Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday night check-in

Surviving the week seems to be my main priority. Yesterday was a bit of a scare since Allen could not walk at all. Modern medicine to the rescue with a dash to a 24-hour pharmacy. This morning, he's much, much better. All that talk of being prepared for some day when our health is not what it could be seems so much rubbish. I can repeat the mantra: Cherish each day (and do), and work a little each day (I do), but yesterday certainly tested my stamina and hope.

Meanwhile, the end of ROW80's Round 3 rapidly approaches (Sept 25!!). On this morning's short walk, I heard a raven and spotted him at the top of a very tall pine. His calls followed me and then, whoosh, whoosh, he flew nearly overhead, his wings rowing through air, a last bird cry, and then he was gone, headed south on a long journey.

ROW80 update for the week:

Writing: Steady progress on the writing. Didn't make my goal of 1,500 words (no surprise), but I did write 890 words, continued editing and 'fixing' the sequence of scenes which still remain somewhat out of whack. Biggest accomplishment: Getting those darn articles off on deadline. Whew!

Blogging/reading: Inspired by several Row80 writers, I've made a commitment to set up a blog plan and posted my first post on travels in eastern Canada ("North to Cape Breton"), which is directly connected to research for the current wip, Rivers of Stone. So far, I'm pleased with what I'm learning, and have a tentative plan for the writing blog, but here's the sticking point: How do I know that readers will be interested in what I write? That's the self-doubt that a blogging plan should help me overcome, for I shall just follow the plan!

I'm about 60% done reading Grace Lee Nute's The Voyageur and learned many fascinating tidbits, including that voyageurs had bandy, underdeveloped legs with really strong upper bodies from all those hours of rowing canoes. By the 1840s, though, the fur trade business (and jobs for voyageurs) was shrinking (more top hats made of silk, not beaver), so more research lies ahead.

I'm also now wondering how to refer to native peoples as several characters will have an important part in this story. In the 1840s, indigenous peoples were simply called Indians or 'the people'. That doesn't seem quite right, even for historical fiction. I'll start with Cree, Algonquin, and Assiniboine cultures. Suggestions for terms, anyone?

Other: Two days at the hospital pre- and post- Allen's surgery led me to all kinds of unhealthy eating, no walking, and rather high blood sugars. Maybe like Allen, I will improve! For the coming week, I'll work a bit more on marketing, lots more on writing, and keep current with commitments to writing communities (face-to-face and online).

May your week go well.

Favorite picture of the week comes from Jeffrey, my sister's boyfriend, who happens to be a wonderful photographer!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ROW80 check-in: A bit of maybe . . . in 45 minutes

Forgot to post this lovely 'card' from Tara Tyler's "beastly survey," another marketing idea which somehow seems doubly appropriate today. At 8, I wake up Allen, stuff him in the car, and off we go to the hospital, check-in at 9, surgery at about 11. I'm hoping for those healing properties!

I didn't think I'd write anything today, still need to pack my bag for today -- hand quilting and threads, journal, Kindle, three writing magazines I'm behind on. But today is WIPpet day, check-in for ROW80 day, and I've been reading this fabulous book The Voyageurs by Grace Lee Nute. Although she talks about the voyageurs in a general, anecdotal way, sometimes her information comes from the 1840s, and I know this history shapes what my characters would know.

ROW80 check-in: I have this precious 45 minutes and am stuck between checking in and writing. So a quick check-in would be: I'm writing every day, though Lauralynn's ideas of taking a day off sound pretty good. Read her motivational article (if you haven't already), "Carving Out The Time."

Need to do before the week is done: Finish quilting article by deadline. Complete another critique for Novels-L (The Internet Writing Workshop), and stay on target for this week's 1,500 words. Map out topics for my blogs for the next month:  Focus, write, share! And take a day off (thank you Lauralynn).

Wednesday WIPpetIn the spirit of sharing, here is a snippet from my WIP (work in progress).  It's August 27. I still want to write this morning, so today I will post 9 sentences from Rivers of Stone! Very short. 

Context: Orkneyman Dougal and Cat, his wife, disguised as a boy, have joined the Hudson's Bay Company with younger brother Colin. It's May, 1842, and Dougal and Colin have just been assigned to the Fur Brigade Express, leaving the York Factory (Upper Manitoba) within a few days for Fort Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest -- and leaving Cat behind.

“I’m Fronteneau,” said a small, wiry man. A red scarf held back his hair, his beard was neatly trimmed, and his eyes heavily lidded but alert, as he scanned Dougal. His upper body and arms were heavily muscled, but his legs were bowed, scrawny and underdeveloped.
“Hargrave sent me. Me and my brother are to travel west with the Fur Brigade.”
Fronteneau’s eyebrows raised. His words were shaped with the sound of French and something else.  “And where’s your brother? I shouldn’t have to explain everything twice to a couple of new fish.”
Send words of encouragement to other ROW80 writers, those folks who truly appreciate that life has a rhythm of its own, HERE

Read what other WIPpet writers have written HERE. To participate in WEDS WIPpet, post a snippet from your WIP (current work in progress) on your blog that is in some way connected to today's date, and add your name to the links at K. L. Schwengel's blog. Read what others have written. Thank you, Kate, for setting up this way to share our wips! 

Quetico Superior Route, Passing a Waterfall by Frances Anne Hopkins

Sunday, August 24, 2014

ROW80 Sunday check-in: A mermaid and a clean house

Sunday night always feels like a jump into the coming week, a perfect time to assess progress and set goals.

Thinking ahead to the coming week, I don't expect much to happen at all in the writing realm. Allen has surgery Weds. That's it! No other goals. Maybe I'll get some articles written to stay on deadline for my volunteer work. Maybe I'll get a little quilting done. I'm setting some low expectations.

Last week, I did spend time daydreaming about polar bears and doing a little writing. The workshop on "Building a Writing Toolkit" went well with 24 folks present. If you'd like a copy of the handout, please just drop me an e-mail.  The book release coffee party was a delightful time to hug friends and sign books, but overall, my writing productivity is simply scattered.

Today, I did post on my writing blog two great ideas for marketing. The idea of holding a Birthday Month Reader Appreciation Sale comes from Spokane crime writer Frank Zafiro. And Nina Amir's article on how to develop a posting schedule for your writing blog is very helpful. ROW80 blogger/writer Ruth Nestvold is an inspirational example of just such a focused blog. Both of these strategies will show up again in my writing goals. 

For now, the house is amazingly clean, food awaits in the fridge, the laundry is done, and the plants are all watered. 

Oh, and one more thing: I was reading Eden's ROW80 check-in to find her distracting link to a "beastly survey" hosted by Tara Tyler as part of her launch for Broken Branch Falls, book one of her Beast World Series (truly great graphics). Eden is a werewolf! I took the survey to discover (will anyone be surprised?) that I'm a mermaid!

May your week go well!

Beloved artist and fabric designer, Laurel Burch

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Weds ROW80 and a little WIPpet

Beth's Sashiko block
I'm thinking about writing and quilting these days. These two occupations have a lot in common -- creativity, tenacity, and a tendency (perhaps) to complete the project IF a deadline has been set. So thank goodness for ROW80 with its twice weekly check-ins!

ROW80 Check-in: Despite life's distractions, so far this week's going pretty good.

  • I'm 600 words on my way to this week's goal of 1,500 on Rivers of Stone. Posted a review for Annette Drake's A Year With Geno, a sweetly entertaining romance. 
  • Tonight I'm running a workshop on "Building a Writer's Toolkit" (for newbie writers) at a local bookstore. Not sure how many folks I'll get (more about this after the workshop on the writing blog), but we'll take a hands-on approach with self-assessment, skills and platform-building. All in 45 minutes. 
  • So far, also, I'm still keeping up with reading about 10 other ROW80 posts each week, swimming 3x a week, and working on those baby quilts (cut out 257 blocks on Monday).

Wednesday WIPpet: But now for the fun. It's August 20th, so what else could there be but 8 paragraphs for the month of August?  

Excerpt, Rivers of Stone: It's 1842 at the York Factory in Upper Manitoba. Dougal and his brother, Colin, have left on the Fur Brigade Express, leaving Cat, still disguised as a boy, behind to work at the Company depot.

Cat slumped on a log at the top of the hill in front of York Factory. The first snow had dusted the mud with white, yet loaded canoes still came up the Hayes River, bringing natives with packs of fur to trade, the natives hoping to beef up their winter provisions before the ice made travel by river impossible. It had been a long day of counting, arguing with Jacob, and dreading the night. Sunday wasn’t so bad, nor was the Clerks’ House with its younger occupants, but York Factory was quiet with the voyageurs gone.
“Cheer up,” MacKenzie had said. “They’ll be back in the spring afore you know it. Besides, we’ll have lots to do over the winter. You’ll learn how to use the fur press before yer brothers come back to rescue you. Then Jacob will stop pickin’ on yer scrawny butt.”
She was used to seeing polar bears. They didn’t come too close to the outer palisades of the Factory, unless they were hungry. The great white beasts loped along the returning ice, hunting seal. Sometimes they would crawl behind great chunks of ice and sneak up to an air hole, then plop down on the ice shelf and cover their noses. They were invisible as they waited for a careless seal to come up for air.
Idly, she watched a black dog track through the marsh grass. No, it was a wolf pacing out along the mudflats toward the bay.  He was hunting a bear. The bear ambled along slowly, upwind, unaware of the wolf behind him. The wind changed and the bear’s head, almost pink in the fading sunlight, swung around. The bear huffed and charged towards the wolf, but the wolf broke into a lope, racing head first. Cat was mesmerized. Why wouldn’t the wolf run away? The bear could kill him with one blow of his massive paw.
Suddenly, the bear turned and lumbered towards the Bay.
“That bear’s maybe afraid the wolf has friends. They hunt in a pack, you know.” Jacob sat next to her on the log. “A wolf pack can take even a big polar bear down.”
“Did you ever see that?” asked Cat.
“Bear Face told me,” Jacob said.

Polar Bear (Wikipedia)
Send words of encouragement to other ROW80 writers, those folks who truly appreciate that life has a rhythm of its own, HERE.

Read what other WIPpet writers have written HERE. To participate in WEDS WIPpet, all you need to do is post a snippet from your WIP (current work in progress) in some way connected to today's date, and add your name to the links at K. L. Schwengel's blog. Thank you, Kate, for setting up this way to share our wips! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

ROW80 Late again. Blame the polar bears!

I missed Sunday's ROW80 check-in. Here's Monday's brief, very brief check-in with goals for the coming week:

Writing: Goal 1,500 for the coming week.
Reading: Finish at least one book on Canadian history. Post at least one review of an indie book.
Community/Marketing: Teach workshop on building a writer's toolkit this Weds. Host launch for Years of Stone this Friday. Attend writers' groups x2.
Volunteering/Other: Finish 2 promo articles for WSQ. Work on program. Quilt when I have time.

Other than working on these same goals from last week, what have I been doing? 

Watching videos on the Upper Manitoba tourism site, especially those photos and videos about the York Factory, Hudson's Bay, and polar bears. Thinking about those images that stick in my mind -- a lean, black wolf chasing a polar bear, two polar bears that wrestle in the mud, the way the water looks when the fog moves in, the contrast between the marshy, mosquito-ridden shore of Hudson's Bay and the wilderness inland. 

Hungry looking wolf! (Churchill Wild)
If we lived in those stone huts through those early winter days of the Hudson's Bay Company, we'd need to use our axes to chop off the ice that formed on the walls overnight. Today, it's 80 degrees at Hudson's Bay, but winter rapidly approaches! This 31-second video from Travel Manitoba shows off a few polar bears.

More about Churchill Wild HERE.

Read how other ROW80 writers are faring HERE as August winds down.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ROW80 Weds WIPpet and a little progress

Why am I thinking about Alice and the rabbit hole? I'm late, I'm late! 

August is rapidly heading to September, and outside, it's dark, and I can hear the geese honking, flying south.

Alice (White Ajah's Alice in Wonderland Event)
ROW80 Weds update: 
--Writing: Slow but still 600 words toward my goal of 1500 this week for Rivers of Stone. Research? Some. Not enough. Ordered an interesting nonfiction book on the fur trade, The Voyageur, a classic by Grace Nute.
--Marketing/Community: Steady. No reviews of indie books . . . yet. Confirmations of launch party for Years of Stone all green light. Set up reading for Sept at a great local book store -- with violin music at both events.
--Other: Does a breakthrough on quilting count? I've learned a new freezer paper-based method useful for those very tiny appliqué pieces -- on youtube, of all places. I'm deviating from the pattern (no surprise), but the work is pleasing. 

About that WEDS WIPpet: Start with the date: August 13, 2014 = 8 + 13 = 21, plus 1 more for the year, or 22 paragraphs from Rivers of Stone, my work-in-progress. BG: Cat, a young woman disguised as a boy, follows her husband to York Factory on Hudson's Bay in 1842. In this scene, Dougal, Cat's husband, and Colin, Dougal's 15-year-old brother, argue.

“You did pretty well today,” said Dougal.
Colin fidgeted. “I want to go on the Fur Brigade. I heard you’re going.”
“Nothing’s sure yet. Somebody has to stay behind with Cat.”
“I don’t care about her.”
“Hist. Don’t be saying that.” Dougal raised his voice. “Cat’s yer brother, and don’t forget it.”
Colin turned sullen. “You just think yer the boss of me.”
 “I’m sorry, Colin. What I mean is it looks like they’ll send me, but that leaves Cat alone. It would be better if you stayed.”
“If they ask me to go, I’m not staying.”
“I guess I understand.”
Colin flung his jacket on. “I’m going out.”
“Where you told me. Down by the encampment. They sit around, tell stories.”
“I heard they drink a little.”
“So what?”
“So, I don’t want a brother of mine getting into trouble. Would be worse than staying behind if an HBC officer catches you drinking.”
“They’re my friends.”
“They’re not yer friends if they lead you to drinking.”
“You can’t tell me what to do.”
Dougal stood. “I can as long as I’m yer brother.”
Colin stood as well, bracing his scrawny shoulders. “You aren’t Mac, and you never will be.”
The two men looked at each other.
Dougal sighed. “’Tis far too true. And where is Mac now? Rotting in a prison so far from here I don’t want to think about it. An’ I wish he weren’t. I wish he were here with us.” 

Check out what other ROW80 writers are doing the early part of this week HERE

Why not read a few of those snippets by other writers inspired by Kate Schwengel at Wednesday WIPpet HERE.

The enigmatic artwork of Alice comes from an interesting invitation to a Tea Party HERE.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday ROW80 check-in: Reboot, redirect, recharge!

Trust me. Retirement is not an island of tranquility. As my hubby gets ready for surgery that will basically require three months of recovery, I've decided I can't quite find what I need in my office. Yes, I'm grateful to have 'a room of my own,' but the books on three bookshelves no longer reflect what I read, and research is vamping up on Rivers of Stone.

Princess Padme Amadala (Wikipedia)
Garage sales brought me two small file cabinets ($5 each), along with a collector's edition of Princess Amadala from Star Wars and a mermaid Barbie. (I did say distractions abound this week!) 

I'm finally ready to let go of resources I used for teaching. Some will stay. Who doesn't need an illustrated collection of William Blake? Robert Hughes' American Visions? A history of Egypt, Greece, and Rome? But I'm easily distracted when my office is not organized. So de-cluttering is today's priority. 

I'm as scattered with research, casting a wide net. Today I found fascinating discussion of the Hudson's Bay Company language of master/servant, and I've begun reading Peter C. Newman's Caesars of the Wilderness

One opening story recounts an old fur trader who wanted to be buried on a hill so he could piss on the HBC fort below. Also discovered Anne Frances Hopkins, who married a Hudson's Bay Company officer and traveled with him in Canada in the 1860's. Her paintings of the voyageurs are critically acclaimed today and wonderfully detailed. Too bad she's just two decades too late for my story.

Voyageurs by Anne Frances Hopkins (Wikipedia)
ROW80 goals for the week:
Writing: 1,500 words on Rivers of Stone. Final changes on Reaching. Dig into research for ROS.
Community/Marketing: Prep workshop on creating a writer's toolkit for monthly writers' meeting. Contact 2 bookstores. Schedule coffee house launch party for Rivers of Stone -- with violin music.
Other: Finish de-cluttering office (and e-mail) and organizing all! Quilt some. Watch football with hubby. Remember to breathe and let go! Cherish each day. 

May you have an outstanding week for writing, reading, and reflecting.

Question of the day as summer winds down: If you had just one hour to remove clutter, what would you do?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ROW80: Summer night and a WIPpet

Just last week, I was moaning and groaning about the character arc that held together the plot line of Rivers of Stone, Book 3. My story seemed to circle back on itself, with no resolution. I pulled resources from the internet on developing character, consulted writing craft books, tried Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method, wrote long back stories for the major characters, and then the gears shifted. Suddenly, that hidden structure of the story fell into place, and happily this week, I'm writing scenes once again.

I have no secrets to share. Like a poem, when one line somehow balances the next, my characters appear conflicted at first, but now, despite betrayal and abandonment, the two lead characters remain in harmonious balance. Plot twists abound, but the overall shape is clear from beginning to resolution. Now begins serious research and the writing. 

A Wednesday WIPpet: And, as long as I'm rambling on about the writing, here's my Wednesday WIPpet, just a snippet based on the date from Book 3: Rivers of Stone, the story of Cat, disguised as a boy, and Dougal, who in 1842 traveled from northern Scotland as employees (servants) in the Hudson's Bay Company. August = 8th month + day 6 = 14 which somehow matches the 14 in 2014 = divided in two (for the 2 in 2014) = 7 paragraphs from this week's writing.

Cat scampered out of the store, past the voyageurs and Indians who stood in line to trade, and around to the side of the store where a line of men stretched from the pier to a clump of carts. She raced down to the Hayes River, searching for Dougal and Colin, and then she spotted them.  
"So, they putting you to work finally," called Colin as he hoisted a barrel on his back and tramped up the pier.
Cat wrinkled her nose. Colin was always picking on her. Maybe he wished she hadn’t come with them. Maybe he thought she should stay at home and starve. Bugger that.
"Dinna fight now. Step in here, behind me," said Dougal.
The air had a bite in it for August. Cat staggered under the weight of the burlap bag Dougal tossed onto her back as she followed the line of men off the pier. Dougal grimaced at her, but he didn't speak further. Cat spat on the ground. Some help he was.
The line of men worked as quickly as they could. Before noon, the carts were loaded for Red River, the horses hitched. People clambered onto the carts with shouted goodbyes. A few Indians on ponies followed behind. One woman, carrying a baby wrapped in buckskin and strapped onto a cradle board, stared at Cat.
Cat stared back. She couldn't imagine what they'd find past this flat lake country with few trees and patches of snow here and there. Early snow, they called it, and cold. Damn cold, thought Cat, rubbing tingles from her fingers.

Métis and Red River Carts (Wikipedia)
About pricing. On last Sunday's ROW80 check-in, I raised the issue of pricing -- a topic that makes many of us question IF and HOW we set the price for our e-books. Thanks to comments here and a few articles, I'm stepping back from my initial price of $4.99 for all my e-books to $2.99. 
Using the Amazon Countdown deal for Book 2: Years of Stone was an interesting experiment. Books sold well from $.99 to $2.99, but I can't reset that $4.99 price until 20 days AFTER the countdown deal ends. Learning as I go . . . 

ROW80 Goals for the week:
--Write 2,000 words on Rivers of Stone. So far: more cutting than writing, but 400 words in two days.
--Read 3 books, a mix of research, review, and pleasure. So far: read a portion of a book on Canadian history, took notes, and finished reading The Rosie Project by Australian writer, Graeme Simsion, a romantic comedy about a very bright man with few friends and many social limitations who searches for a wife with a questionnaire. 
--Community/Marketing: Complete at least one critique for NOVELS-L. Participate in 2 writers' groups this week. Schedule coffee house launch party for Years of Stone. Prep workshop on building a writer's toolbox.
--Quilting/volunteer: Work on that massive Southwestern applique project that has very small pieces and start at least one baby quilt. Organize and complete book orders, PR for quilting group.

Don't you want to see what others have written?

Check out Wednesday WIPpet posts, weekly snippets from works in progress in a blog hop hosted by Kate Schwengel HERE.

Or, jump to that list of ROW80 writers HERE who continue to inspire me with their tenacity and creativity!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

ROW80: Summer Sunday

Allen, 1967 Viet Nam
About that surprise: The 'big surprise' on August 1 was a total surprise. For our 40th Anniversary (John says this is the ruby year, which makes me think of that Biblical quote, "more precious than rubies" and "Ruby Tuesday"), we went out to a very pleasant lunch overlooking the Spokane River.

I presented Allen with a proof copy of his Viet Nam era novel, Reaching. And, yes, he WAS surprised. So, now I'll go ahead with self-publishing and hope to find readers for his truly fine coming-of-age novel written almost 50 years ago. Don't quite know where I'll find readers, but one step at a time.

Re pricing lessons: This week, I listed Years of Stone on Amazon's Countdown Discount deal through tomorrow, and the response has been gratifying! Yay, readers!

I've been reading that the 'sweet spot' for self-published novels by unknowns is somewhere between $1.99 and $3.99. To qualify for Amazon's 70% royalty, the price must be set at $2.99. Books under $2.99 garner a whopping 35% royalty. But 70% of nothing equals what? Nothing!

Drag out the calculator. 35% of $1.99 = $0.70, but 70% of $2.99 = $2.09. So, if I look only at returns, I'd have to sell 3 books to make $2.10.

Once the second book in a series comes out, some book gurus suggest pricing the first book in a series lower, to entice those readers into giving that unknown author a read. So I'm rethinking what my prices should be one the countdown deal is over.

I'm such a penny-pincher that I really struggle when I pay more than about $1.99 for any e-book. I know, I know, that's less than a cup of designer coffee. Luckily used book stores, libraries, and interlibrary loan feed my book addiction. But what does this mean for pricing my books? 

Personally, I'm taken aback by those big names that charge $6 and more for an e-book. But I did follow the $4.99 threshold for my books (typically, they take about three years to research and write). But now I am wondering what is the 'best' price for my e-books. Is the question really about money or about attracting readers? What do YOU think?

ROW Sunday check-in:

Writing: Wrote 2,285 on Book 3 this week. Posted a bit about Allen's book, Reaching, on my writing blog. Goal next week: Another 2,000 words, please.


  • That GoodReads giveaway for Years of Stone is rocketing along with 257 folks entering so far (this closes at midnight tonight). 
  • Finally got caught up with NOVELS-L critiques on The Internet Writing Workshop (my goal this month is at least 1 crit a week). Received 10 thoughtful crits on my Chapter 1 from WIP: Rivers of Stone. Wow!
  • Doing fine with reading ROW80 bloggers. Posted Weds WIPpet here on my ROW80 blog. This has been hard to do in the past, but so far 3x in a row! The feedback from ROW80 and WIPpet readers is so encouraging.  
  • Happily, a local book group wants me back! I took the plunge: A local indie bookstore now has Years of Stone on its shelves.
As my mother would say, "Ooofta!" (Swedish background.) I didn't mean to write on so long. So I'll close by saying I hope your writing and reading are going well, that it's not too hot, and IF you like, leave a comment about e-book pricing. Please! 

Have a great week. Take a moment to read what other ROW80 writers are doing HERE.

For a look back, here's The Rolling Stones and "Ruby Tuesday". For some, those were the days . . .