I'm just here...writing

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Memorial Day

I didn't do much for Memorial Day, just stayed home with the family. The hubby and I did get to go see The Avengers, however.  He's not much in to Marvel movies, but I really enjoyed it!

My dad's gravestone arrived just in time for the holiday.  In my opinion, it's the nicest piece of marble in the entire cemetery.  It's not embedded straight into the ground but into a slab of concrete, which makes it look very neat and tidy.  A matching vase sits in the center of it and a picture of grazing cows are embedded into the surface (because he and Mom were dairy farmers for forty years).

Still, no matter how nice it looked, I wanted to cry all over again when I saw it.  The names on it--though they're spelled correctly and look very nice--just seem all wrong. I never imagined the day when I'd look down and see my parents' names on a grave.

My mom decided to get one of those double markers that married couple share. So, yeah, her name is on there too with her birthday and maiden name, all ready to join Dad in the ground.  That is really kind of disturbing for me. I don't think I'd be able to buy my own marker with my name and birthday already in it.  But who knows, maybe my views will change as I age.

The whole thing, and the coming of June, reminded me this would be the first year I didn't have a dad for Father's Day. Every year, I'd ask Mom what he needed and pretty much every year, she'd say, "Oh...I don't know.  He likes those chocolate-covered peanuts."  I think all eight of his children gave him chocolate-covered peanuts at least once for some Father's Day or another.

I was bemoaning my upcoming fatherless Father's Day to my hubby and he looked at me and said, "You can get me chocolate-covered peanuts." Made me want to cry some more.

My Numbers

 Aside from that, the world keeps turning, and I keep writing.

--I'm still waiting to hear back from my editor about my latest completed manuscript.  She's had the full manuscript for seventy-nine days and counting.  And no, in fact, I don't have any ends left on my fingernails!

--On Goodreads, I have fifteen one-star ratings for one book.  Yikes.  On the up side, that same story contains 238 five-star ratings.  Whew...I can breathe better again!

--I've counted and discovered I'm working on writing ten stories right now. Don't ask how that happened; I'm not so sure. They range from 500 words long to 28,000 words complete.  All together, I have 107,000 words written on all ten titles. Now if only I could figure out how to concentrate on ONE story at a time and spit out that many words, we might actually get somewhere.

So those are my numbers for today.  I thought you'd like to know...or maybe not, but there they are anyway!

My Kiddo

At two year and three months old, my child is constantly changing.  Her one successful day of potty training seems like a fuzzy dream. Most of the time, she resists the whole idea of sitting on her potty.  And when we do coax her into it, I swear she holds her bladder until she can get back into a diaper.

We tried the putting her in big-girl pants over the extended weekend and that just left lots of messes for Mom and Dad to clean up.  But at least she started to tell me when she'd gone.

After I lectured her the second time when we were cleaning up a mess, she simply looked at me, all serious like, and said, "Sorry, mama, sorry."  Yeesh.  You can't lecture a kid after that. I fumbled a moment to bite my tongue and keep from saying, "Awww," and finally managed to spit out, "well, uh, okay.  It's okay.  But try to tell me before you go next time, okay?"  And she answered, "okay," Though she lied, it was still the most adorable conversation.

The new things she says amuse me non-stop. Everything is still spoken in present tense, but she does use I instead of me (people tell me that's a good thing).  Here are some of her most common phrases.

--I go outside now. **while she stomps her foot in a serious manner and points forcefully toward the door**

--Mama, a doing?  (translation : what're you doing, mom?)

--Pick it up **while she holds up her arms and stares begging**   (translation : pick ME up.)

--Where dada?  (sometimes he's standing RIGHT there!  Other times I'll answer, "I don't know. Where IS dada?" and she'll grin and answer, "At work.")

--Go to grandma and grandpa's house. (Grandma is pronounced guh'MAW while grandpa is more like pam-paw)

--I got the ball! (that's probably her most clearly-said line that EVERYONE can understand.)

--When we go to Laina's house?  (Laina, her favorite cousin, is pronounced like Nay-nuh)

She can also recite/sing Patty Cake all by herself.  She misses a few lines here and there but she can get all the way to "throw it in a pan!"

Lydia's version of Patty Cake:

Patty cake, patty cake. Make-ERs man.
(She kind of skips, "bake me a cake as fast as you can")
Rolllllll it.
Mark it with an L. (the L is for Lydia, by the way)
And throw it in a pan!
(for Lydia and me!)

Here, maybe you should just watch it for yourself.

I know, she's too cute, huh?

Well...yeah, that's what I've been up to lately. Reading, writing, hanging out with the family, and going to my day job.  What's been on your plate lately?

Prejudiced Readers

Friday, May 25, 2012
I was loitering around the Amazon website the other day and stumbled across a customer's discussion forum titled, "How to Avoid Indie Authors."  The entire basis of the chat boggled my mind. Why would anyone want to avoid an author...any kind of author?

I know, gasp, right?

I had to read a couple things people had to say.

One person spoke about how picky he/she was about the stories he/she reads, especially in the one-dollar bin (well, then don't buy one-dollar books, huh?). This person also didn't like how indie-authored books sneaked into his/her "customers also bought this, recommended read list" when he/she clearly didn't want them there.

I was kind of curious why a person who's so picky about what her/she reads doesn't research an unknown story before he/she buys the book. Maybe I'm just a freak, but I like finding out everything I can about a book that's written by a new-to-me author BEFORE I buy it. And I wouldn't even say I'm a picky reader. As long as it's a romance, I'm usually good to go!

Another customer thought Amazon should somehow tag their indie author books so readers will know the difference...as if this would somehow sort between the good and the bad.

I didn't join the discussion because I'm an avoider of all things confrontational but here's what I itched to say:

I don’t think trying to avoid indie authors is the problem. A couple of my favorite books are written by indie authors. A couple of books that are totally not to my taste are written by huge publishing house authors. Also, sometimes indie author books are better edited than published books. Sometimes, they're not. In other cases, wonderful big-name authors are self-publishing their stories because they’re hoping to cut out the middle man and make a larger profit or maybe because they’re upset with their publishing house. Every instance is difference, and Indie or not Indie is not the issue.

The problem it sounds like you’re having is finding books that are well-written, well-edited, and to your personal taste. The only way to solve this dilemma is do research on a book before you purchase it. No matter how fancy Amazon or any company makes its search engine, it can’t go inside your head to see what you’re going to like 100% of the time. That’s up to you the buyer to find out.

Before you go all willy nilly pushing “buy now” buttons, try looking at the author's website and see what else they have written, read their excerpts, their blurbs, or the Kindle samples on Amazon. Read all the reviews in a diplomatic manner (understanding everyone has differences of opinion). Find out everything you can.

If you still want to hate on indies: check out the publisher under the Product Details information (just scroll down about ten inches and to the left under the buy button). If the author is the publisher or if no publisher is mentioned, it’s probably self-published. If you’ve never heard of the publishing house, do a quick google/bing/yahoo/whatever search, and if it doesn’t have a website, the book is probably self-published. 

Yet, that still won't guarantee whether you will or won’t like a book or how well it’s written. My books comes from publishing houses and I know I have loads to learn in the writing-well department. *clears throat hastily and flushes*

I suggest that if this really bothers you, you could also become a member of Goodreads or some such social network for book lovers, then look up your favorite stories. Find reviews from people who also totally love your favorite book and follow those reviewers. When you see what else they love, it might be a good guess you’ll like it too. But again, nothing is 100% guaranteed. 

A new book purchase always has its risks, but that's just part of the excitement about buying them. Will it be the best book you've ever read or another lemon?

So, what do you think?  Too snarky? Or wise and tactful?

Yeah, maybe a bit of both!!

What do you think about the topic though?  Or rather, do you yourself have prejudices against certain types of books or writers?  I've always thought an author was an author was an author; what kind of venue they use to get published means nothing and I'm not going to know if I actually like their book until I read it.

Though I have to admit, I have one prejudice when it comes to stories.  I like romantic happily-ever-after fiction.  I'll still read the "other" kind but I do try to avoid them!!

Joplin - One Year Later

Monday, May 21, 2012
Since I live only forty miles from Joplin, Missouri it was pretty much destined I'd have to talk about this, sorry.  But tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that ripped a messy path of destruction through Joplin, killing 160 people.

Here's my story of that day (it's much less dramatic than stories from people who were actually IN Joplin).

I had just come home from my niece's high school graduation.  My husband  left to ride four-wheelers with one of my nephews. I was putting Lydia down for a nap when a few weather alerts dinged on my cell phone, telling me to keep an eye out for thunderstorm watches.

When I checked the radar map online for my area, the storm was only a little bitty dot of rain; nothing to worry about. Or so I thought.  Soon, tornado watches, then tornado warnings popped up for my county. Warning in our area usually only mean cloud rotation in the air, ergo...it  still wasn't much to worry about.

But it could always become more. So I packed up the kiddo and went to my mom's house half a mile away because it's much more comfortable to camp out in her full, finished basement then hide in my tiny little bug-infested concrete storm shelter.

I stuck around Mom's house an hour or so. It rained a little there, not much. When the little bitty speck of a storm (on the may anyway) passed our area, I stayed and kept chatting with my mother until Doug Heady (that's our main TV news meteorologist guy) broke into regularly scheduled programing to report a tornado was actually ON the ground. Say what?

And it was just entering Joplin.

Since Doug--or rather his TV station--has SkyWatch cameras set up all over the viewing area, he flipped over to the Joplin camera to see if we could actually watch the tornado. The funnel was rain-wrapped, so I don't think anyone saw too much of it.  But what we could see through the rain-splotched camera lens was debris flying in the distance. There were also sparks of light, making me wonder if it was electrical lines exploding or lightning striking.

I tell you, it feels strange to watch something like that LIVE on TV, knowing houses are getting ripped apart, people probably getting hurt. The hair stands up on the back of your neck, er, all over your head really.

Then the SkyWatch camera screen went blank; we couldn't see ANYTHING anymore.  And that strange someone-just-walked-over-your-grave feelings just multiplied.  My stomach plummeted down into my knees.

The local news wasn't able to get into the city to report much of what had happened until about ten that evening, but some famous storm chaser dude followed it into town, and after we switched the station from the local news, we watched the destruction on the national news, and were utterly shocked.  The hospital where my mom had gotten her hip replacement and my father had gotten his 5-bypass heart surgery had been shifted four inches on its foundation and the top two floors had been torn off.

Before we went to bed that night, the news claimed the death count was 39. When we woke up in the morning, the count had moved up to 79. And every day, it just grew higher as more and more people were found or more died in surrounding hospitals.

We began to hear the personal stories almost immediately of:

--The Pizza Hut manager who tired to hold the freezer door shut by tethering it to his arm with a bungee cord. He--and the door--were sucked out into the storm. (He didn't survive)

--The St. Johns surgeon who was operating on someone while the building was being hit. He kept on operating, but he knew it had to be bad outside when his ears started to pop and one of the nurses had to hold the operation room door shut by bracing it with his back. (Everyone in that room survived)

--The father who was found holding his two children in his arms after the tornado hit Home Depot. (none of them survived)

--The St. Johns worker who helped evacuate patients from the sixth floor of the hospital and saw people flying down the hall. (he survived)

--The high school graduate who was driving home from his graduation and was sucked from the sunroof of his Hummer after his seat belt snapped. (didn't survive)

--The woman who was eight-months pregnant and couldn't open the doors of her '87 Jeep Cherokee to get out of the storm. She merely clutched her arms around her mother in the passenger's seat over the center console as they sat parked outside the Aldi's Grocery store. (She, her mom, and baby survived)

My favorite radio station airs out of Joplin, so every day for weeks following the tornado, I drove to work listening to more and more tales of heartbreak: people calling in to look for loved ones, people calling in, wondering how they could claim the bodies of loved ones. I don't know if I ever arrived to work dry-eyed back then.


A day has not passed since May 22nd, 2012 that Joplin recovery efforts have NOT been mentioned on my local evening news. But rebuilding has definitely started and flourished.
Joplin was featured on the last episode of Extreme Makeover : Home Edition.  They built seven houses in one week.

Tonight, the Joplin High School will have their high school graduation with President Obama giving the commencement address. I guess each graduate was given eight tickets to hand out to family members.  But, yeah, some of them are selling their tickets on Craigslist...only $75 dollars a piece!

To read more personal stories about heroes from May 22nd, you can visit Joplin Storm Heroes.

To see the memorial page, naming all the Joplin victims, you can visit Joplin Memorial (but beware, it's a tear-jerker, especially when you get to the picture of the sixteen-month-old baby).

And that's about all I have to say about that.  What's the closest any kind of big destruction has ever come to your home?

Story Outline Tips

Friday, May 18, 2012
Here are couple neat tips I've learned from skimming Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel workbook about...

Writing Outlines:

  • Try writing the outline BEFORE the story is complete.
    • (I've actually gone back into a finished manuscript and changed it while constructing an outline because I learned what one of the conflicts were and I suddenly knew which parts of the story I need to strengthen. **And just because you write an outline before a story's finished, doesn't mean you have to follow it.  You can always change it once the story is complete** Writing outlines before finishing the book is supposed to help give you direction in what you want your story to work toward.)
  •  Make it a creative act.
    • (If you try to be all professional and "just give the facts, ma'am," you're going to get bored writing it, which means your readers will get bored reading it. Try to give it the voice and flair and mood you gave your story.)
  • Attempt to include these three main parts in your outline.
    • Fundamentals (who, what, when, where plus what the protagonist wants, why they want it, and what's keeping them from getting it)
    • Highlights (instead of doing a chapter-by-chapter spiel of what happens, only highlight the biggest moments in the story of what the protagonist does to get what she/her wants, detail the most important factors that get in his/her way, mention his/her biggest inner conflicts, and maybe toss in one or two very small but impacting moments of dialogue.)
    • Resolution (Mention what changes in the story and tell how the protagonist did or didn't reach his/her goals.)

I've concluded there are three main types of outlines you need to come up with when/before/after writing your story. You need a: 
    • Synopsis (two to ten pages, depending on submission guidelines of the place you're querying)
    • Blurb (around 150 words. This can be a paragraph in the query letter you send or maybe it's the back cover blurb for your book, sometimes both)
    • Tag Line (approximately ten to fifteen words long. A cool tip in the writing-help book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is "make it ironic" -- ie. Twilight "So the lion fell in love with the lamb")

So I have a story idea brewing in my head. I barely have a few thousands words jotted down in a scattered, unorganized mess. But I tried to think up a quick blurb-type outline for it before going any further. I tried to make it creative and capture the voice of my protagonist. And I tried cramming in the fundamentals, the highlights plus allude to the resolution.This is what I came up with:
If Harry Potter had been a girl, raised in America, do you think this is what she’d say?

As a teen witch, you’d think I totally rock, right? I mean, I’m a witch. Hello. But honestly, I don’t. Example: I hate Emma Greer more than … well I just hate her, okay. But when I brewed a tonic to turn her beautiful golden locks into the color and consistency of broom bristles, I flubbed the whole thing up. Who knew half an extra mushroom would transform my bad-hair revenge into a love potion? Now my hot boy crush is crazy about HER while I’m still the lamest witch this side of the cafeteria.

Just when I swore to myself I would never again attempt another potion, the boy of my dreams—literally—who explodes into my life—again, literally—needs MY help to save the world. Is this my chance to finally prove I’m not a complete failure, or is all human kind doomed under my spell? But more importantly, will I get my first kiss before I turn sixteen or die an old maid like my two strange aunts?

What do you think? Should I pursue finishing this story or not??

I Like Do's Better than Don'ts

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Have you ever been given directions by someone and their directions only confuse the heck out of you?
"Well, you go three blocks along A street until you come to the B factory.  But don't turn there.  Turn right another block down.  If you pass the C station, you've gone too far.  So from the right turn a block after B factory, don't turn at the second light, but take a left at the third, and travel another five..."

At this point, I just blink at the direction giver and say, "Huh?"

That's because there are too many do's and don't confusing me.

My mom once read somewhere that people who are taught how to spot counterfeit bills are only shown the features of a genuine bill.  That way when they see a bill that doesn't have all the features they studied, they know it's a fake. If you showed them both types and tried to detail all the differences, after a while, it'd get confusing and would be easier for them to forget which is which, only knowing they remembered seeing this feature on ONE of the bills.

Since entering the writing world, I've come across so many do's and don't list, they're starting to blur into one big jumbled mess in my head. Publishers, agents, review sites, bloggers, authors...they all have their own pet peeves and preferences they like to tell everyone they do and don't like. What's worse, what one person likes, another might detest.

Five billion people on the planet with five billion different likes and dislikes....all on one social media network (okay, there are many networks, but you get my drift, right?). After a while, it gets harder and harder to do something that doesn't upset someone else.  Makes you want to clutch your hair in your hands and exclaim, "Pet Peeves are my new pet peeve!" Which makes me exactly the same as everyone else with their do's and don'ts. What a strange, ironic cycle huh?!

What's worse, when I read a new pet peeve list and find I actually do one or two items on that person's list, I feel all singled out, like the author is pointing directly at me saying, "Yes, I'm talking about YOU, Linda Kay!"  Yikes. Besides, it's kind of upsetting to learn I'M the "annoying" type. I really hate learning I'm annoying. Talk about a duck-your-head-in-shame moment.

After cowering away in humiliation, I just want to argue and whine, "but....but...I was told to join all these social networking sites to promo my book. Now you're saying don't do this, this and this?  I'm soooo confused. Just tell me what I'm supposed to do that's RIGHT!"

So until I can un-scramble my brain and organize all my newly learned intel into something understandable, I'm gonna take a mini break from researching new promotional techniques! It's back to the basics of story crafting for me.

On Friday, I'll provide some "do" tips I've learned about writing story outlines!

What about you?  Are you a fan of the do's and don't list?  I keep reading them, so I must find them useful. But I do prefer discovering what I'm supposed to be doing more than leaning what I'm not supposed to be doing!!

My Chatty Post

Friday, May 11, 2012
I feel chatty today.

At work, I sit in a back corner by myself with few human interruptions, so I don't talk much there. And since my husband switched to evening shift--working six days on and three days off--I only see him in passing these days. Ergo I only have one two-year-old left in my house to talk to and even she has started saying, “Shhh…” if I sing anything around her now.

So, that leaves...well, you guys to jabber at, sorry. And I have all sorts of strange topics to discuss!

Mother’s Day

So I came home on Wednesday from work, turned into my driveway and found this…my Mother’s Day present!!

2012 Mother's Day

I know, I know. Why would my husband give me a crappy old red truck with a flat tire for Mother’s Day?

No, no. It’s the two trees there are my present. They’re oak, I’m told, and the leaves are supposed to turn red in the fall. We decided last year that my Mother’s Day presents would be trees…or maybe just yard stuff. It’ll be a tradition. So, now I have four trees (last year, we got two Maples), and two flowers. It’s getting crowded around here, huh?!

2011 Mother's Day - Last Year
2011 Mother's Day - This Year

My trees from last year are much smaller that this year's haul. I must’ve been a better mom this year. Not really though..hmm, maybe this is an incentive for me to be better. Anyway, see how much the Maples have grown. Okay, so it's not much, but give them some time.  They'll grow!

Writing: Like Coloring on the TV

I can tell that showing you how my trees are growing is boring…almost like watching the grass grow, huh? So we’ll subject change.

My kiddo has taken a liking to the children’s show, The Color Crew. We bought her some crayons and a coloring book, which she loves. She still doesn’t know how to color inside a line yet, but she has at least started using different colors to scribble over specific parts of a page.It's progress.

But...a few weeks ago, I walked into the living room while she was watching The Color Crew, and she was standing right in front of our new big screen Wi-fi TV we got for Christmas with my royalty money with a crayon in her hand.

“Look, Mama, look. I color,” she cried with pride and pointed at the screen.

I looked, and saw crayon marks all OVER the bottom half of the screen.

Well, after clutching my hair in both hands and screaming, “NOOOOOOO!” the pride instantly dropped from her face. Her eyes growing big, she threw all incriminating evidence over her shoulder, and dashed to the couch where she hid her body on top of the cushions.

I was too upset to rage at her further, but I did pick her up and march her back to her crib (aka, the jail cell) for a time out. She cried the whole way.

Later, I felt bad about her misery. She looked so happy about what she’d done. She’d just followed The Color Crew’s advice and colored like they said to do.

Made me think about my stories. I put so much time and effort into them and a little bit of my soul before I rework and rework and rework it some more. In my head, it’s perfect. I'm just so proud of what I accomplished.

Then some critique partner, or editor, or reviewer, or whatever comes along and clutches her face in her hands before screaming, “Nooooo! That’s all wrong.”

It’s not until that moment, I can more objectively look at my masterpiece and think, “Oh, crap. Look at that. That’s just wrong.”

So now I know:

1 – to put away the crayons whenever my child is watching The Color Crew and,
2 – I’m really blind when it comes to my own story. I NEED someone else to look at it to see what I can’t see.

Side note: Washable crayon marks come right off a television screen with the use of glasses cleaner and wipes.

Flash Drive Update

So if you keep up with my blog at all, you might know I accidentally bent the heck out of my flash drive that stored ALL of my writing endeavors on it. I’m doing okay with the backup files I did manage to make, but I’m beginning to get to the point where it’d be real handy if I had a few certain files that are on that drive.

So last week, I found a computer place that said they may be able to solder (whatever that means) the broken points back together and retrieve some of the information. I put down $30 which covers the first thirty minutes of work.

I have awful listening skills, so I couldn’t remember if they said they’d call me when it was finished, or if it’d be ready the next day. Eight days passed with no call, so I called them. My files are not retrieved yet, but someone is "on that." And now I know....they’ll call me when it's ready.

But ack!! Eight days have passed, and I’m seriously hoping I don’t have a huge, ginormous bill whenever this is finished. Maybe $30 covers all of it.  I hope so.

Fingers crossed there.


And finally, last topic I’m going to chat about…

I haven’t mentioned this on my blog yet, so I’ll mention it now since I’m obviously on a talking roll. A group of authors who blog for The Writers Vineyard put together a free eCookbook (but the main person who handled all the big and fine details was Michael Davis…give the man a big hand!).

Anyway, the cookbook is now available at for your reading and cooking pleasure at a few places like:

Funny story: I put this link for the cookbook up on my Facebook page on Wednesday, then came into work on Thursday to a co-worker telling me her husband makes spaghetti lasagna (the recipe I contributed to the cookbook) all the time. She prefers it to regular spaghetti. So there you have it: proof my recipe isn’t nasty!


And with that, I’m all talked out! I wish you all a happy Mother’s Day with lots of memorable cooking adventures (that don’t involve catching your oven on fire).  Have a great weekend!

Waiting by Numbers

Monday, May 7, 2012
Have you ever noticed how important numbers become when you're impatiently waiting for something?  When I was younger, it was always...360 days until Christmas or 152 days until my next birthday, 10 days until summer break, five days since I turned in that job resume.

Well, it's no different in the writing world. And I confess, I keep track.  I just can't help it.  Here are my current numbers.

It's been....

--5 days since I last wrote on my current work in progress.  I was 13,000 words into the story when my muse went on an extended weekend break. Just waiting for it to come back!

--56 days since I sent in the requested full manuscript to my editor who is reviewing my most recently submitted work.  Just waiting to hear back from her.

--235 days since I last signed a contract and sold a story. Hoping to sign another!!!

And in...

--8 days, I'll get to see my next royalty report, telling me how well (or not so well) one of my latest releases, The Right to Remain Mine, did on it's first two months of release.

--130 day, 16 hours, and 15 minutes, my next book, The Color of Grace will release.  Just waiting for a book cover and edits before I start promotional efforts.

And I'm sure I have more numbers I'm waiting by, but I won't bore you with them.

So what about you?  Are you waiting for anything?  Are you keeping track?

PS: Here's another number I heard this morning!  The Avengers just beat Harry Potter as the biggest first weekend box office hit ever.  It made over two hundred million this weekend.  So now I'm waiting until I can see this movie!!!