and a Reveal . . .

One of the highlights this week has been seeing other ROW80 folks reveal their new covers, so just to share the excitement, here's my cover for Years of Stone, a tale of loss and redemption set in Van Diemen's Land, a prison colony 'beyond the seas'(present day Tasmania, just off the coast of Australia). I'm planning to self-pub this fall.

So, what do you think? The cover shown is front and back with book blurb, author info, and hopefully review info to be added to the back.

This color lithograph, Plate 6, "Hobart Town, from Kangaroo Point, Tasmania," now in the public domain, was created by Austrian Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901) and published in his Australian Landscapes, 1866-68. Guérard had traveled to Australia in search of gold.  

I wanted the cover to capture a sense of the times, 1840's, yet not so grim an image it would push readers away. I'm still not sure that the font is large enough to be read at thumbnail level, but after 6 hours of working with my graphic design friend who drove 440 miles to visit me, we were both happy. We're still dinking around with pica placement of the subtitle (moving that subtitle slightly to the left). but that's to be expected. What's really exciting is that we got this far, and this work sets the design template for all three books.

One strategy I used that may help you to test your cover: I searched for historical fiction in Amazon and 'read' covers for several hundred top selling books, copying the covers of those I liked into a temporary Word file so I could analyze the features that drew me. I analyzed images, colors, font size, readability at thumbnail size, and overall appeal. I didn't like covers with images that showed too much sex (wrong genre), cut people into sections (made them into objects, here, I'm talking about a man's body but not his head); or that were too busy.

For the other two covers, images have been selected, but I need to get copyright permission for one. Here's my progress on ROW80.

Progress on ROW80 goals so far this week:
1. Cherish each day.
2. Continue final read/edit for Standing Stones. Not this week . . . yet.
3. Work on marketing plan. Jotted a few ideas down. Requested 2 Beta reads/2 blurbs. Need more.
4. Write 5 sentences a day for Rivers of Stone. So far so good, 2 out of 2 days, 750 words + 30 pages of research.
5. Continue supporting ROW80 as sponsor to read 10x this week. Read 5x so far.
6. Continue the battle to reduce electronic clutter. Deleted 150 e-mails so far this week.
7. Exercise x3 this week. Yoga x3. 1x swimming. Lots of running around, but that doesn't count.
8. Catch up ALL of pending WSQ (quilting assn) public relations projects (program, psa, article, promo). Steady progress here with planning ad campaign and drafting articles.

May you reach ALL your goals this week!

Read a little more:
Eugene Von Guerards' Australian landscapes here and about his life here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One Step Forward . . .

Sunday: The day for planning the coming week (and recovering from last week). I'm feeling that bone weariness that comes from keeping my world propped together. You may have noticed I didn't post an update on last Wednesday. Rachel (no weight-bearing until October), bumped upstairs on her butt, and with walker and wheelchair, traveled off to the airport to visit family out of town. And now begins 4 days of respite. So last night, I'm up rather late, putting files in order, and getting ready to make each day count.

Real achievement this week: Poured the titles of my three historical novels in stone (oh, what a play on words) and worked on concept and artwork (can't show yet) for covers for all three. The titles are: 
  • Standing Stones, Book 1: Foulksay Island
  • Years of Stone, Book 2: Van Diemen's Land 
  • Rivers of Stone: Book 3: The Great Nor-West
Natalie, truly my best friend forever and graphics design expert, drove 440 miles each way to work with me for two days, and voila, we are both very happy.

The big goal around which all else revolves is e-pubbing Books 1 and 2 by my birthday, December 6.

So my writing time is fragmented between final read through on Book 1, beginning research on Book 3, and revamping a 'real' marketing plan which leads me to think about virtual book tours, blurbs, copyright issues, promotion, and platform. As my mother would say, "Ooofta!" 

ROW80 Goals for the coming week:

1. Cherish each day.
2. Continue final read/edit for Standing Stones.
3. Work on marketing plan.
4. Write 5 sentences a day for Rivers of Stone.

5. Continue supporting ROW80 as sponsor to read 10x this week.
6. Continue the battle to reduce electronic clutter. Deleted 600 e-mails so far.

7. Exercise x3 this week. Yoga x3. Might as well be optimistic.
8. Catch up ALL of pending WSQ (quilting assn) public relations projects (program, psa, article, promo).

Update on ROW 30 from last week:
Not sure I can write with all that's going on -- not even those 5 sentences, but I will try. I've read through 4 of 5 sections of Standing Stones and making progress on the final edit.  Not sure I can finish these edits by the end of Round 3. 

The blogging is interestingly nurturing this week. I posted a reaction to Rick Hanson's four kinds of peace -- which actually helped me feel a bit more at peace with what is. You can read it on my writing blog. This week's book review of Death Pans Out is on my writing blog as well. I did experiment with myguestblog this week and found the results a little impersonal, so I'll continue recruiting guest blogs -- but only from those I know.

Found several interesting articles this week online

Joel Friedlander talks about how to strengthen your "About You" on your blog. What's neat about this post is his link to 5 bloggers so you can see how content and format engage YOUR readers. Since our profiles appear in several places now (our blogs, GoodReads, amazon, and elsewhere), I'm going to revise.

Steven Woodfin at Venture Galleries reviews Book Blast and Kindle Books and Tips, services that for a fee promote your book. Interesting. Never would have considered this before I found Steven's article. Thinking about it now.
Road Sign near Inverness, Scotland (Camp 2009)

Question of the Day: The end of Round 3 approaches with the fall, September 18. My biggest challenge will be to persevere with the writing in spite of new 'day care' responsibilities for my dear daughter and granddaughter (14 months). Much of the time, I'm feeling scattered, as if time were precious (and it is), and I want to use it wisely. And so I shall try. 

How about you? What strategies do you follow to stay calm AND productive? I guess I'll be reading about this on your ROW80 updates!

And if you like my writing blog or travel blog, would you like to guest blog? Let's talk!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy dance . . . Happy dance . . .

Want to do the happy dance with me this time? I successfully uploaded The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales on Smashwords between last night and tonight -- with photos! This long-standing goal brings me just that much closer to publishing my historical fiction this fall. So, here's my gift to you for all your words of encouragement! 

ROW80 Thank you give-away! Here's your coupon for a free copy of The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales. Use coupon code GT23V today only, Sunday, September 18, on Smashwords. You don't have to write a review (unless you felt compelled to do so). This is really a simple, heart-felt thank you!

Goals for the coming week:

1. Cherish each day.
2. Continue the battle to reduce electronic clutter.
3. Work on research for Rivers of Stone.
4. Write 5 sentences a day for Rivers of Stone.
5. Continue final read for Standing Stones.
6. Work on covers with BFF graphic designer for all three books in McDonnell Saga series.
7. Exercise x3 this week. Yoga x3. Might as well be optimistic.

Anonymous Netsuke, e-bay
Daughter update: She's a little better each day, weaning herself off the pain meds. She liked the cauliflower-cheese soup I made (right out of Moosewood cookbook by Molly Katzen and only slightly adapted). She used the walker and the wheelchair to get out of the house to SuperCuts for a wash and buzz (first clean hair in 3 weeks, and I swear that girl's hair is 1/4 inch long). Temperatures now down in the 80s for the next several days, so all is well in Lake Woebegon this week.

May your writing go well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Weds check-in: Persevere . . . Persevere

What I'm celebrating this morning is that despite whatever else swirls around, I have been able to work this week on the writing. Instead of fretting, I have no extra time. I must jump right in. And so little tasks that might have been set aside cannot be ignored, and I'm making progress.

Of course, the larger question might be, "What is real progress?" If my daughter is a little better each day, that is progress for me. Yet, I can see my husband looking a bit more worn and know that this extra support is costing him, even as we both enjoy that added time with our granddaughter. And for sure, cooking has gone to the dogs. But philosophers would put it more eloquently. Change is constant. Be true to yourself. Persevere in making the life you desire. Every small step takes me closer.

So, once again, ROW80 to the rescue. Here's my progress on the goals for this week ending Sunday.

1. Write whatever pleases me.  So far that means I'm nearly done reading the 100-page instructions for Smashwords and making a checklist so I can use it before the month ends on converting The Mermaid Quilt to Smashwords. Ten chapters of Standing Stones read. One Micro-scene written for Rivers of Stone (400 words; goal 1,000 for the week).. Request for a beta reader out on Years of Stone. One travel blog post written (the most beautiful library in the world), short but a beautiful memory of a time in Buenos Aires.
2. Submit a story and a poem. OK, this one usually takes buckets of courage. Sent "Color Me Green" out. Hoping for a Yahoo! this time. Not quite ready with a poem. Can't be one I've posted online which makes this difficult as most poems are posted on the writing blog. Ephemeral.
3. Read and write reviews. Work on guest posting. Finished Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye in time to review for Friday. Next up: Ashna Graves, Death Pans Out and Gary Schanbacher, Crossing Purgatory. A little behind on talking with guests for posting (Sandy Jensen, Deniz Bevan), but some progress here
3. Continue commitment to ROW80 (post 2x and read 10x). So far so good. Read 9 others already and it's only Weds. Posting Weds and Sun. Some ROW80 folks as they write about their weekly challenges and accomplishments share hints on organizing or writing that continue to help me focus. 
4. Cherish each day. It's not so much that I'm cherishing the day, but knowing that each day brings me opportunities to appreciate the people I love and the time I have to write or quilt. Exercise has been a bit more difficult, though running up and down stairs counts! Last week, I swam twice. This week, not at all. So I must eat breakfast and leave in 20 minutes or I won't swim today!

Pueblo Quilt in progress.
Bountiful Blessings by Betty Ann Standiferd.
Hand applique, 3 blocks completed (Camp 2013)
Maybe I'm working on the surface this week, but even small steps forward keep me focused. The micro-scenes keep me dreaming about Rivers of Stone and the novel journal sits in a prominent place, saying, "I'm next!" "I'm next!"  Other ROW80 writers somehow balance many projects and persevere. What do you do when drastic events happen to change your routine? How do you keep writing?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday morning check-in . . .

Are my eyes bigger than my ability to complete my Round 2 Goals?

This week has passed in a blur as I race to keep up with a busy 14-month-old who's just beginning to walk. Occasionally Leda's jumble of words leads to something I understand. Instead of 'elephant,' she says something like, 'bell-bump". Yesterday, she said, "Gamma, don't go," so clearly.

Some early mornings and some nights, I can work on writing. I feel like I'm back to writing 'between' as I did when I was working full time.

But it's OK. Rachel cut back on her pain meds and can have a real conversation now. Her cast was changed on Thursday with the ankle repositioned at a sharper ankle, causing a bit more pain, so it's been a hard week for her. But she wants to learn how to applique to make a Tree of Life quilt. The girl has gumption.

Here are my ROW80 goals for the coming week. Because I'm not sure when I'm needed, this will be a very, very simple week:

1. Cherish each day.
2. Declutter my inbox.
3. Write whatever pleases me.
4. Continue commitment to ROW80 (post 2x and read 10x).
5. Submit a poem and a story.

I know that ROW80 asks us to be specific and accountable. Let's see how I do by Wednesday with these floating goals.

Re Goal 2: Removing electronic clutter is hard for me. Some of those old e-mails have such useful nuggets. Or I remember old friends. Family connections. But do I really need over 2,748 unread e-mails in my inbox? I've started by mastering the DELETE key. What are your strategies for keeping current with e-mail? Or do you hoard in folders?

After blogging all this time, I'm thinking about guest blogs and book reviews! Has anyone else ventured in this direction? I'd like to post at least once a week routinely on my travel blog and my writing blog. Not happening this week.

May your week go well!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

ROW80 Sunday time travel and check-in . . .

Inspired by Kim Switzer of Story Dam, I jumped right in and made a writing journal just for Rivers of Stone, the story that's nagging me to get started on research.

My first entry was about Paul Kane (see entry on my travel blog for background), an amazing artist who -- in 1846 -- travelled from Toronto to Fort Vancouver in Washington State, a journey of over 3,000 miles.

I've kept travel journals every time we go on a long trip, for notes and drawings and postcards along the way, but I wanted the cover to be evocative somehow of this new story. So I dug through my collection of postcards and this postcard, "Coastal Strata" by Gloria Loughman (2010), a quilted wall hanging, just appeared. Perfect!

And so the story begins with pictures that don't quite tell me who these characters are, but jottings and ideas are a beginning. And I changed a character name. Feisty Mary Margaret (oh, beyond tedious to type) becomes the more ethnically authentic Catriona -- Cat for short. I don't care if I have to go back and edit the two previous books. Cat, a minor character in Standing Stones, is infinitely more interesting, as she takes on pantaloons and gets hired on as a servant for the Hudson's Bay Company. She may wind up accompanying Paul Kane on his adventures. Don't know yet.

Questions:  Have you kept a 'novel journal'? What was most useful? How did you write it? Organize it? Use it through the writing process? Have you ever changed a character's name well into the story? Why?

Now for that ROW80 Check-in.
1. Write every day. Can't believe it. That commitment to writing 5 sentences led me to find time to write 4 days out of 6 (not counting today) and add 1,000 words. The Novel Notebook also pushed me to begin truly researching instead of thinking about it.
2. Participate in ROW80 and Story Dam. Check in ROW80 x 10. Not so good with this goal. Only 6 other entries read & commented. Persevere with this one. ROW80 is close to being the wind under my wings!
3. Continue exercising for mental health x 3. Really OK here with 2 water aerobics classes + plus a lovely walk in Manito Park of 20 minutes.

With the added care for my daughter, this has been a very intense week. I lost my camera AND a library book. I came home exhausted more nights than I can remember. But the good news is Rachel is a little better every day, and today we have an off day. So I cleaned out the car AND found both the library book and my camera. Hooray!

Kim Switzer on keeping a Novel Notebook and her blog MuseCraft.
My travel blog on Paul Kane.
More about Australian quilter Gloria Loughman
More about A Round of Words in 80 Days

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's Weds. No, it's Thursday . . .

I'd like to report good progress this week. That is, since my daughter's fall.

But despite the most elaborate planning, I've found I just don't have the stamina to reach all my goals. This last week has been exhausting, with long days. It's still a privilege to care for little Leda (now 13 months). Oh, but we are old!  

So, Weds check-in shall be easy.

1. Cherish each moment. UPDATE: Almost every moment! Leda slept in my arms for nearly 2 hours today.while Rachel went to the doctor again.
2. Do some writing every day. OK 2 out of 3 days, I did get some writing done.
3. Continue exercising for mental health x3. UPDATE: 2 out of 3 here as well.
4. Check in ROW80 x10. UDPATE: Only 3 so far this week. . . but the night is young.

What I gain from reading others is that sense that we all are making progress -- in some ways slower than others, but progress.

Other writing related: I'm not making any progress on getting The Mermaid Quilt ready for Smashwords. I did play around with a new wix-based website at so it's ready to go when Standing Stones and Years of Stone are published later this year. A friend is working up book covers. Everyone says, spent the $$$, but I have no budget for this. The words will have to suffice.

Joanna Penn says that the book cover MUST fit the genre. 

I need to lurk more on historical fiction sites -- not historical romance.

And it's time to request blurbs. I have two in progress. Should have more. No time, no time. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, I've begun a journey that leads to new places.

Maybe by Sunday, I'll have better progress to report, less whining, more energy. Maybe.