Thursday, March 31, 2016

Today's Blog Post

I'm in the process of migrating to a new site and my blog is up and running there. At least, I hope it is. I scheduled today's blog post there and it looks to me like it showed up. If you have a minute to check it out, you'll find it here:

13 Things that Start with "C"

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

13 Things That Start with "B"

1. Books have always been a major part of my life. I can't remember a time when I didn't treasure them. In fact, I'm still pretty peeved at my mother for selling my Nancy Drew books to buy my brother a set of Hardy Brothers books which he never read. 

2. Book Clubs. I love talking books almost as much as I love reading books. For many years, I was in a book club with several  women I went to high school with plus a few I didn't. I moved away six years ago, so I can't attend that book club anymore, but recently joined one here in Florida. We're currently reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Okay, so I'll admit I haven't started it yet, but I will. Soon. 

3. Brothers. I have one. He's six years younger than me. I also have a terrific brother-in-law. There are so many things I could say about them, I don't even know where to begin. Let's just say that I love them both to the moon and back. 

4. Burnout. What happens to writers when they write too much, too fast. Unfortunately, the creative process has to include time to regenerate creative energy and in the quest to make a living too many of us don't build that recuperative time into our schedules. Sooner or later, it catches up with all of us. Nobody can escape it forever. 

5. Blood Sugar. Because Diabetes doesn't begin with B. A few months ago, I discovered that what I thought was solely burnout (see above) was actually made much more severe by a case of previously un-diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, so now I'm hyper-aware of my blood sugar count on a daily basis and how awful I feel whenever it gets too high or too low. 

6. Broccoli. Sounds weird, I know, but I've always been a grazer. I feel much better when I don't let a lot of time build up between meals, and it's even more important now that I need to watch my blood sugar. Of all the low-carb, healthy snacks I've seen, read about, or tried, broccoli is my current favorite. 

7. Balance. The thing I am always actively seeking in my life. I try to have a life balanced between family, faith, and work, but I don't always succeed. 

8. Beatles. I'm old enough to remember when they first burst onto the music scene. As a girl, I used to play "Beatles" with my friends. We'd get our mother's brooms and pretend they were guitars and we'd stand out on the street (we lived on a very quiet street) and sing and "play" until grouchy old Mr. Tibesaur came home and tried to run us over for playing in the street. When we weren't actually being the Beatles, we picked boyfriends. Everyone always wanted Paul, but I was a George Harrison gal.

9. Bankruptcy. I spent more than 15 years of my life working in the close-knit world of bankruptcy law. I went from being a legal secretary, to an office administrator, to a judicial assistant at the federal court before I finally quit to become a full-time writer.

10. Barbie Doll. I loved my Barbie because she wasn't like everyone else's Barbie. My Barbie had lovely black hair, so I could always tell her apart when playing with friends. She survived quite nicely until my brother (see above) decided she needed to go swimming in a hole someone dug in the field next door. (I have no conclusive evidence that said brother dug the hole. I only know he took full advantage of it.) He wrapped Barbie in Scotch tape (he claims this was to protect her from the dirty water), tied a string around her waist, and dipped her in the muddy water. The Scotch tape must have worked. I still have her and shes still in my original Barbie case under my bed.

11. Bicycle. Okay, this isn't so much part of my life now, but it once was. My sister and I used to ride our bikes all over the place. This was back in the day that a kid could take off on a bike in the morning (or maybe after lunch) and just be told to be home in time for supper. There was one hill (I think it was Grand Avenue in Billings, MT) where we would zoom down one side and, if we could get going fast enough, coast almost all the way to the top on the other side of the gully. It was awesome! 

12. Band. True confession time. For 9 or 10 years when I was young, I played the keyboard and sang vocals in a band. It was just a local thing, but we were pretty well known in certain circles in our area. Here we are playing ... somewhere. I'm on the far left behind the keyboard. 

13. Beach. I grew up in the west near the mountains, and there are still days when I wake up wanting to take a drive up one of the canyons, but right now I live about 5 minutes away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We have white sand and emerald-green water, and it's beautiful. When my youngest daughter and the grandkids lived near me, and her husband was deployed, we went to the beach every morning. Now that they've moved, I don't spend as much time in the sand as I used to. I probably should get out more.

Scratch that. I definitely should get out more. 


photo credit: 100_8962 via photopin (license)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

St Paddys Day Giveaway

Between March 13th and March 20th, you have a chance to win some leprechaun gold! These amazing authors are giving away a $100 Amazon gift card. Don't miss out!

For more information visit Mary's Garden

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

13 Things That Start With "A"

Just for the fun of it -- 13 things in my life that begin with "A" 

1. Apple peeler/corer. I don't use it as often I'd like to, but it's pretty much the coolest thing ever.

2. Apple slicer: a handy-dandy gadget that has become my new favorite kitchen tool. You can pick them up for around $5 at the grocery store, and they make coring and slicing apples easy as pie! 

3. Afghans I've crocheted. I don't even know how many there are, but it's something I've always loved doing. I used to have one in the works all the time. Lately, not so much. It's just too hot and  humid here in Florida to have a heavy wool blanket laying across your lap, even in the depths of winter. Still, I find working on a crocheted afghan soothing and hope I can get back to them some day. 

4. Angel. She's not with us anymore, but this dog is still a huge part of my heart. I got her for my youngest daughter after an illness. The dog was supposed to help her heal. Well, she did her job, and then my daughter got married and moved out, and Angel stayed with me until the day she died. She was a magnificent dog, really. She could jump down 5 stairs at a time and sail over an 8 foot fence without even breathing hard. She's still one of my favorite things. Here she is with one of the afghans I crocheted. For some reason the colors and pattern of this one appealed to her, and she claimed it as her own.

5. Autumn. It's the time of year when I was born, and I think it's my favorite time of year. I love the cool nights, the moderating temperatures in the day, the leaves as they change colors, the smell of the soil, the sound of leaves underfoot as I walk. I love Halloween decorations and school bulletin boards, and gourds and squash. I just love it all.

6. Alabama. No, I don't live there, but I live right "next door" and can get there in less than an hour. The part of Florida where I live is less like you'd think of as Florida and more like lower Alabama. .

7. Anne Tyler. She's not really part of my life, but I love her books so she makes the cut. 

8. Amazon: Not because I spend so much time shopping there, but because, since taking the leap into the indie publishing world, I spend a great deal of time there putting books from my backlist up on the site and making them available for sale. It's become a rather large part of my life lately. 

9. Avocados. Delicious, especially when made into my cousin Angie's guacamole recipe. 

10. Alaska. I went several years ago and had a wonderful time. The scenery is amazing and the people fascinating. I hate the signs documenting how many moose have been killed along the highways. It's sad. Beautiful land. Everyone ought to go once.

11. Arkansas. It's where my dad and both of his parents were born. Even though I've never lived there, my ancestry gives me a connection to the state--at least in my own mind. It's also a much prettier state than you might think. Los of rolling hills and thick, wooded area. Apparently also a lot of rocky soil. 

12. Ancestors. I was raised to do genealogy. It's in my blood. I've known the names of my great- and great-great-grandparents.for as long as I can remember. I find doing genealogy fascinating and only wish I could just hop on a plane and jet off to France or Germany or England to learn more about my ancestors like they do on shows like Finding Your Roots or Who Do You Think You Are? 

13. Acadia National Park. One of my favorite places on earth. Admittedly, I'm a National Park nut. It's one of my dreams to visit every park in the US and Canada before I die. Yellowstone National Park is my favorite, but Acadia ranks right up there. It's beautiful. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Organizing 101...or 2

Years ago, when I was first starting to work from home full-time, I decided to declutter and organize my home office. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward task, but it turned out to be much more involved, layered, and difficult than I had imagined. The problem was, I'd been using my office as a catch-all for everything else. Everything I didn't want to see went into the office. Everything I planned to do later went into the office. Everything I didn't have time to do at all went into the office. Everything that didn't have a specific home elsewhere in the house went into the office.

I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression, so I was trained to keep stuff, to repurpose stuff, to make stuff do, to fix stuff. Tossing stuff wasn't on the agenda most of the time.

Ask my brother or my daughters about the time we tried to drink all the juice left over at the end of  our vacation. It never occurred to any of us until we'd almost made ourselves sick that we could throw perfectly good juice away. That mindset sometimes makes it difficult to declutter and organize.

The idea of reorganizing the office became critical when I realized that I was having a lot of trouble working in there. I took a good look around and tried to figure out what te problem was. It had lovely windows looking out on the street, lots of good light, a big desk, bookshelves, and a closet for storing stuff, so I didn't realize the problem immediately.

It took some time to figure out that I'd filled the room with all kinds of things that needed my attention--bills to pay, clothes to iron or mend, papers to sort and file away, photographs and mementos to organize and scrapbook. Every time I walked into the office, I was pulled in a hundred different directions, and that made it really hard to be creative.

After a while I realized that in order to make my home office a workable space for me, I had to allow only the things I needed to practice my craft inside the room, and I needed to ban everything that needed me.

It was a great lesson and one that served me well for a long time. I got pretty good at following the advice to handle things once (mostly.) Instead of carting the day's mail into the house and creating a pile of paper to be sorted later, I tossed what I didn't want before I even walked through the door. I tried to move through my days much like my mother had, more slowly than was my usual pace, but more focused, working on one thing until I finished it and then moving on to the next task instead of rabbiting around the house doing a little bit of everything and never really getting anything "done."

And then I moved. And then I moved again. And then life happened. And now my home office is right back to where it was before. I'm ashamed to admit there's even an old TV sitting in there in the middle of the floor. Good grief! How did that happen?

Isn't that how it goes? (Please tell me that's how it goes at other houses besides mine!) I guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

photo credit: 2011.07.13 - Surroundings via photopin (license)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Getting it Together

I was doing so well at blogging on a schedule ... and then the holidays hit and then a cold or the flu or a wicked combination of both hit, and here I am, dragging myself back into the land of the living and trying to get back onto some kind of schedule...again.

I don't know how it is for you, but for me it's a never-ending battle. There's always much more to do in the space of 24 hours than one mere mortal can possibly get done. That being the case, the days become a juggling act for as long as a person can manage to keep all the balls in the air.

Eventually, though, luck runs out and we're forced to make choices, and much as I hate to admit it, that's where I am right now. Do I keep four different blogs running (and I use that term loosely) or do I give up on a couple and concentrate on the other two? Do I give time and attention on a daily basis to the books I wrote under a pseudonym a few years ago--books I still love, by the way--or do I focus on the books form my backlist that I'm releasing again in Kindle format?

I'd love to do it all. Really, I would. In my dream world, I would get all of the Dancing on Coals workshops for writers revised and published in Kindle format, and I'd even produce a few new workshops on subjects I hadn't tackled when I stopped actively conducting workshops every month.

I'd lavish attention on Candy Shop mysteries I wrote as Sammi Carter and I'd tweet and be active as Sammi on Facebook. In my spare time, I'd judge lots and lots of writing contests, while still having time to exercise and eat right and spend time with my family.

It's just not possible.

Still, it's hard to turn your back on a pen name that was a huge part of your life for several years and to let books you would love to see doing well languish instead. But either I give time and attention to the old books--at the expense of new books I could be writing--or I let the older ones find their own way while I nurture new books into the world.

After reading the six books in the Fred Vickery series again to get them ready for Kindle release, I realized why readers are still, all these years later, asking me for more books in the series. I agree with them: I can't leave the characters that way. And there's my current WIP, a book I'm calling by the working title Dead on Arrival that's been nagging at me since 2008.

And there are big books, contemporary and historical and maybe even a few more time travels, and that Christmas romance that's been niggling at the back of my brain for the past few months. And the novellas I'd like to have ready to give away to readers next holiday season ...

And there are blogs to write and social media to visit, and covers to design and approve and ...

I'm not complaining. We're all way too busy. This is just my particular brand of busy, and honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything--except maybe unlimited leisure time to spend with the grandkids. I mean, a woman can dream, can't she?

photo credit: Tu tires ou tu pointes ? via photopin (license)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Day 3 - Your Favorite Series

I started doing a 30-Day Book Meme on Sammi Carter's blog a couple of weeks ago. It's not actually a 30-Day meme with me. More like a 30-ish-week meme. Because I'm easily distracted, and something else may come up that I'd rather talk about, or should talk about ... or whatever.

In case you're interested, you can find Day One here.

And you can find Day Two here.

Today's prompt--or should I say this week's prompt--is to discuss my favorite series.

Naturally, I have more than one series that could fit here and, naturally, it's a bit of a chore to figure out which one I should rate as #1.

There's the fabulous Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I haven't read all of the books in the series, but I've enjoyed every one that I have read. Amelia is a delightfully unreliable narrator and I love her view of the world, her family, and especially of herself.

There's the Candy Shop Mystery series by Sammi Carter and the Piece of Cake Mystery series by Jacklyn Brady, not to mention the Fred Vickery Mystery series by yours truly. Some might argue that I'm a bit prejudiced and it would be true. I am. But I love each of these series and every character in them, so I include them here.

How could I list any series without including Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple books? Though not series as we think of them now, they remain among my favorites and probably always will. Of the two sleuths, I think I prefer Miss Marple--at least I did when I was younger. I need to read them again to find out if my perspective has changed.

I could go on and on, but I suppose I should get down to the nitty-gritty of it and just deal with the issue at hand. If I had to pick one series and label is my favorite today, it would be he Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

Ruth is an interesting protagonist--a normal sort of woman who carries a few extra pounds and who doesn't always do everything exactly right, which is why I relate to her. She has self-doubt that rings true to me, as opposed to the made up kind of self-doubt you find in so many books. The character needs a flaw and the author provides one, but it never really rings entirely true. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist who is frequently consulted by the police on cases. Her relationship with DCI Harry Nelson and his wife is interesting and, again, truthful. Griffiths' writing is clean and precise and evocative and it transports me into Ruth's world with every single book.

I stumbled across the series at the library one day and began with the 5th book in the series, A Dying Fall. I enjoyed it so much I went back to the beginning and read them all, reading #5 again when I got to it in order. Though the book stood alone beautifully, when I read it as part of the series, I enjoyed the story all over again with my new understanding of the series and the characters.

I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment!