Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can I walk and think at the same time?

I take a daily walk, four miles, 5-6 times a week weather permitting.  This is Florida, after all, and one should take advantage of that.  I don't wear any electronics while walking because this is valuable thinking time for me, and I often get plot breakthroughs while on the daily constitutional.  In fact, today I tried to psych myself into coming up with some plot points for my WIP, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby.  So here's what I thought about on today's walk.  Imagine you're inside my head:

1. I need to remind people to vote for Sea Change tomorrow 'cause it's the last day of the JABBIC Reader's Poll.
2. Hey, there's Steve the mail carrier.  I wonder if he dropped off some neat catalogs?
3. I should eat some yogurt after the walk, while my metabolism is stoked.  I can get more protein with Greek yogurt. It's unflavored and tastes like sour cream, which I love, but...I know, I'll sprinkle some of Dawn's homemade granola on top!
4. Drink a glass of water as soon as I get home.
5. Squirrel!
6. Did I give the dachshund her flea treatment?
7. Dang!  I need to tweak a detail in Castaway Dreams. Thought I was finished with that for now.
8. I'd like to re-cast the movie A New Leaf.  Instead of Elaine May and Walter Matthau, I'd cast Emma Stone and Matt Bomer.
9. That's an interesting color they're painting that house...
10. Drink more water
11. Jogger gets a 7.  I miss the Army captain who used to jog past my house.  He was definitely a 10.
12. So when I get my H&H to England in Secret Baby how does he keep her from--Squirrel!
13. Whew!  It's warmer out here than I expected.

....and back home.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Please vote Sea Change for JABBIC Award!

You can vote for Sea Change in the JABBIC (Judge a Book By Its Cover) competition.  Through February 1, readers can vote by following this link and voting for Sea Change in the Historicals category.  The art is by Trace Edward Zaber, and I love this cover with the very pretty privateer.  Thank you for your support!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Burns Night


Alex almost called her to return, but he trusted even Daphne Farnham could not find trouble just a few feet from where he stood. He took advantage of the water in the rock pool to wash himself, and thought about their current situation.

It was amazing how life could put things in perspective. After you have contemplated dying of thirst and exposure in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a tropical island, deserted or not, is a paradise by comparison. He and Miss Farnham appeared to be whole and relatively unscathed. There were birds here, and birds meant meat and eggs. He would build a fire. There was, most importantly, fresh water.

It could be much, much worse. Alex hummed a Rabbie Burns melody to himself as he scrubbed his arms at the edge of the pool.
--Castaway Dreams, WIP

Tonight is Burns Night, a celebration of the life and work of Scotland's Bard, Robert Burns.  Burns is best known to Americans for penning "Auld Lang Syne", but his body of work encompasses much, much more.

Burns is also the favorite poet of the hero of Castaway Dreams, Scottish surgeon Alexander Murray.  Tonight I'll toast Burns with Scotland's finest export.  For this occasion I believe I'll pull out the dusty bottle of Scott's Selection (1964), the one I save for special evenings. The Bard of Scotland deserves only the best.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Boskone 49

Once again I'm packing my bags with winter clothes for the annual trek to Boston, February 17-19. Here's my Boskone 49 Schedule:

Friday 18:00 - 19:00, Dressing the Parties--Regalia and Symbolism, Developing symbols and regalia in your worlds. Associations of colors, creatures. Displays of rank. Pilot patches. Japanese symbology and family. A lot of the systemization of heraldry is a very late development. Any hints from SCA experience? Has awareness of this increased from _Game of Thrones_?
Darlene Marshall (M), Leonid Korogodski, Walter H. Hunt, Ruth Sanderson

Friday 19:00 - 20:00, A Study of the Humours - Medieval Medicine--For thousands of years, learned doctors insisted that health and illness was governed by "the four humours" A look at how old ideas persisted and how they led to odd treatments like bleedings.
Laurie Mann (M), Elaine Isaak, Darlene Marshall, Kenneth Schneyer, James D. Macdonald

Saturday 11:30 - 12:00, Reading: Darlene Marshall
Saturday 15:00 - 16:00, Trends in Young Adult Literature--Has the paranormal gotten to the end of the line? Where is YA fiction going to now that Twilight and Harry Potter have wound down?
Darlene Marshall (M), Jack M. Haringa, Susan MacDonald, Leonid Korogodski, Jordan Hamessley

Sunday 10:00 - 11:00, Romantic Comedy in Science Fiction and Fantasy--What is romantic comedy? What are examples in science fiction and fantasy? Connie Willis says that the show _Primeval_ is a romcom...really?
Ellen Asher, Darlene Marshall, Toni L. P. Kelner

The "M" next to my name means I'm the moderator for that panel. Some of the program participants are folks I've shared the dais with in the past, others are new to me. I'm looking forward to this convention! Should be a lot of good panels and good discussions.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Modern Times, part 2

I still enjoy writing personal letters and notes in longhand, with a fountain pen, preferably on Crane's stationary or Clairefontaine paper. When I'm writing a manuscript though, I love using a word processing program.  One of my favorite functions is "Find & Replace".  This morning I pulled my list of words I have a tendency to overuse while writing.  I never worry about it in the first draft, but once I'm aware certain words are being repeated I make a note of them for later.  Then I type them into "find" and see which ones are superfluous or are showing up too often.  It would be possible, but more difficult, to do this with an inked or typewritten manuscript and I appreciate the functionality of modern writing tools.

I know writers who do their first draft in longhand, and others who still pound away at their ancient Royals or IBM Selectrics.  Whatever works for an author is the right way, but when I'm writing it's all about living in the 21st Century.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Modern times

My computer crashed this morning, but Windows fixed itself.  Of course, my first panicked thought was, "Did I back up Castaway Dreams and [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby?" Then I remembered I now have automatic back-up that takes everything safely away to the cloud.  I love living in modern times.  I still back up to an external hard-drive once a week to be safe though, 'cause I'm a belt-and-suspenders kind of writer.

Somewhere in the recesses of my storage closet I have an old tape back-up system, and I have copies of my early books on floppies.  I have no way to run those floppies, but that's tech for you.

There's a downside to all of this wonderful tech.  Tomorrow I'm going out to replace my dishwasher.  A repair that in the old days would have involved replacing a button now means you replace the entire electronic control panel for the machine, and that's not cost effective.  I'm pretty sanguine about it.  While it's an unexpected expense, my son calls this a "first world problem."  If you remind yourself you have clean, safe water coming into your house, indoor plumbing and hot water on demand, it helps to keep things in perspective.  In addition, I buy appliances from a local, family-owned business, so I have the tiny comfort of keeping some of my money in my community.  Since there was no flooding involved when the dishwasher conked out, I'm also feeling that while the bread fell to the ground, at least it fell jelly-side up.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frisky the Cornsnake


“Snake!” she whispered, pointing with her shaking free hand to a darkened corner of the cabin. Rand dropped his bag and fetched the lamp and the broom. When he raised the lamp and peered into the corner, there was a faint susurrus—a sound like sand falling on the floor. He looked closer, set down the lamp and broom and said, “C’mon outta there, fella.” He crouched down and waved his fingers in front of the snake, and when it coiled to leap he grabbed it behind its head. The snake wrapped itself around his arm and gave it a good squeeze, but Rand didn’t let go of the snake’s head.
 He straightened and turned to Julia, the snake clinging to his arm, tongue darting in and out in agitation.
“This ain’t nothin’ but a corn snake, darlin’. He’s likely more scared of you than you are of him.” He held the snake up, admiring the red, gold, and brown stripes and chevrons patterning the reptile’s body as the snake squirmed in Rand’s grasp. “This is a frisky one too. Bet he could help with those rats in the corn field. C’mon, fella, let’s put you to work out back.”
 
Smuggler's Bride


Frisky the cornsnake has been a part of our lives for 20 years, but she's gone to a better place.  No, not that big cornfield in the sky, but a middle school science class.  Frisky is my eldest son's pet, and we've had her for 20 years.  She's been my responsibility for the past 10 years because my son went to college, then life, and has neatly managed to avoid coming home in a car.  And as he reminds me, everyone knows you can't take snakes on a plane.

So I put out the word that I've finally accepted the snake is not moving on with my son, and I'd like to find her a good home.  I was particularly looking for a middle school environment.  Elementary school children are too young, and high schools have more specialized classes, but middle school seemed just right.  And so it was.  Now Frisky is a much admired resident of Mr. Perez's science class at a middle school in Newberry, Florida.  Frisky's a Florida native, which led to her cameo in Smuggler's Bride.  You can read more about Florida's native wildlife, and how to cook some of it, in Smuggler's Bride.  In the meantime, I'm going to miss Frisky (a little), but I'm glad she's found a good home.



Thursday, January 05, 2012

Cleaning up a manuscript

My readthrough of Castaway Dreams is going well, but it always worries me when I'm satisfied with my writing.  I changed the font for this pass to catch any stray typos and it's amazing what a difference that makes. In fact, I once read that changing the font to Comic Sans is best for this task.  I tried that, but it was too annoying and I switched to Arial instead (I write in Times Roman).

I also pared down a few sentences, and tweaked a couple scenes.  Setting a manuscript aside for a few weeks, or a few months, helps bring a fresh perspective to it.

Another writer posted a picture of an unshaven, scruffy looking Colin Firth and I saved it to my "Castaway Dreams" file.  When I fill out the artist information form for the cover, I think I'll say "This is what my hero, Alexander Murray, looks like."  At least, that's how he looks in my mind.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

It's 2012? Time for the Bicentennial!

Yep, 2012 begins the commemoration of the War of 1812, a conflict of particular interest to me.  As a fan of Regency romances I always felt a niggling sense of disloyalty cheering on all those RN heroes and those army gentlemen in their dashing red coats.  After all, they were the enemy of the United States from 1812-1815 (I'm including the Battle of New Orleans).  They burned Washington.   They threatened Dolly Madison, for cryin' out loud!  But it's hard to remember all of that when you're drooling over Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower.

However, being a history geek, I am enjoying all the additional reading I'm doing right now in advance of the bicentennial.  I was just reviewing a passage from If By Sea--The Forging of The American Navy from the Revoluton to the War of 1812 by George C. Daughan and ran across this pithy tidbit:

"South Carolina's Christopher Gadsden declared that he would 'as soon send a favorite virgin to a brothel, as a man to England to make a treaty."

When was the last time we heard something that juicy come out of Congress?

If you've got a yen to learn more about this conflict, particularly the naval engagements involving the US, write me!  I love to share book suggestions.  You might also enjoy Sea Change since it's the tale of an American privateer during the War of 1812 and what happens when he takes prisoner a young British surgeon who's not all "he" appears to be.


Monday, January 02, 2012

My 2012 novel

My goal is to bring out a book every 12-18 months.  I'm going to set aside [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby for a few days and review my finished manuscript for Castaway Dreams. I'm also thinking of titling it Beauty and the Brain, so feel free to chime in with your opinion.

Imagine Gilligan's Island with just The Professor and Ginger, or The Admirable Crichton with only Crichton and Lady Mary.  Castaway Dreams is the tale of Alexander Murray (of Sea Change), retired RN surgeon and natural philosopher and Miss Daphne ("Daffy") Farnham, an heiress believed to have more hair than wit. There's also Miss Farnham's fluffy little lapdog, Pompom.  They're shipwrecked on a desert island and have to pull together to survive.  Here's a snippet:




            “There was a kitchen garden here, Doctor. It’s mostly gone wild now, but there are peas and corn, beans, and I think those are pumpkins.”
            “How do you know that?”
            “Hah!  I am not as ignorant as you think I am!”
            “You have no idea how ignorant I think you are, Miss Farnham.”
            She looked at him sharply, no doubt wondering if she’d been insulted.  Then she simply looked smug.
            “I am the one who explored and found us shelter.  I located the food and water.  Perhaps I should be in charge, Dr. Murray, not you!  After all, it was different when you were elderly.  I was willing to listen to you then.  Now, maybe you should listen to me.”
            “That statement is so ridiculous as to not deserve a response.”
            “If we were in France, principles of equality and fraternity and liberty would apply.”
            “If we were in France, I would send you to the guillotine.  Might makes right, Miss Farnham.”
***

So my plan for 2012 is to whip Castaway Dreams into shape and submit it for publication.  More on this as it develops.