First quarter of 2013 - Overcoming Inertia

Now that the bombers have been caught and America (especially those of us who live and/or work near target cities like D.C.) can let out that breath we were collectively holding through most of last week, I can get to that blog post that I had been planning before last week's tragedy. I didn't so much make a New Year's resolution for 2013 as a sort of pledge to myself at the beginning of the year to step out of my comfort zone. If left to my own devices, I would be a hermit and by hermit, I mean never picking up the phone, only communicating through email and only going to the store to buy food and craft supplies. I am by nature and introvert with a capital I. This is one of the reasons that being a writer is a good fit for me. It's also one of the reasons why my writing and other creative efforts tend to fly under the radar.

Through an unfortunate series of events toward the end of 2012, I was rather forcibly made to look at the state of my life, career, accomplishments…and realize that I was pretty much being that hermit that my little hater (for a definition of "little hater" see this video) would like me to be. I did a little research and realized that two of the professions in America that are most prone to depression are Writer and Stay-at-Home-Mom and for much the same reason. The work is solitary, and the recognition of success is almost non-existent. Oh, and the pay sucks.

Of course as a Write-at-Home-Mom I'm like a Double Strength Depression Magnet. This is not to say that I was depressed or am now nor was I in January, but I did suffer from Post-partum depression after my daughter was born, so I know enough to recognize the turn off for that bumpy road to Misery Town.

It became strikingly apparent to me that if anyone was ever going to read the novel that I had just finished much less publish it, and if I was going to emotionally survive the process of submission and rejection that will eventually get me there, I would have to start interacting with more people and putting myself out there.

So instead of a resolution, I personally declared this the year of stepping out, putting myself out there for people to see and basically changing what normal is for me. With that in mind. I did a number of things.

  • I cut off the long hair that I'd been hiding behind for years.
  • I joined a gym, and started going to classes. For an introvert who's been overweight since puberty, I can't overstate how big a step it is to work out in front of other people. It's huge.
  • I joined a local critique group where writers come and read their work to be critiqued in person. I'm no stranger to public speaking, I actually enjoy it, but it's a first for me to be reading/speaking in front of people about anything other than tax software or instructional design.
  • I joined a very thorough online critique group that tackles one member's novel every 2 weeks. I like this because it forces me to stick to their schedule instead of pushing things off as I am prone to do. And right now, they're all reading The River Maiden. I can't wait to hear their feedback.
  • I eventually started working with a personal trainer.
  • I sent The River Maiden out to beta readers. This is very big, because it's been in my head for over 10 years. These characters are very personal to me, and I feel protective of them.

My results have been a little mixed. I haven't lost as much weight as I think I should have in 3+ months, but I am much more physically fit than I was in January (and probably have been in years), and I push myself further every week. I also feel 100 times better than I did last year. I'm actually starting to enjoy the feeling of sore muscles and dripping sweat. I learned that even when stepping out of my comfort zone, I'm not interesting in getting my hair cut every 3 weeks which is the approximate time that it takes from my short curls to grow from cute and sassy to old lady hair helmet. So, I'll be letting it grow out a bit.

In the second quarter of this landmark year, I'm planning to…

  • Start querying agents for The River Maiden. I'm happy to take recommendations from anyone who knows a good agent
  • Keep showing my work to more people
  • Keep building my online social media presence
  • Overhauling my etsy store, something I've been putting off for too long.

…among other things. I'll update you on my progress.


"Choose a suitable design and hold to it."

I am a plotter. I think I've mentioned this before. I'm always amazed when I hear people say they just write by the seat of their pants. I can't even conceive of the idea of writing without knowing how something is going to end. Maybe it's my non-fiction background, or my academic bent, but for anything larger than flash fiction I have to have an outline. I think it was probably said best by those wise writing gurus Strunk & White. "Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur."

This is not to say that I'm never carried away by a scene or character into something that I hadn't foreseen or planned. Much of the Alex Budge parts of The River Maiden were expanded based on the strength of the character as he appeared in my head while I was writing. Still, I start a project knowing where I will end and what things need to be covered along the way.

Now, I started writing The River Maiden years ago, and when I did I had a very useful mind mapping program that helped us turn abstract ideas into outlines. Unfortunately, since I no longer work for that company, I don't have access to that program anymore. So, now that I'm in the process of plotting the next book, and was looking for a way to get all of the various themes of this book that have been swimming around in my head into some sort of outline. I found a few methods for plotting a novel, including mind mapping as I had done before. But I also found the information about how to use a snowflake diagram.

That's a lot of very specific steps (so specific that they've now made software for it) that get down to more specifics than I'm ready for right now. Instead I'm using it help me layer the various themes of the plot. I have 6 main themes and each section is for outlining that theme and how it all fits together.  I built my own tool for using the snowflake diagram using a folding foam board.


This helped me brainstorm the different movements of the plot and how each of the main characters get to where they need to be at the end. Instead of going through all of those steps however useful they may be, I used the snowflake structure to organize my brainstorming. Since I've had some scenes running through my brain for a while now, this gives me a chance to get them out and organize the. Not all of these points of the snowflake have specific events lined up with them, but it does give me a look at what is needed to move Sarah and Dermot and company to where they will be at the end of this book. While brainstorming the plot, I used the side panels to note locations and characters who need to be fleshed out further. I did this with post-its on the board so that I can move things around as needed. This also enables me to use the board again for the next project (did I mention I'm cheap?).

Snowflaking as we've started to call it around here is becoming quite the thing. My six year old is even using it to plot her work-in-progress "The Day it Rained Kittens". I helped with the writing, but the plot points are hers. I can't tell you how important organization is when your story is being dictated by a six year old.


Favorite Literary Crushes - Darcy and beyond

By pure coincidence, today marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice, and just a few days ago I got word that Dermot Sinclair is the object of his first reader crush by way of one of the lovely folks on who has read the first three acts of The River Maiden. It's incredibly gratifying to have created a character worthy of a reader crush and since I've had a crush on Dermot for ages, it's nice to know I'm not alone.  41NDXC2JR4L._SL500_AA300_Of course one of my first reader crushes is Fitzwilliam Darcy. Because really how can a girl resist a guy that by turns calls you plain and refuses to dance with you, tells you your family is and embarrassment and then goes completely out of his way to fix things when your ridiculous sister practically makes your family untouchable all the while trying VERY hard not to seem in the least bit vulnerable and failing miserably until he says something like this.

"By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." Oh, Darcy!

Of course, Darcy isn't just the romantic hero of Pride & Prejudice, and many adaptations since. He is all of the guys that look down their noses at smart, witty girls who don't quite fit in. He's the society that tries to tell us to be one way, because that's what's expected of us when all we want is to be another. And Elizabeth Bennett manages by persistently being herself and speaking her mind to bring him around to appreciating those very things that make her different and special. And he manages by being there when she needs him to show her that sometimes what society wants for you isn't completely intolerable.

I love Jane Austen with her sharp eye and witty pen. If there is a heaven for writers, I like to imagine Jane Austen, Johnathan Swift, Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker relaxing over a few drinks and having a great laugh over some of the more overwrought and self-important writers in literary history. My husband likes to sneer at my love for Jane Austen almost as much as he sneers at my love of romance novels. But, what he doesn't realize is that Austen's novels are just as full of social commentary as the Sci-fi and post-apocalyptic speculative fiction books that he likes to read. Same scathing look at society, just wrapped up in corsets and ribbons instead of gadgets and gun straps.

There are today on HuffPost Books two articles arguing the merits of the  two most visible actors to play Darcy in the last 30 years. There is of course Colin Firth who plays Darcy so well, he's done it in the BBC mini-series and in both Bridget Jones movies. There is also an article making a credible argument in favor of Matthew MacFadyen. This article has some good points, and had me wondering if part of my own preference for Colin Firth's Darcy wasn't wrapped up in my strong preference for Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth to Kiera Knightly's. Still, it left me wondering about other people's preferences.

This naturally led me to wonder about people's preferences for OTHER literary crushes. Such as, Edward Rochester, or Heathcliff.  Click on each one for a list of actors who have played these roles. I was going to put lists here, but they're far too long.  I'm telling my favorites.  Which ones are yours (comments please)?

Fitzwilliam DarcyColin Firth. Period. End of story.

Edward RochesterMichael Fassbender, though if you haven't see the 1943 version with Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine and a very young Elizabeth Taylor you really should.

Heathcliff: I'm not really a Wuthering Heights fan, but I know Heathcliff excites a lot of readers, and audiences. I will suggest that you watch the delicious Tom Hardy in the 2009 TV movie version and then watch him in The Dark Knight Rises. I think you'll find a lot of similarities in his portrayals of Heathcliff and Bane.

If these guys don't float your boat, who is your literary crush. My other big two haven't been lucky enough to be in film yet, though Sony Picture TV is working on an Outlander TV series. So we may see Jamie Fraser on our TV screens before too long. Alas, I don't foresee a Lymond Chronicles movie or TV series anywhere in the future, though I think Francis Crawford would give James Bond a run for his money.

Big doings on the Once and Future Page

So, I'm stuck here with a sick child today which means no writing is happening. But I'm trying to make the most of it by updating some much needed information on the contemporary fiction series that I'm working on. As you know I'm currently editing/revising/slashing/burning the manuscript for The River Maiden. But wanted to provide a little peek into where the series is going. As I said in my post a couple of weeks ago, I'm working on outlining the whole series. With that in mind. I have given The River Maiden its own page and added pitches for the next two books Old as Stone and King of Mist to the Once and Future page.  Also on the Once and Future page I have added a copy of the ballad that Sarah is researching for her dissertation. She calls it The River Maiden (hence the book title). It lays out the mythos for the entire series. Although the series is interwoven with many actual Celtic legends, The River Maiden (the ballad) is made up by me. I tried to follow common conventions and structure of traditional ballads. I also included themes like the lame king, cauldron of plenty and stone that will be very familiar to students of Celtic lore so that this would assimilate aspects of Celtic culture that readers may already be familiar with.

On the page for The River Maiden (the book) I have added a new excerpt. This is a flashback to Sarah's childhood that I recently added to the manuscript. For those of you who have read the other excerpts, I won't force you to go hunting for it. I'll reprint it right here. I hope you enjoy.


Childhood Memories

Mòrag jumped when she heard the door to Mama’s room upstairs open and close. She held her breath as her heart beat in time with her mother’s footsteps through the hall and down the stairs. She reached a shaking hand out to gather her crayons that were scattered across the worn table. Maybe if she cleaned up her mess, Mama would feel better.

She put the crayons neatly in her box and closed it. She rose to go put the box in it’s place on the little bookcase in the parlor, but Mama was blocking the doorway. She stared hard at Mòrag, like she was a problem that needed to be solved. It was the same way she looked at the puzzles they liked to work on to pass the time when they got snowed in. Mòrag stood there beside her chair, awkwardly shifting from foot to foot wondereding what to do. She never knew anymore how to behave around Mama, not since the bathtub.

Now, Mama lived like a ghost; there but not there. She didn’t talk. She rarely ate though she sometimes came to supper, like now. Her skin hung from her bones. She almost never spoke. Some days Mòrag tried to make Mama feel better, but it never seemed to work. Just today, she had painted a picture for her at school. It was the prettiest picture that she had ever done. She ran all the way home from the school bus stop with the paper streaming behind her like wings. She was so excited, sure that something so lovely would cheer Mama up.

Mòrag had found Mama and Granny in the vegetable garden. They’d been digging up weeds and their hands were covered in dirt. Mòrag went straight to Mama who was on her knees between the rows. “I made this picture for you, Mama! Look! It’s like a fairy tale.”

Mama looked up from what she was doing. Her gaunt face was smudged with dirt and some of her hair had come down to drift around her face in little wisps. For a second, just a second her mama smiled at her. Looked her right in the eye and smiled at her like nothing was wrong, and Mòrag could almost see the old Mama. The one that used to play with her and love her.

Then Mama looked down at the picture and it all changed. Her eyes darted across the picture from one thing to another taking in the castle and the princess, flowers and sunshine and her face became a mask of rage. Mòrag watched as the old smiling Mama drained away and was replaced by something terrifying. Mama slowly lifted her hand to touch the painting. Mòrag thought about pulling it away because her hand was so dirty. The fingernails were green from the weeds and there was black soil every crevace. Before she could though, Mama grabbed the painting and tore it from Mòrag’s hands crumpling it and causing the thick paint to flake off and scatter in the dirt. A raw pained sound came from Mama’s throat like a wounded animal as she slammed the painting to the ground and began to stab it with the trowel that was in her other hand.

“A’ mise, mo bheancachd.” (Come with me, my blessing.) Granny said grabbing Mòrag gently by the shoulders and pulling her toward the house. Mòrag walked toward the house still watching Mama over her shoulder as she began to throw dirt on the painting that was now in tatters. “Tha Mami glè sgìth.” (Mama’s very tired.)

That’s what Granny always said, Mòrag had heard it a thousand times in the last couple of months. She wanted to ask why Mama was so tired. Why didn’t she eat? Why didn’t she play anymore or talk above a whisper? Where was the mother that had loved her? She wanted to ask her Granny all these questions, but she couldn’t seem to get them past the big lump in her throat.

So she just cried. She hated crying. It made her feel like such a baby. Big girls in first grade didn’t cry. Babies cried. She hated Mama for making her cry. Granny tried to make her feel better with a biscuit with honey on it. Mòrag tried to take a couple of bites to show Granny that she was alright. She’d show Mama too. She’d get out her crayons and draw a picture just as pretty as that painting, but this time she would give it to Granny or Ol’Duff.

That’s why her crayons were all over the place when Mama came downstairs for supper. Mama stood there staring as Mòrag until Granny stepped between them. She put a bar of soap in Mama’s still filthy hand and gave a short nod toward the sink. “Nigh do làmhan.” (Wash your hands.)

Mama didn’t argue. She just turned to the sink and began scrubbing the dirt off her hands. Mòrag took the chance to step into the parlor and put her crayons away. She stayed in the parlor, but watched through the door as Mama stayed at the sink giving her hands a good hard scrub with hot water. She was still scrubbing when Ol’ Duff came in through the back door. He usually only stayed around the farm in the winter, but Mòrag knew he was here still in the late spring on account of Mama. Duff was the only way that Granny could get a break from watching and caring for Mama.

He came in and took off his old and patched overshirt and hung it on a peg by the kitchen door.  Mòrag liked Ol’ Duff. Most people couldn’t see past his often dirty wornout clothes and his long hair and beard. They just thought he was a drifter or a hippy, but he had kind eyes, and always a good word for a lonely little girl. Mòrag glanced over to her little shelf on the bookcase and the box of tiny wooden animals that Duff liked to carve for her.

Without a word, he stepped up to the sink where Mama was scrubbing her hands. Steam was rising from the sink. Duff whispered something to Mama that Mòrag couldn’t hear as he reached over and turned off the tap. He grabbed a towel from the rack beside the sink and used it to gently dry Mama’s hands. Mama let him dry her hands, but she never looked at him. She would shift her eyes everywhere, but Duff’s like she was afraid to look at him.

“Tha biadh deas.” (The food is ready) Granny said in her brisk manner as she set the serving dishes on the table. Mòrag went into the kitchen and straight to her chair which was next to Granny’s. Mama and Duff sat on the other side of the table. As always in spring supper was made up of whatever they could get from the garden and the forest. Tonight it was fish that Duff had caught that morning along with spinach sautèed in bacon grease and mashed potatoes and some sliced radishes. There were also biscuits that Granny made every morning.

Since Duff started coming into the house for dinner, they had fallen into a routine of eating supper and talking about their days. Duff would talk about the wildlife he’d seen and what he would go hunting for the next day. Granny would talk about the still and how it was working and what plans she had for the garden or foraging. They both made a point of asking Mòrag about her school day, and the antics of the other kids in school.

They were almost like a normal family. Granny and Duff tried very hard not to act like there was a ghost sitting at the table, but they all knew she was there. She would pick at her food. Sometimes she even took a bite, but most of the time she just pushed it around her plate and stared down at the table. The rest of them tried to ignore her, and most of the time she made that easy to do.

“Did you have your spelling test today?” Granny asked. She always spoke English at the dinner table on account of Duff not having the Gaelic.

Sarah swallowed the bite of potatoes she had just taken and mumbled. “No, ma’am. That’s tomorrow.”

“Then we’ll go over your words while we do the dishes.” Granny nodded to her. Spelling and dishes was also becoming a routine.

“Sing any good songs in music, this week?” Duff asked her. He loved to hear Mòrag sing.

“There is this one funny song about a cat named Don Gato. He falls down and breaks a bunch bones. It sounds kinda sad, but the song is really funny.”

“Well, sometimes you gotta laugh or else you’ll just cry.” Duff said with a wink. “Maybe you can sing it for me when you’re done with…”

Suddenly Sarah felt eyes on her and looked up to find Mama watching her. Silent tears streamed down her face. The others noticed too and stopped talking. They all sat there for a frozen moment staring at Mama while she stared back at Mòrag. Mama looked so sad, but Mòrag didn’t believe that look anymore. She’d seen little else but sadness from Mama in the last couple of months, and her sympathy had just about run out especially after Mama had destroyed her painting.

Feeling a little reckless, Mòrag did something she had never done before. She lifted her chin ever so slightly and looked her mama right in the eye. She waited to see if Mama was going to say anything; maybe explain why she had destroyed the painting, why she had turned herself into a living ghost, or tried to drown her baby a couple of months ago. Mama didn’t say anything. She just sat there staring at Mòrag with fat tears rolling down her sunken cheeks.

When her mother didn’t speak Mòrag just shrugged in indiference and went back to eating her dinner. She cut off a bite of fish with the side of her fork and was scooping it up when she heard Mama’s fork clatter onto her plate and Mama’s chair scrape across the wood floor. With an explosive energy that none of them had thought her capable of, Mama had sprung up from her chair and tried to reach across the table for Mòrag. Her fingers hooked like claws went straight for Mòrag’s throat. Fortunately, Duff was quicker and stronger. In a flash he was on his feet. He wrapped his arms around Mama pinning her arms to her side. At the same time Granny jerked Mòrag’s chair back from the table and put herself in front of it in case Mama got loose.

Mama and Duff struggled for a moment until the soothing rumble of his voice saying “Easy, Molly, easy now.” found its way through the rage that had once again clouded Mama’s brain. When he got her calmed down enough that he could get a better grip on her, Duff walked Mama outside into the yard. Granny went to the window to watch them. No doubt Mama would calm down a lot faster without the sight of her daughter. Little Mòrag pulled her chair back up to the table and picked up her fork again. She stared down at her plate for a few seconds, but couldn’t bring herself to eat anymore. She pushed her plate away and stalked out of the kitchen and up to her room.

Are Nook Readers Hopeless Romantics?

Recently on a self-publishing forum that I frequent, a much more successful indie author than I asked the forum if we had seen our Nook sales dry up. I was one of the few people who answered "No". In fact, I have had a couple of months in the latter half of 2012 where Nook sales were all I had.  This prompted me to look a little closer at the difference between my Nook and Kindle sales and what some of the differences were. First, let's review the ebooks that I have and the differences between them (in case you haven't read them yet). I'll try not to give any spoilers.

histfic comparison

With that said, it's interesting to note that 84% of my Kindle sales are of The White House. This isn't completely surprising in since The White House was released four months before A Fond Kiss. However, 100% of my Nook sales are for A Fond Kiss. That's right, I have not sold a single copy of The White House on the Nook. Which is a shame, because it's a really good story (not that I'm biased or anything;)

This is what leads me to ask the question at the top of this post. Are Nook readers hopeless romantics? It's pretty clear that my based-in-fact love story appeals to them far more than pirates, even famous ones. Is it because A Fond Kiss is a love story, or because it's based on a true story? This of course has me wondering what's different about Nook readers vs. Kindle readers.

After a little frustrated searching online the only information that I found about the demographic differences between Kindle and Nook readers is a couple of years old. Since the e-reader market has exploded in the last couple of years, I'm not sure how accurate that information is.  This article from shows that Kindle users tend to be older than Nook users and credits the Nook color/tablet with attracting a younger audience. It also suggests that the older audience prefers the Kindle because it's lighter and therefore easier on arthritic hands (A dubious conclusion).  Given that this data is from 2010, before the Kindle Fire was released and was from a self-selected survey, the data isn't exactly that scientific. In fact, based on my experiences both as a reader and author, I found the idea that the Nook appeals to a YOUNGER audience surprising.

Here is another article from the Florida Research Group that compares the demographics of all e-reader users, but again it's two years old. There is no end to the number of articles comparing the devices themselves, and they're great for consumers shopping for a device, but there really seems to be a limited amount of market research done for authors looking to maximize their sales on either one. If I were about to publish a romance novel and was trying to decide whether or not to opt in to KDP Select with its exclusivity requirement, I might like to know a breakdown on Romance genre sales on Nook vs. Kindle. Otherwise, I might lose sales from other platforms that have a large number of readers in my genre. For independent authors running their own show when it comes to marketing, this kind of information would be very helpful in targeting that marketing rather than the current throw everything against the social media wall and hope something sticks strategy or the increasing popular mimic the best-sellers (50 Shades of Fill-in-the-blank) and ride the wave of whatever's popular strategy.

Maybe this is something that KDP, Pubit and Smashwords can offer as a value add to their authors. Maybe it could be another revenue stream for them. I can imagine that I'm not the only author who would pay a REASONABLE  fee for a timely demographic analysis of e-reader users or even monthly newsletter that goes beyond just the bestseller lists and looks at who is buying. I would think that this is all data that these e-publishing platforms have, it would just be a matter of putting it together in a form that people can read.

Admittedly, I'm new at this and I've been eyes deep in editing lately, but this doesn't seem too much to ask. Maybe this is out there already. If it is, please point me in the right direction. I'm sure it's a product of my corporate sales background, but I can get kinda nerdy about this stuff, and as the saying goes, Knowledge is Power.

My Big Chop

Shortly after I graduated from college, I stopped by my paternal grandmother's house on my way to the beach and she asked me when I was going to cut my hair short, not if but when. The implication was that all grown women had to cut their hair short as some final rite of passage. Seeing as I inherited my curly hair from the woman asking the question, I thought it was kind of odd. At the time it just seemed a shame to me to cut those curls. They were part of who I was. I was Meredith, the one with the curly hair (I went to college with more than a few Merediths.) There was absolutely no question in my mind of ever cutting my hair short.  IMG_20130107_151923Flash forward 17 years and my attitude was very much the same. Sure I had cut it up to my shoulders occasionally, but when you're lucky enough to have curls like mine it just seemed a shame to cut them off. Until I realized a couple of weeks ago, that I wasn't really enjoying having my curls anymore. Here I was with curly hair down to the middle of my back, but I was pulling them up into a bun pretty much every day.  Hair that long takes work and curly hair takes work, and as a mom, I just wasn't putting in the work anymore. I was in a rut, and it wasn't just my hair. Lots of moms go through this. We get so focused on getting things done, and making sure everyone else is prepared for stuff that we don't really take care of ourselves.

So, I decided late last week to give myself a jump start, shake things up if you will. In my case, it starts in the form of a haircut. I know you're probably floored, right? But for a curly girl like me this was a huge change.

Let's start with a little background on my hair. First, I didn't have hair until I was about 2 years old. As you'll see if you scroll down to the pics, I've spent the last thirty-six years making up for that.  Once I started growing hair, it came in thick and curly. The trouble with that is that my mom's hair is straight. This means that the person most inclined to help a growing girl with grooming tips and the like, had no idea what to do with my curls. So, the solution when I was about 10 was to cut it off.  So my mom took me to her hair dresser, a really very nice lady who worked out of her basement shop and loved to chat with my mom while she cut my hair. This would have been a lovely Steele Magnolias kind of moment in a a girl's life, if the woman cutting my hair hadn't been telling my mother about how she needed EYE SURGERY. In my mother's defense she let the near blind lady cut her own hair too.  Thus began a rather strained relationship between myself and the haircare professionals of the world. Some have looked at my thick curly hair as their personal styling playground, some have just looked perplexed, and some have just completely half-assed it and cut it the way they would strait hair. Unfortunately, the result has been far more bad experiences getting my hair cut than good ones.

So, I was super careful this time when looking for a salon to cut my hair. I asked for recommendations. I checked Yelp and Google for reviews. And I settled on Salon 730 in Fredericksburg, mostly based on the reviews. Then there was the question of how to cut it. I had gone up to shoulder length in the past, but I was ready for something that required less maintance and more drastic. I wanted a pixie, a very short pixie. Now, I have two strikes against me when it comes to short hair. First there are the curls, and second I'm a big girl. So, while Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams might look amazing with their pixies, I'm aware that I'm not going to look like that. But I was ready to take a chance, and I'm glad I did.

20130107_110739So, I got up Monday morning and went to the salon. I told them what I wanted and they steered me to Kristen, who is not listed on their website, but who I can now recommend. I told her what I was looking for, showed some pics and warned her that I'd been burned in the past.  She completely understood and after making sure that I was sure about what I wanted to do, she put my long hair into two braids and chopped them off. Here's a picture of that carnage. We did the braids in the hopes of donating my hair to Locks of Love. Unfortunately, they do not take hair that has been bleached, and I did have strands in there that had been bleached.  Kristen thought they would take it anyway, but I called and confirmed after getting my hair cut that they couldn't use it. Bummer.

After a quick wash, Kristen proceeded to cut and style my now short hair into just what I wanted. She stopped and asked questions and verified what she was doing. She communicated with me while she was cutting my hair and not  about her need for eye surgery (Thank goodness), but about the change that I was likely to see with short hair and how to achieve that style on my own. It was absolutely the best experience I have ever had in a salon.

And, I'm truly happy with the result. I love the ease of it, and the fact that I need less of everything when dealing with my hair. Less time brushing it. Getting the tangles out of curly hair takes a long time. Less shampoo and conditioner. Less weight on the back of my head. I actually stepped on the scale the next morning and found that I had lost an entire pound. Yep, we cut off a pound of hair. Just less work in general. Plus, I can wear hats now! I was never able to wear hats before because they would never sit right over my curls.

I confess, there are moments when I miss my long hair a little bit especially when I feel the cold January wind on the back of my neck, but overall I'm very happy about this change. We also joined a gym last week, so who knows, maybe one change will snowball into more changes for the better.IMG_20130107_111543

Sitting on it

It's been a while since I've updated the blog. This is mainly because I was pushing hard to have the book ready for beta readers by Christmas. Unfortunately, the flu got in my way by running through the family not once, but twice since I finished writing the book. When you throw in holiday preparations and a rather slow Alpha reader, you have a recipe for disaster. So I missed my deadline (GASP!). I know, it was a self-imposed deadline and I was sick in bed or bowing down to the porcelain god, but still I have an innate aversion (or dare I say horror) to missing deadlines. I mean the "dead" in deadline is there for a reason, right? On the upside, much of the time I spent in bed sick was spent thinking about my characters and the feedback that my Alpha reader, my husband, gave me and mentally plotting out the next book in the series. I also spent plenty of time thinking about my next move. Namely the question facing a lot of authors today; Do I zip this out to market via KDP and CreateSpace or do I attempt to sign with an agent and get a wider distribution and maybe a little marketing help (and yes I know that help would be very little)? On the one hand, publishers are loath to take a chance on a new author with a series, and they would take a bigger chunk of the pie so to speak. On the other hand, it takes a lot of work to get noticed out there in the big bad reading world and my little historical fiction shorts while getting terrific reviews, aren't exactly selling like hotcakes. So, while my piece of the indie pie might be bigger, the pie itself (at least so far) is barely even snack size. What's a girl to do? I'm going to sit on it. That is to say, I'm going to hold off  publishing this book until I have something more. Here's the plan:

1) I'm outlining the rest of the series, or at least the rest of the series involving the main characters as they stand now. This will give me a clear picture of where it's going and it will enable me to write a synopsis of each book.

2)Using the bird's eye view of the series from Step 1, write a pitch for the whole series with which to query agents. I believe that this series could be very commercial. I also believe it will fit nicely into the newly minted "New Adult" category that seemsso popular right now. It has enough of contemporary fantasy aspects to appeal to a young audience, but the characters and subject matter are definitely more mature than Young Adult. Imagine a Twilight style love triangle (no vampires or werewolves, I promise) with DaVinci Code style themes and you're coming pretty close.

3)Query, query query while working on my platform and trying to build an audience. That will likely include a trailer or two that I already have worked out in my head. Luckily I know a good filmmaker, my brother, who I might get to help me with that.

4) Write, write, write the second book. Hopefully, this one won't take more than a decade to write.  But the writing/editing of it will most likely determine the timeline of the rest of the plan. I'll keep querying until I get a bite or finish the second book. If no agents or publishers have bitten (I really promise there are no vampires in this series.), then I will likely publish them myself in close succession. That way I can hopefully whet the reader's appetites with the first two books enough to get them to buy a third and fourth, fifth, and who knows by then I might even plan a series for the next generation of characters.

At least that's my plan, and it feels pretty darn good to start off the new year with a plan.

Now for some details about the first book. The working title right now is THE RIVER MAIDEN. Here's a working cover. 

And here's the pitch:

Raised by her Scottish Grandmother in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah MacAlpin grew up with one foot in the old world and one foot in the new world. She's worked hard to get to where she is and at 25 she's got her life planned out, that is until she meets Dermot Sinclair.

Plagued by nightmares of a tragic past and murky visions of the future Sarah pushes on toward finishing her dissertation. In spite of her hard work and planning the world around her seems to be spinning out of control. Her relationships with her boyfriend and her best friend are falling apart and the new guy in town seems to be dogging her every step. He's friendly enough and can help with her research, but she can't help thinking there's something that he isn't telling her.


If you're interested in reading further. There is a large chunk of the book available to read on Authonomy. If you read it there, please leave feedback. It will only help me. If you're interested in being a beta reader (kind of like a beta tester for software) and getting to read the whole thing once the edits are done (naturally in exchange for your feedback), please let me know in the comments here or through my Facebook page.

Thanks as always.

I hope you all will have as exciting a new year as I expect to.

Give back...My Hurricane Relief Pledge

I am an east coast kind of girl. I grew up in the Virginia Piedmont and now live on the inner edge of the Tidewater region just below the fall line of the Rappahannock. I like tall trees and walkways made of crushed oyster shells, and blue crabs. I like our history, the good parts that we're proud of and even the bad parts that we're not proud of.  I like to write stories about our history, more specifically our coast and as many people know living on the coast can be hard. My great Aunt and Uncle owned a condo at Fort Fisher in North Carolina, and I spent many a summer there playing in the surf and learning the history and legends of the area. It's those many summers that inspired my interest in the legends of the Outer Banks, and inspired me to write The White House and A Fond Kiss and the many other stories of the coast that are churning around in my head to be written in the future.  But like so many people along the Southern coast, we also dealt with our fair share of hurricanes. After getting hit three years in a row, my Aunt and Uncle sold their condo and our trips to the beach have gotten less regular. Hurricane damage is a fact of life on the coast.  Although it's something that our friends up north don't have to deal with as often. I think those of us who have been through this should stand up and help those who are dealing with it now.

So, I just made our family's donation to the Red Cross for storm relief. I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. In fact, here's the link to donate.

But I'm also going to take it a step further.

During my previous life as a corporate trainer, I worked for Intuit, the makers of Quickbooks and TurboTax (no, I will not help you with your bookkeeping or taxes). Intuit is a great company to work for because their Operating Values are as good as their products. One of the key Operating Values at Intuit is "We care and give back." Which means that they make an effort to contribute to the communities around their facilities and they encourage their employees to do the same. I've been away from Intuit for four years now, I don't even think about tax software outside of tax season,  and I couldn't tell you what the newest features of QuickBooks are, but that Operating Value is one that I will never forget.

With that said, I am pledging 100% of my royalties from this quarter to the Red Cross. That's right, 100% of royalties from Oct, Nov & Dec.

Admittedly, my books only cost .99 and I'm not exactly swimming in royalties. That's where you come in. If you've been thinking about buying one of my books and just haven't gotten around to it, now is the time. Tell anyone you know with an ereader, that if they buy my books, I will donate ALL the royalties to the Red Cross. This goes for all royalties from Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

In case you don't trust me. I will happily share pics of my sales reports and my donation receipt, once the donation has been made.

As I mentioned before, my royalties are not huge, so we've already made a personal donation to the Red Cross. If you want to be absolutely sure of giving more than the .30-.60 that I will collect from selling a book, then you too can make your own donation here.

Please keep all of the people affected by the storm in your thoughts (and prayers if you're a praying person) as I can assure you they are in mine.