Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writing is Work, and Not Writing is . . . Work!

I'm starting a new book today, #2 in my League of Literary Ladies mystery series, "A Tale of Two Biddies."

But just because I start writing today doesn't mean I haven't been working.  Hard.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this book and last fall when I met with my brainstorming group, it was one of the plots we played with.  We came up with some good ideas and I was able to take those, juggle them, slap them around.  A couple weeks ago when I finished book #4 in my Button Box mystery series, the real work began because I couple weeks ago, I started outlining.

Are you a plotter?  Or a panster?

Oh, I plot, all right.  Can't imagine not doing it, especially when I'm working on a mystery.  To me, mysteries need to fit together like one of those amazing Lego buildings you see at exhibits.  Mysteries need to make sense.  They need to be logical.  Each incident needs to lead to the next, and the next, and . . . and the ending.  And that ending better explain all the clues as well as whodunnit.

So I outline.  And I plot.  And I think.  And I made notes.  I do page after bulleted page of stream-of-consciousness kinds of thoughts.  "If Bea talks to Mike, that won't make any sense in this chapter.  She needs to do that earlier."  And I go back to the beginning and I read it over and over.  And I add, and I get rid of things like, "If Bea talks to Mike . . ." and put each incident where (I hope) it belongs.

Will the book adhere completely to the outline?  Absolutely not, there's always room for new ideas, new characters, fun dialogue.  What I have is a roadmap, and before I begin the journey, a roadmap is exactly what I need, especially when the book is due in a little less than three months and I know it will be published next February.  Oh yes, I need to write and I need to write fast.

I've got a good place to start, 23 pages of bulleted points, all broken down in chapters.  And once again, I'm amazed at the way our minds work.  For me, plotting is a very different skill from writing, just as writing is very different from editing.  Once again, the ol' brain has come through, and I'm grateful.

Now, I need to get to work! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm cheap and loving it

Happy Tuesday! I have some fun news. There's a huge sale going on right now for The Accidental Demon Slayer. $0.99 cents. It's on all the e-tail sites - Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple.

And since a lot of people have been asking, I wanted to say that yes, I am working on the fifth book in the series right now. (And I am writing as fast as I can - which isn't overly speedy because I'm not a quick writer. Believe it or not, I like to ponder).

This next one has Lizzie planning her wedding while battling the Earl of Hell. Guess which one is harder? That book will come out this summer.

But in the mean time, grab The Accidental Demon Slayer if you haven't already. Who couldn't use a few extra biker witches around the house?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Senshi Booksigning and Japanese Drinking Games

I had a fun weekend! On Saturday, I attended Cole Gibsen's booksigning for SENSHI, the second book in her Katana series. The weather outside was fabulous, a perfect day to head to historic St. Charles, Missouri Main Street and visit Main Street Books. I'd never been there before and got a fun introduction to the area. I'd actually gone on a day when there was a parade too! (Perfect, huh?) All the shops were open and I got a chance to browse.

Cole's signing was so much fun! Besides snagging two books, one for myself and one for one of you guys, I got a chance to meet the geikos from Three Rivers Okiya. They chatted with everyone, offered us a performance, and introduced us to some Japanese drinking games (minus the liquor).

Here's Cole signing her book.

Three Rivers Okiya performing the Maiko and Geisha

I was quite sober and I still lost.
I don't remember the name of the song, the geiko sang, but she sang it in a manner similar to Row, Row, Row, Your Boat. I watched while she played a game with Cole's brother. It looked so fun! Basically, two participants sit across from each other. A ball is placed within their reach on a table or other surface. The game is played by each person tapping the ball back and forth. If someone happens to pick up the ball, the other person must tap the table with their fist. Either person can surprise the other by grabbing the ball. I thought I would quickly get the hang of it. Nope. Each time someone loses they would take a drink. In other words, if this was really going on I'd be in big trouble! LOL.

Want to win a signed copy of SENSHI? Just answer the fun question of the day: Have you participated in a drinking game before? :D Or maybe my alcohol-free version? Know of any fun ones if you've never participated in one before?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Moment When Your Heart Stands Still

As a single, working mom who is self-employed, there is literally NO END to work. Every second of every day, there is more I can be doing to provide financial security for me and my daughter. Trying to keep the house as a liveable level of orderliness and cleanliness, along with working, and being a mom feels like a never-ending slippery slope that I can't ever get on top of. I used to be absolutely religious about exercise, but over the last six months, I've been letting that slide, feeling guilty about getting sweaty when there is work to be done, a dirty kitchen, or a daughter who wants attention. And despite that, I constantly feel like I'm not doing enough, like I'm not a good enough mom. I would need a thousand hours in every day to accomplish all that I feel like I need to in order to be a good mom.

And then, last night, I pulled out a book that I have to read to judge for a contest. I was flipping through the pages, and then I came across this note that my seven-year-old daughter had written and stuck in between the pages:

In case you can't read it, it says:

I whant you to now realy how much do you love you and care about me
your a rock star at being my mom and your my movie star.

For those of you not accomplished in "first grade English" the general translation is:

I want you to know how much I really do love you, and care about me.
You're a rock star at being my mom, and you're my movie star.

When I read that, my heart simply stopped and was filled with the most amazing sense of peace and love. I realized that even though the house is messy and I'm not as fit as I wish I was, and sometimes I'm tired because I stayed up too late working, that I'm actually doing just fine in the area that matters: being a mom.

Just as we don't ask our children to be perfect in order to get our love, we don't have to be perfect parents in order to be everything our children need.

I think sometimes we need to remember to love ourselves as much as our children love us.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It's Research . . . Honest!

This summer, I've got a new mystery series premiering.  It's called the League of Literary Ladies and is about a group of not-so-friendly neighbors who are constantly taking each other to court.  The magistrate gets tired of seeing them and sentences them to be a book discussion group!  I had a lot of fun with book #1 in the series, "Mayhem at the Orient Express," and I'm just starting book #2, "A Tale of Two Biddies."

What that means, of course, is that there's new research to be done.  In the League series, my heroine, Bea Cartwright, owns a B&B on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.  I didn't get all the way there (about an hour and a half to the west of where I live) but this weekend, headed in the other direction to a B&B on the shores of Lake Erie.

Take a look!  Bad enough to see that much ice and snow from the mainland, imagine looking at it from an island and realizing that unless you fly out, you're staying put until the lake thaws. 

In the name of research, we also visited a number of the wineries in the area.  Hey, one of the ladies in the League owns a winery on the island, the least I could do was include her in my research, right?

Ah, the things writers do for their books!

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Dog is Not Aggressive...Is He?

Meet Muskie, my rescue dog from South Carolina who I got last summer. In this picture, my daughter is dressing him up with a stocking cap to keep him warm during a pre-hurricane walk last fall.
Here is Muskie, wearing the hat. As you can see, he was very concerned about it. Not.
The dog you see in this pictures is quintessential Muskie. He is a total lover, a total sweetheart, and as non-aggressive as you can get. Or is he?
Muskie also likes to play with other dogs. He likes to play hard, not aggressive, but he is strong and likes to really go at it. Here is Muskie with his best pal, a German Shepherd named Gabriel who weighs 20 lbs more, and yet is evenly matched with him.

A few months ago, Muskie saw a German Shepherd on the trails that wasn't his buddy, but he went tearing up to this dog in a tail wagging leap to play, assuming that it would want to be leapt on like his friend Gabriel. The dog got mad and bit him. Hard. There was copious amounts of blood, and it scared both my dog and me. But what became more of a concern for me was the change that it seemed to create in my dog.
After months of being Mr. Mellow at the dog park when dogs got snappy at him, now my dog was different. Whenever a dog snapped at him, Muskie would bare his teeth and lunge at the dog, barking and growling. Sometimes, the other dog would take it as a challenge and the two dogs would go after each other, growling, snarling and snapping.
I'll be honest. It scared me. I don't want an aggressive dog. It scared me when my dog antagonized these other big dogs because I knew they could cause serious damage if he pushed them too far.. After it happened three times in 10 minutes with three different dogs, I went home and googled "Dog Aggression," convinced I had a major problem on my hands.  After reading dozens of posts (including lots of great info on Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, website), I realized several things:
1) My dog had "fear aggression," which meant that he was trying to defend himself.
2) My dog was acting out against "playground bullies," which basically meant that he was trying to claim his own space from dogs that wouldn't back off. Apparently, standing up for himself against playground bullies is not considered aggression in dogs.
3) Because of (1) & (2), if I chastised my dog for being aggressive, I would make it worse because he would feel like he couldn't defend himself for his own safety. Eventually, he might end up actually biting another dog because he felt he couldn't growl or snarl to communicate his need for space. So, now, I couldn't correct the behavior.
4) My dog needed to regain his confidence and socialize more, not less.
Armed with that information, I embarked on a plan to regain the submissive, mellow dog I had once had. My number one goal was to eliminate threatening situations for him so he didn't feel like he had to defend himself. These were the steps I took:
1) When walking in the woods off-leash, if I saw a dog coming toward us, I would recall him and make him sit or heel as we passed the dog, so that he wouldn't bound toward it and set it off. As he became more confident, I would let him approach small dogs that he knew he could easily side-step if they got aggressive. I kept gradually allowing more and more socialization with dogs that I knew weren't aggressive, and he was able to rebuild his confidence.
2) When at the dog park, if big, aggressive dogs come in that made Muskie nervous, I would leave the park with him so he doesn't ever get in a situation where he feels trapped and threatened.
These two tactics have worked completely, and I am so happy to report that my dog's aggression has disappeared, and he is once more Mr. Easygoing. Yesterday, in the woods, he trotted up to a dog that immediately growled and snapped at him. Muskie jumped back and then kept walking. After I caught up to my dog, I discovered three toothmarks in his ear from the dog that had just snapped at him. Despite being bitten, my dog hadn't even bothered to react aggressively. He'd simply been confident enough to know he could step aside and move on.
There are so many reasons for dog aggression, and many of them can't be solved this easily, but if you know your dog and pay attention to what he's telling you, sometimes, you can figure out exactly what he needs. Sometimes, it's correction, and sometimes, it is simply a matter of opening your heart and giving him the loving care that he needs.