Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mutt's Day

Today is Mutt's Day, so we're celebrating the mutts we know and love.  Come on, tell us a story of your favorite mutt.

JB: How can I pick just one?? I've loved a lot of mutts in my time.  I'll just talk about the ones I currently share my life with.

There's Teddy:

He's a Bichon Frise mix who was adopted directly from my former vet when he was five….that was nine years ago!

and then there's Smudge:

A new addition, she's a Terrier/Schnauzer mix.

B.E.:  I don't think I've ever owned a pure breed anything.  My favorite mutt was the dog we had when I was growing up.  The story goes that one parent was a purebred German Shepherd and the other was a purebred Golden Retriever.  The male jumped the fence to visit the female and Voila! a litter of puppies was born.  He was the best dog ever.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Give You Permission to Quit

When you’ve been writing and seeking publication for as long as I have, you meet a lot of other writers along your journey.  Some of them will be more successful than you. Some will be less successful than you. Some will stick it with it doggedly until their dying breath. And some will quit.

Some that quit will have been pretty successful by other writers’ standards. Some will quit because they had a romanticized notion of what being a writer is all about. (Don’t we all?) Some will quit because they don’t achieve what they set out to do. And some will quit because they realize that their energies are better spent elsewhere.

All of those are valid reasons to quit.

Not that anyone needs me to tell them that…or maybe they do.

We live in a culture where quitting (unless it’s smoking or drugs or alcohol) is frowned upon. We’ve always got to “win!” (whatever the hell that means).

So I’m telling you now: It’s okay to quit WHATEVER your reason may be.

(And it’s okay to quit just about ANYTHING, not just writing: a hobby you’ve outgrown, a relationship, a job…anything.)

Also keep in mind that most quitting isn’t necessarily permanent. You may return to it down the road when your life circumstances have changed.

On the flip side, I find it impossible to tell someone they could think about quitting even though I’m absolutely positive they’re never going to find the success they’re after.

Again, not just writers… everybody to dieters, to people in abusive relationships, to Girl Scout Leaders. (But hey, if you’re a Girl Scout Leader who’s considering quitting, could you wait until after you’ve scored some Thin Mints for me?)

I happen to call a number of quitters my friend and here’s the secret side of quitting that no one ever talks about:

When you quit pouring your energy into what isn’t right for you, you free up the energy to figure out what IS right for you.

Here’s an example:  When I first met my friend L. twenty years ago, she thought she wanted to be a writer. After a couple of years she quit writing and is now an AMAZING photographer.

When she quit, she won.

Tell me Killer Friends: What do you think of quitting? Do you know anyone who’s won by quitting?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Old Stuff

Since I can't leave a teaser on my new super secret project, and any teaser I leave for the book I'm rewriting would have spoilers, I thought I'd step into the wayback machine and drop a bit from my second book - the 2006 'Final' draft (which ended up being not so final).  This Prologue is one I really liked, but also one that I decided to snip away.  (Although, I did have an agent read this and ask me if I ever considered writing non-fiction - which was the nicest thing he had to say since the rest of his rejection letter called my book 'improbible'*.)

Anyway, here's the beginning of Nature of Destruction...


It has happened before.
Six hundred thousand years ago, death and destruction rained from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River, from the plains of Saskatchewan to the Gulf of Mexico.  Seventy-five thousand years ago the sun disappeared beneath a haze of ash, killing the majority of the human race in the ensuing global winter.  Fifteen hundred years ago, the most notorious of human eras—The Dark Ages—began in a shroud of gray volcanic dust.
Early in the 19th century, the center of a tiny island in the Dutch West Indies swelled and trembled and burst.  Fiery boulders fell from the sky; ash blanketed both land and ocean for hundreds of miles as it spewed into the atmosphere.  More than ninety thousand people died as the sky became clogged with soot—soot so thick that the year of 1816 was to become known as ‘The Year Without a Summer’. 
Later in that same century, a mountain rising from the depths of the East Indies exploded and then collapsed. The sea rose twelve feet that day, pushed up suddenly as tons of rock dropped into its murky depths.  Thundering walls of water swept toward Java, Sumatra, Bali; tens of thousands drown as the ocean broke over their homes and villages. 
In each instance a caldera has erupted, and in each instance the world has born the brunt of its destruction.
So far, many of these types of events occurred before the ascension of man; so far, they have all occurred in sparsely populated areas.  In the scheme of human disaster, these events remain insignificant.  In perspective, the death toll has been minimal.  But still, the tiny native children who shivered in fear as Tambora thundered down upon them thought it more than minimal.  The tribal women who screamed their last breaths as Krakatau choked the sound away considered it from a different perspective.  The peasants who endured The Dark Age’s endless years of starvation and suffering certainly thought it significant.
They all must have prayed for whatever god they knew to make it stop.  They must have offered sacrifices and tributes to appease the wrath that cascaded upon them.  But even amidst their fruitless prayers and hopeless offerings, they must have believed in their hearts that nothing could stop nature. 
In the mountains of western Wyoming, a caldera lays in a fitful sleep—churning and gurgling and smoking like some great evil dragon—and mankind dances around it as if it has been caged for their amusement.  The sparkling geysers and the boiling mud are merely an interesting diversion right now, but the dragon is bound by no man’s chains and it has overslept by twenty thousand years.  When it awakens, no man will think it amusing, and no man with think of it as a mere diversion.
Pompeii was a firecracker.  Mount Saint Helens, a birthday candle.  When Yellowstone makes up its mind to blow, the people in its path will wish they’d been at Hiroshima instead.
Will they be praying on some sprawling ranch in Montana?  Will they be screaming in some sparkling penthouse in Denver?  Will they be choking under a layer of ash on the bustling streets of Houston?
Perhaps nothing can be done to stop nature.  Or perhaps, just maybe, something can.
It has happened before.  Perhaps it doesn’t have to happen again.

Okay, so not necessarily my best work, but remember, this is from 8 years ago.  I've learned a lot since then.  ;o)

* the spelling error was his but it still amuses me after 8 years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Self-Published Books

Okay, Killer Friends, I'd like to do a little research today, if you'll bear with me. 

If you're here, I assume you like to read.  Since you like to read, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that some of you have read at least some self-published books.  My question today is about your perception of self-published books in general, and your experience with self-published books specifically.

Do you think self-published stories, in general, are just as good as traditionally published stories?  Are they worse in general?  Better?  (Not talking here about the printing quality or the proofreading quality - just the quality of the stories.)

Now, talk to me about the quality of the printing and proofing (if they're hardcopy) or the editing and proofing (if they're ebooks). 

Does your perception of a self-published book go up if you have to pay for it or go down if it's free?  Or do you tend to treat those books you pay more for with a harsher eye - like if a book's got typos, are you more irritated if you paid 7.99 for it than you would be if it was free?

Since my book budget went to hell, I've been reading more free books than paid-for books, and of the paid-for books, about half of those have been ebooks vs hardcopy.  (With ebooks being half self and half traditional and hardcopy being about 90% traditional.)  Having said that, I'm really not finding the quality of the stories to be any different for self than traditional - most are good, some are dogs (which is the nature of reading, I guess.) 

As for the quality of the actual book on a self-published hardcopy versus a traditional hardcopy, I've found that I'm more likely to get a book with flaws from a traditional publisher.  As in, I've bought 'published' novels where the cover fell off while I was reading it the first time or the print was lighter on some pages than others or there was a big glob of ink in the middle of a page or, in one case, ten pages were missing out of the middle.  I haven't encountered that yet with self-published hardcopies yet. 

Now with editing... well, you can tell which self-published books haven't been seen by an editor and which have - pretty much within the first chapter.  I do run into those more frequently with self-publishing than with traditional publishing - usually when the author is someone I'm totally not familiar with and one that hasn't been recommended to me.  It's really rare these days, but it does happen.  On the other side of the chasm, traditional publishing isn't immune from typos, misspellings, and mistakes either.

I admit it.  I have a higher level of expectation when I have to shell out good money for a book.  And yes, I do hold traditional publishing to a higher standard.  They're the ones with the editors and copyeditors, etc.  I also tend to expect more from a self-published book I've paid for than one I got for free.  Not that I still don't get irritated with a bad self-published free novel, but again, it's rare.

Well, those are my opinions on the subject.  What are yours?  (And please, no specifics.  I'm not trying to call people out here.  I'm just trying to get a feel for the industry from the people who know - as in you, the readers.) 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fab Photo Friday - Funny Fawn

Is it just me or is he all like "Hey, Mom!  Sniff my toes!"


Thursday, July 24, 2014

National Anti-Boredom Month

Yep, July is National Anti-Boredom Month.  What do you do for fun?  (Since we're pretty much all readers here, we'll make that a given for all comments - unless you really want to talk about reading.)

JB: I daydream. A lot. I people watch. A lot. I play with my dogs. A lot. I'm a fan of music and movies. I'm big on long walks, quick bike rides, and watching the sun rise and set. I'm really big on dreaming dreams and making lists of how to accomplish them.

B.E.:  I don't know how much fun I'm having, but I know life is rarely boring.  I watch nature for the most part when I'm not reading or writing.  The birds, the bugs, the deer.  I also garden and work on improving our home.  I'm pretty excited this week because the crepe myrtle I thought I'd killed is getting ready to bloom. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Choosing a title

I'm currently struggling with coming up with a title of my second Matchmaker Mystery.

As a rule, titles are not something I excel at.

I DID come up with Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman and couldn't believe it when the publisher let me keep it.

I didn't come up with Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman…that was their idea.

I also didn't name The First Victim. (I called it Her Nightmare.)

I did name The Mutt and the Matchmaker.

Titles are important. Like book covers, a good title should convey the tone of a book and entice readers to check it out.

My process is to brainstorm a list of words that might work in a title. Then I make up a list of possible titles. Then I cut the list down to the best possibilities. Finally I send my list out to my trusted advisors (one MUST have trusted advisors).

Like writing a book, coming up with a title is a complicated process, but coming up with a good one is worth it.

Tell me Killer Friends: What are some of your favorite titles?