Sunday, May 31, 2009

Helpful (urgh!) Gremlins

Y'know, Wonder Woman—or rather, Steve Trevor—used to have a gremlin friend called Glitch. (Oh! I despised him!) (And the gremlin, too.)

But gremlins can show up in real life. In one of her books Shirley MacLaine recalls a lost purse. She searched everywhere for it, twice, three times. Finally hours later it turned up, right where she'd been looking hardest.

I used to attend Psychic School in Durham. That's my diploma hanging on the wall over there. Fascinating stuff, though sometimes my eyes glazed over. My instructor, Sue Burton (she moved to Ohio quite some years ago and disappeared off my radar screen. Hey, Sue, wherever you are! You show up in my books! Of course I had to split you into two characters...) (for some reason my googling finally got a hit. There she is: Sue Burton-Hidalgo!!!), took pains to teach us useful things like dowsing.

We even had a guest speaker one time—fascinating lady! She'd been diagnosed with something like three months to live, so she read up on her disease, determined that she'd be one of the extremely rare survivors in that there was a bell curve of disease fatality that never quite got down to finishing everyone off, and compiled a list of healthy things to do/supplements to take, etc. that she sat down with every day. Going down the list, she dowsed as to which things she had to do that day to remain at optimum health.

Twenty years or so later, she still loved giving dowsing lessons.

Let's see, I'd just gone into a dash somewhere up there—So anyway, this guest speaker said she often got to the point where she was really into her dowsing where she could tell results without waiting to see the results of whatever method she was using.

Sue often said the same thing. As time went by, I often noticed this effect in my own work. Why, just in the past few weeks I could always tell ahead of time when the 'Canes were going to win or not.

Yesterday morning I determined that I wanted to paint this weekend, and that I just could not paint without listening to the CD that had arrived last Tuesday, "Zen Classics." That day I had opened the mailer and put it... where?

I searched. And searched. And searched. Okay, the place is a mess (as usual; I'm trying to change my ways!) but I knew it had to be on one of the top layers of Junk.

But I got to the point where I was searching through all levels. I knew it had to be either in the kitchen, on the dining table, or in the living room on the coffee table or mantle. Still, I searched everywhere.

And eventually I realized that Someone was hiding it from me.

Okay, Someone wanted me to clean a bit. That was fine with me. So I cleaned a while and searched. Nothing. Cleaned a while and searched. Zippo. Etc. Etc, taking it easier knowing now that I'd find it when Someone wanted me to find it.

Finally tonight I decided to fill up a few trash bags, ready to take down to the dump tomorrow. Got some recycling together, put through a load of laundry and dishes, turned around...

There it was. Top layer. Dining table.

I have since put the CD set next to the newly-excavated CD deck, where I will be able to find it easily in the next week. After that it gets filed in my new QVC CD super-efficient-CD/DVD storage box.

So does this happen to others? Any other gremlins out there?

And has anyone run into Glitch?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting Things Done... or Creative Arson


Phew! Finally got the shed in. After thinking that I'd gotten such a deal on buying it, I wound up spending about $200 more than I'd planned because it turned out it needed a deck built underneath. You can't see it, but there is new mulch going in under the trees behind it all the way back to the property line.

Here's the previous shed, RIP (gone as of 2:30 today):

With the landscape people coming back Saturday to give me an estimate about putting in bits of real lawn, it was time to take care of the Burning Pile. Rubbing my hands greedily like the pyromaniac I secretly am, I got my burn permit (you can get them online now! So convenient since the guys who give them out in the Forestry office are never there), checked the weather to see that winds would be calm this morning, gathered my rake and hoe, made sure the hose had water running through it, applied sunscreen and bug repellent, put on my gardenting hat (so stylish!) and gloves, clicked sunglasses onto my regular glasses, dug out a 3-hour burn log and some matches and...

Done! The "in progress" pic was taken after the real inferno died down. You couldn't get within twelve feet of it without feeling like you were rapidly proceeding to being well-done. How do firefighters do it?

This all looks even better than this now as I've gotten a bit of weeding done around the fire pit. Now I have room in the pit to throw the other weeds that I have such good intentions of pulling. Unless I decide to take them to the dump, where they MIGHT be composted, as I'd prefer that. We'll see.
So the weekend is off to a productive start!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

About God...

I'm a guest on a Momlist at Cerridwenchat today and posted two excerpts of my book. Surprise! God got a solid mention in both.

I've come to realize that I mention God at least once in an important way in all my books. In my Three Worlds series, of which TOUCH OF DANGER is the first volume, I have fun in that I only capitalize the "g" when people are actually talking to God and not taking His/Her/Its name in vain. "G--d---" is merely a generic curse and shouldn't have to shoulder a capital "g." God probably wouldn't like the cap in such a position.

But does mentioning God in fantasy/sf bother readers? As a reader, I'm bothered when H/S/I doesn't appear in, say, historicals. I mean, these people lived in times when science did not even BEGIN to claim it had the answers to anything. Death could occur at God's whim at any moment. You could be walking down the street and somebody could drop dead next to you because...why? Maybe God didn't like him. Maybe he'd sinned too much. Maybe a witch had cursed him. Maybe he'd kept cats (spawns of Satan). Maybe God was testing his kin. Maybe he'd sold his soul to the devil and the devil had come for payment. Maybe he was just a bad person. Only the good die young, you know.

People in such circumstances MUST have been exceedingly God-conscious, shouldn't they? Then why don't more historicals utilize this? (My one does, thank you very much.)

As for modern angel-devil tales, of which there are so many, I'm usually confused by the interior continuity of such. I also wonder why, in a universe where such a (usually) Roman Catholic God is in power, why He doesn't have more power than He does. Why is He cautious about confronting evil? God's the Biggest Kahuna. He ranks far, FAR above any Satan/devil. When God rolls the dice, there's no question as to who's going to win.

Sure, there are ways to spin this into a good yarn and there are a lot of good yarns out there. But the vast majority leaves me shrugging my shoulders at the plotholes and world building.

When one invokes God there's a huge chance of insulting a reader's beliefs, I know, but f/sf should stretch comfort boundaries. Imho. Take Londo, one of the heroes in my Three Worlds series. He's got serious God issues that eventually he will resolve. My other heroes, Lina and Jae, have New Age ways of looking at the Big Guy/Gal/Entity that don't jibe with established religion.

Personally, I don't believe in religion; I believe in spirituality. But I ask you: is this a dangerous idea to insert into one's fiction, for fear of turning off readers?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just a note...

To say that Obi's home and doing fine. He's now on 1/16 tsp. of Metamucil twice a day for the rest of his life so we can avoid these $500 bouts of constipation that cannot be doing his heart (or spirits) any good.

Does Metamucil come in liver or tuna flavor?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

HOOOO-eee! What a ride!

I saw Star Trek this afternoon.



I left the theatre wiping off the excess testosterone that the screen had spat at me. Talk about action! Talk about fun! Talk about sexism!

Okay, the plot had a few holes to it. Someone who wrote it doesn't know the scope of galactic distances. And this episode, even before the parallel universe thing, left a few TOS (and animated) episodes lying dead in a gutter.

I was wondering how the folks in Riverside, Iowa were taking it.

Wish I'd paid more attention to the "parallel universe" deal. I was waiting for the time loop to close and heal. The movie didn't give me a chance to think that a new franchise would want open ends. Well, that was logical enough.

But what in the world happened to Star Trek's feminism? Out of a zillion actors, there were five non-extra female roles in the movie. Two of those were there just to give birth so that their men could either rescue them or feel bad for not doing so. One was in the role of mother (and a teeny-tiny bit as wife) who could die so her son could feel sad/angry. Two were in the roles of sex kittens, just there for the guys to find some release.

WTF???? Uhura--the groundbreaking UHURA!!!!--reduced to Spock's (SPOCK'S) chick?

FOR SHAME!!!!!!!

Star Trek is better than that, or it should be. What century is it again? What century are THEY supposed to be in again?

Just the other day on our writers' loop my group was commenting on the older SF movies and how the times they went out of their way to include one -- just one -- female role was so appreciated, especially since the majority of those roles (various people listed the original Andromeda Strain, Outland, and Alien) were written for men but cast for women.

What the HECK is up with Star Trek in this area????????? What a HUGE downer for an otherwise TERRIFIC movie!

PS: Obi's at the emergency vet tonight. After a year of being constipation free (he had three bouts of it early last year practically on top of each other) (at $500 a pop), he decided that after I'd been home a while this afternoon he was going to clog up. Let's hope he feels better fast. Last time after about five enemas in one night, the assistant said he was "pooping like a pro." We don't want him to have to have an operation to tighten up (or maybe it's loosen) a valve in his intestine so he can go easier. Bran-Bran already is missing him, even though I'm telling him that Obi will be back tomorrow afternoon.

PPS: I have TWO CONTESTS on my website concerning my book. Come on by to check them out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Now what?

Well! The book came out last Thursday. WHOOPIE!!!!! I brought an armload of brownies and cookies in to work to give out. No, I didn't bake, but rather bought from the new bakery in town that everyone was raving about.

Don't know why. The brownies were flat and ICED (imho a sure sign of trying to cover up an unacceptable recipe), the oatmeal cookies had ground-up raisins in them (ah hates cooked dried fruit), and I was afraid to touch the chocolate chip cookies for fear of my Weight Watchers points going off the scale. But everyone said they really liked the stuff. Some said they'll buy the book. We'll see.

My sister finally chimed in a few days later and said she'd get the book and that my nephew and his friend were looking forward to getting it, too. Then I realized that there'd be just one copy shared between the three of them. Arrrgh.

Cerridwen had me going there for a while. They took the book off their site completely for the week before publication--what's up with that?--and the morning it was due out there was still nothing. Until 9 AM. Then it suddenly appeared and the angels sang! AHHHHHHHH!!!

So now what? I have mountains of material about how to publicize a book. Most of it deals with blogging and Facebook and guest-blogging (making sure often to refer to your book and/or the characters in it) and video making. I never could get anyone to pose for me for a whole three minutes so I could have some good visuals for a book video. Heck, I was even paying good money!

But a mountain of "to do" things and I don't get along. I freeze up. I sit paralyzed. I need to make lists and prioritize them, just like my heroine, Lina, does in my new fantasy adventure romance just out from Cerridwen Press, Touch of Danger. With everything to be done I've finally come to the conclusion that I need to make lists of lists: categorize different options, prioritize them, and then take each one step by step.


So what's first? What would you do? I'm a guest on a Listmom next week (the same day as my root canal), so we can check that off. But how many people will see that?

What I'd like to do is blast the fact that I have a book out across the DC Comics message boards. But that would probably get me banned for life.

Hm. Would it be worth it? How long would it take the mods to swoop down and eradicate my posts? Hmmmmmmmm...

Press releases will be an A goal. Get one written; get them out.

Check into Facebook ads. Apparently no one's doing 'em yet in the Cerridwen community, so I'd be an experiment. Well, someone's got to go first.

Any other ideas for right-away publicity? Say, have you bought your copy yet?

And oh yeah, I'll have to finalize things for that contest. Think I'll go with the adult DVD idea. High perceived value and all that...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Contest! Contest? Uh...

Okay, we're getting down to the wire now. Time to seriously start thinking about publicity. Touch of Danger comes out in two days from Cerridwen. ( ) And yet... It's an ebook. It'll be around for a while, so maybe I can take this slowly and learn good lessons along the way.

I'm going to be a guest on a Momlist, or is that Mom List, or momlist? Anyway, it'll be the 20th on the Cerridwen readers loop. Why yes, that's the same day as I'll be having a root canal, thanks for asking.

I've been researching Mom lists (or whatever) and what people do on their days, and it seems Mom always has a contest going. Lots of writers have that. It's a way to gather viewers to their site as well as collect names so that you can email them info about future books when that arrives.

Gathering names is important. Sabrina Jeffries has often told our group that the way she became a NYT best-selling author (other than by writing darned fine books) was that she mailed/emailed her lists a week before her release date. It's the first week or so that's the most critical as far as best-seller lists are concerned. They get their figures from sales done in a week, which is why the Bible (to use an example) never shows up on 'em. The Bible sells more overall, but does brisk sales consistently over a much longer period. You've got to move in fast and get the bulk of your sales within a very short period for the lists to notice you.

The way you get enough names to mail so that you can get on a best-seller list is by slowly gathering them book by book.

So. Contests. I'm posting this here in hopes that people will tell me what kind of prize I should offer. Keep in mind that this is an ebook, so the number of people buying it will be (choke) significantly less than if it was a printed book. (But it WILL be eventually, if enough people buy the ebook!) Also keep in mind that I've already paid out a chunk for this book in order to get the rights to use a few lines from a Billy Joel song. (I just couldn't live without that song being in the text. It's the big seduction scene!) So $$ are limited.

ANYway, I was considering prize options. Lots of people give out copies of their backlist or ARCs of the current book. Don't have any of those. Some people give out gift cards to, say Starbucks. I assume I can't give out a gift card to Barnes & Noble or suchlike since they're a competitor for Cerridwen, sorta, though if and when the book comes out in print they should be a source for it.

I've got an (unused) sex swing that I've been trying to get rid of. (I got it at an Adam & Eve warehouse sale.) Too specific? There's those hip-waders that my mother got me for Xmas one year because I'd been complaining about having to wade into my pond and clean it. They're still in the box and tagged. What else? I think I'm ready to divest myself of Action #252, the first appearance of Supergirl. Or maybe my Wonder Woman cookie jar, which I've never liked that much and am afraid that someday its weight will take down the small shelf upon which it sits.

Over on her blog ( ), Maria Zannini has this posted: "Write a review for Touch Of Fire on Amazon or any other review forum, and earn 5 extra points. Post the phrase [her book's tagline plus title, author and publisher] and link on Twitter and earn 3 extra points. The person with the most points by noon, May 28, 2009 will receive a prize package worth $100. The prize package includes a signed copy of Touch Of Fire, a $50 gift certificate from, and assorted trinkets and VERY COOL goodies totaling $35." Ooh, good idea! For a print book. I'll keep that in mind as I'm assembling "cool goodies" for my print release.

But all those are biggies. I'm looking for something smaller, something to fit the debut of an ebook. A free bookmark is out, since there's no page to mark. Is a gift card to Wal-Mart universal enough? I mean, if someone from Timbuktu wins, can they use it there?

Suggestions, please!!! Thank you very kindly in advance.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Avoiding a review...

I finally got through a book which shall remain unnamed here. It was written by someone I know and I think that perhaps they're awaiting a glowing review from yrs trly.

However, I've learned the hard way--or at least I hope I've learned--to keep my mouth shut when I have nothing good to say. (Except of course when it comes to comics reviews! With them it's blah blah blah and damn the repercussions!) When I first started out reviewing books I did some that I thought were a "in the future, perhaps you should try doing A because what you did in this book was pure crapola!" vein. Sometimes I've run into the author (much) later and luckily none seem to have recalled those reviews to me.

Now, if said author is famous out the wazoo and I'm getting tired of them relying on that fame as they churn out dreck, I will bring that up. At that stage, they should have thick enough skin to handle it, and perhaps they'll even take the advice so the next book I read from them will be utterly enjoyable and live up to their talent.

Back to the original novel, which was NOT by a famous author. Funny thing is: the prose was perfectly fine. The premise was fairly innovative.

Unfortunately I hated both protagonists, their character arcs didn't amount to much, the basic plot was filled with gargantuan plot holes, the protagonists not only did stupid things but did them over and over, and the text and conversations repeated themselves endlessly. I dreaded picking up the book as I tried to finish it.

So I scratched my head, refused to lie my way through a positive review but rather decided not to write one at all (and do my best to evade the author asking my where my review might be), and will try to use this book's weaknesses to remind me to look for the same in my own books.

Lead characters need to be likable, maybe even lovable. Reminder to self: find "Save the Cat" from wherever it is in the house and READ IT. (The premise for the title is: even the most unlikable hero can be redeemed in the readers' eyes if they do something noble along the way, such as saving a cat that everyone else has overlooked. Though I've never read the book, I'm told that the way Mario Puzo made his Godfather a character his readers wouldn't hate, was by introducing him--the reader's first look--as someone who would right the wrongs visited upon his people when all their other avenues for justice had failed.)

Plots must make sense. Characters must not be TSTL (too stupid to live). Characters should have arcs, including more minor characters who still play fairly important parts. Villains should have redeeming characteristics so they don't devolve into cartoons.

And I must remind myself: chapters should have solid hooks at the end. Lately I've been busting my books up into chapters depending on page length, which just doesn't work a lot of the time though they follow publishers' guidelines. The new stuff should have definite hooks so the reader can't put the book down but must go on to the next chapter. Need to look back at my old stuff that hasn't been sent out and revise. Get those punches in!

Sounds like a lot of work. Think I'll take a nap and plan. Yeah, that's it. Plan.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Wow! Look at that!

I don't mean Hugh, though he certainly is so easy on the eyes!!! I mean the composition, the values, the colors! Whew--gorgeous!

You've got the blues in the background, the blues of his pants. The oranges, both dark and light, of his jacket as contrast to that, plus his skin also acting as an orange. The lightest blue of all is all the white, which forms the upper part of a value pattern that really caches the eye and focuses it.

It's a perfect complementary color composition. And I've always loved Payne's gray.

As for the movie, I see it's ranked quite low on the Tomatometer. That means it'll probably rake in millions, just from people who want to see visuals like this. With explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.

Must make some kind of still life or abstract out of this. Gorgeous!