Hello, neglected blog. Sorry I've been away for so long.

I have a character in the Maui novel who is a jewelry maker, and have been indulging in a bit of bead-stringing so I can get a feel for what she does. Nothing spectacular, but I can see offering those neat little metal bookmarks with dangley strings of beads or interesting charms or something in future giveaways. Stay tuned--

Things have gotten cold--granted, that's not surprising considering it's the first part of December. What I want to know is where the rest of the year went. It's going by much too fast.

In case you'd missed it, Blood Money is now out of print, though I do have it out on submission again. Rio Star will go out of print at the first of the year, and Reef Runner at the first of April 2008. If you want them, get them while you can.

I have plans for some short stories, which I will hopefully get written soon. And I imagine I'll have something in the way of a contest before too much longer. Just have to think about what I want to offer. Maybe a bit of that bead-stringing I mentioned earlier.

I've got a few links for you. The first is for a post on the Rap Sheet, Authors, On and Off the Page, which includes links to author interviews (I think they're audio).

Next is from The Rejecter, Rethinking "Genre", an interesting discussion on how this whole genre distinction issue got started to begin with.

Third is from Tess Gerritsen's blog, Action Is Boring. I'll let you read why.

And finally, because this is not to be missed, a breathtakingly beautiful shot of the Earth and our Moon, taken by Voyager 1 on September 18, 1977 and posted online in honor of the probe's 30th anniversary. There's a small thumbnail of the photo on the righthand side of the page, and links below it that lead to full-sized versions. Check out the rest of the site while you're there. There are a lot of great shots from the Cassini probe, which is in orbit around Saturn.

Until next time~~


Post-conference brain-drain

The Muse Online Writers Conference was earlier this month. I'm nearly recovered--I guess I shouldn't have signed up for so many courses all at once!

While I'm still trying to sort out my thoughts about it, here's a link you might be interested in, if you're interested in the crime-fiction scene. Its for the archive site of the Carnival of the Criminal Minds, a traveling post moving from blog to blog in the crime fiction world. The archive tells where the carnival's been, and where it will be next. Four weeks in, it looks pretty interesting.

Back soon...


Has it really been a month?

My apologies, I never intended to let this long pass between posts...

Kira's story is presently on hold while I work out some problems with characterization. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to it soon. In the meantime, I've got a short story I'm working on. More about that at a later time.

The weather's finally changing. Days have been comfortable, in the 80s mostly, and we've had rain. The mold level's also gone up a bit, which makes it more difficult to think and write coherently. Blog posts may continue to be a bit spotty.

The Muse Online Writers Conference begins in October. I hope you have already signed up if you had intended to, because I believe registration closed on the 15th of this month.

There are a couple of posts from other blogs that I'll pass along the links to:

Jim Huang, a bookseller, makes these observations about the publishing industry from his perspective on the retail end of things--Where I am, after 20 years in bookselling The comments column is also worth a read.

If you've been following the uproar over the cutting of newspaper space for book reviews and the rather elitist view said reviewers take of online book reviewers, this post from Kassia Krozsner might interest you--Stop Your Sobbing

And finally, because you can't help but be appalled and amused at the same time over stuff like this--Clientcopia's list of the top stupid client tricks. The list changes over time, so you may want to bookmark it if it appeals to you.

Until next time~~


Greetings in August

Dropping in for a quick hello before the storms get here.

You know it's been really, really hot when 82F feels wonderful. We've had a string of days in the upper 90s/lower 100s, and without air conditioning (our house never had one) it's been a lot of taking it easy and accomplishing little during the worst parts of the day. Since the most comfortable parts of the day have been at night, it's also meant getting less sleep, because that good part of the day has to be divided between getting stuff done and sleeping. It looks like we're in for a few days in the lower 90s, so maybe the really hot stuff is gone for the summer.

I'm now on chapter 6 of the new novel. I'm still not certain Kira will end up with the hero of the story, since he's got some issues with her, but there's still two thirds of the book to go, so we'll see.

I've saved some links to share with you, some of which will go in the sidebar when I eventually get around to adding them there--

From the Writer Beware blog: Writers and Money, an instructive look at reality in the writing business.

From Galleycat: The Bookshelf at Your Fingertips, Literally, a short article about what the future of reading will include.

And finally, from Crimespace: Why A Published Author Will Decline to Read Your Unpubbed Manuscript, a must-read for aspiring authors.

I'm hearing thunder, so I'm off to pull fans from windows until the storm's past. Until later~~


Website update, and Pet Responsibility

Cross-posted from Crimespace--

Got to playing with the website builder and revamped my site. In doing so, I got to wondering, who sort of information do readers want to find on an author's website? Feel free to check it out, and let me know what else you might have wanted to see. The link's on the right. Updating again is no biggie.

On the other matter, we've just adopted a new cat, our third, and our second stray. The first one we adopted a year ago. She'd been hanging out in our yard for a while, and I figured she was a neighbor's cat taking advantage of the fact that our first cat was a house pet and hadn't staked a claim to the yard. She was skittish and would run before we could get close enough to check her out, so I didn't start worrying about her until she got real skinny and got bold enough to come right up onto the front porch and meow at me through the kitchen window, looking for food.

The new cat, which we adopted about a week ago, wasn't originally a stray. In fact, I know exactly where her family was. They lived in the house next door, and moved out maybe half a year ago, I'm assuming due to the breakup of the family, leaving their critters behind for a local family member to care for while they tried to sell their house. The two dogs gradually disappeared--one was an escape artist, and got the gate open, which allowed the other to get out on the road and get hit. The family member was aware of this, but it was the city that came by to dispose of the body. The escape artist eventually disappeared, though I don't know exactly what happened to it.

They also had the cat, which the family member faithfully came by and fed every day until the day the house sold. The cat hung around the house, and the new neighbors never seemed bothered that it was there, so I'd assumed they'd agreed to take the cat along with the house. The cat had always been skittish and wouldn't let me get close, so it wasn't until about a week ago, when I noticed she was terribly skinny and that her black fur was turning brown in patches, that I realized she had been abandoned and was staying alive by eating whatever she could scavenge. Once I started offering her food, she let me get close enough to pet her. She was almost literally skin and bones. I'm not sure how much longer she would have lasted if things had gone on as they were.

Which brings me to my point--when one adopts an animal, one accepts responsibility for its care. This is something at a lot of people don't really seem to understand. They'll get a puppy or a kitten, raise and care for it until it becomes inconvenient, and then dump it somewhere on the assumption that either someone will take it in, or it will hunt and feed itself. They ignore the fact that an animal raised in the wild by its mother knows how to hunt, but an animal raised by humans often will starve to death because it doesn't know how or where to find food. The casual cruelty in the act of abandoning an animal because it's become 'inconvenient' to continue owning it is appalling. I don't understand how people can leave something they once loved to die such a horrible death.

Enough for now~~


Beginning of Summer Fuzz Edition

Well, it's nearly the end of June. (Where did half the year go?) I did warn you in the first post that I have some pretty fearsome allergy problems, and this is one of those times of year when it pops up and really flattens me. It truly wasn't my intention to leave this blog sitting untended for so long.

In recognition of the fact that I'm just incapable of coming up with anything interesting to post of my own at the moment, I'm posting some links to other blogs.

Diana Peterfreund has an interesting primer on publishing. You can find it here and here.

Over at Mysterious Matters is a post on why some perfectly good books get the 'not right for us' pass: How Much Formula Is Too Formulaic?

And just because I thought this was absolutely hilarious when I first read it, Protag No Nos.


Playing Catch-up

Apologies for the long space between blog entries. I've actually been writing lately. May not sound like a big deal, but when you've had next to nothing in the way of output for a few years, its a relief to have the stories flowing again.

There are a few things to clear up in the first three chapters of the new novel, but other than that, I'm about to start chapter four. My husband is my first reader, and every now and then I have to stop working and get him to read and make sure it's still working and that I haven't written something terribly confusing. (Erm, yeah, it does happen.) Especially when it's something that has a strong emotional content, I have to let someone else read it to make sure I haven't over- or under-done it.

The long spell of rain has stopped, at least for the present, and the days are pretty nice, in the 70s and 80s and breezy. I don't look forward to July and August, when it will be up in the 90s and 100s.

Let me give it some thought, and I'll see if I can't come up with another writing post, or some interesting links.




Ah, the joys of having new toys to play with. I think I like the new Blogger.

I’m adding a section to the sidebar with the occasional link to posts on other blogs that I think should be considered. The first one’s called “The Cost of Free Books”, and is a look at this publicity gimmick from the point of view of the publisher. Something to think about, anyway.

I’m into chapter three of the new novel, after a major rewrite of the first two. The whole mapping the story out in an outline thing didn’t work. That really doesn’t surprise me, though, since it never really has. For something non-fiction, an outline seems to work best, but not for fiction. The initial storyline is almost never what I finish with, and the story is probably that much the better for it. Kira has told me some things about herself that I hadn’t planned, familial relationships have shifted again, and this is working so much better than what I started with.

Which brings me to an interesting point—writing advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. When you’re learning to write, you’re flooded with hints and tips from every source you can get your hands on, from books to classes to critique groups, and not everything that’s suggested is going to work for you. In fact, probably a lot of it won’t. You’re getting the benefit of other people’s experience, what works for them, but what fires them up might leave you cold. Try things to find out what works for you, but if it doesn’t, don’t feel deficient or let it stop you in your tracks. There’s nothing that will give you writer’s block faster than trying to follow advice that doesn’t work for you.

The picture in the sidebar is not current. The filly with me is now probably 13 years old. She was a surprise gift from my mare, who’d secretly mated with the previous owner’s colt just before we bought her.

Until next time~~


Crimespace, and a big Thank You

Erm...yeah, I've kind of been neglecting this blog lately...

Just recently discovered a place called Crimespace, which is a place for readers and writers of crime fiction to get together and discuss the genre. Great place to wander around if you're interested.

The "Thank You" goes to Lea Schizas. She's a very generous author/editor/mother hen who has taken it upon herself to help new authors get their start in the world of publishing. She's got a website and a blog, and she runs The Muse It Up Club. She is also one of the driving forces behind the Muse Online Writers Conference, at which I'll be a presenter this year. This is a free-of-charge event, over a five day period, and worth checking out. Registration ends in August, so if you're interested, don't wait around.

More later~~~


April Showers...

Well, we haven't had much in the way of April showers yet, but it is only the 5th. Maybe we'll see some rain soon. The grass is green and growing, but the ground is cracked and dry where there's no ground cover.

The anthology I posted about a while back is out on submission--hopefully we'll hear back about it soon. The Book Pedler is due to review "Blood Money" sometime in the next month. I'm close to finishing chapter one of the new novel. It's still slow going--I don't think quickly during the Spring allergy season--but at least it's going. Kira's about to meet the man she might eventually marry. It depends on if I really want to inflict that on her or not. Patty insists that she's on vacation. Can't say I blame her much, considering what she went through in Reef Runner. Besides, her husband, Micheal, will get to share the task of narration in this next one, and I'm not sure either of them are ready for that yet.

I've been enjoying a blog written by a variety of professionals in the mystery publishing/selling field, titled Hey, There's A Dead Guy in the Living Room. The different perspectives on the publishing biz are quite interesting.

I will be doing another post on some aspect of writing. I just haven't decided what yet.

More when I'm thinking better~~~


Being a Butterfly

Coming out of Winter makes me feel like a bit like a butterfly coming out of its chrysalis--maybe not a pretty one, but at least no longer earthbound.

Kira has changed jobs and familial relationships in the new story, which seems to be working fine. I love it when a story starts to flow! I'm much more comfortable with the character and the level of knowledge she should be expected to have in her environment.

I'm running a drawing for copies of my books in e-format. Visit my website for further info on this--but the contest ends at the end of March, so don't wait too long.

The two Stargate series start up again next month--wooohoooo!! I'm also looking forward to when the new Doctor Who series starts. Also enjoying CSI (the original series), NCIS, House, and enjoyed Eureka when it was on. My reading life has been a little sparse lately. Probably ought to dust off my library card.

I've got some links to add soon. But for now, here's one to the Writer Beware Two Thumbs Down Publishers List, which is a companion to their list of agents and agencies to avoid.

More soon~~


How time flies...

Yikes! It's been a while since I posted last.

The Eppies have been awarded. Alas, my book didn't win, but I'll be getting a nice frameable finalist certificate, so I'll have something to show for it. To find out who did win in the various categories, visit the Eppies page for the complete list. And Congratulations! to the winners!

Spring is arriving at long last. I have to say that I'm much happier with the temperatures outside the house and in. Of course, eventually my worst pollen allergies will strike, but for the moment I'm all right. The grasses are pollinating, but I'm also not eating wheat right now, so it's made a difference in how reactive I am to it. (Gotta remember--don't eat wheat in the Spring!)

I have to confess that a few years ago, I wrote so much stuff in a short period of time that I burned out. It's been a chore getting myself back to the point of wanting to write, but it's happening. All my usual tricks for getting a story started aren't working anymore, so I'm having to find new ones, including something I never used to do, plotting a story out on paper before I started writing it. I've already got a lot of Kira's story plotted out on paper (although some things have changed since I first wrote it all down), so I'll give it another go and see if I can make some progress on it. I'll let you know if it makes a difference.

Hope your Spring is a great one!



The Critique, Part Two

Part one is found here.

Some thoughts about the other side of the critiquing partnership…

Yes, I did write ‘partnership’. A critique is not the same as a review. It’s serious business. It implies that the one seeking the critique recognizes that their work isn’t perfect and wants to improve on it. If all you are looking for is someone to tell you how clever you are and how you’ve written the best book/story/poem/whatever that mankind has ever seen in the entire history of the planet Earth, you’re not looking for a critique. Give your story to Aunt Jane or Granny Sue. They’ll be happy to do that for you.

If you view the words that you’ve written as sacrosanct, you need to consider what your goals are as a writer. Are you happy with where you’re at? Do you have hopes of getting published? Did you know that even multi-published authors have editors? No matter how good you believe you are, there’s room for improvement. If you don’t believe that, don’t bother having someone critique your work. It’ll save someone else the aggravation of having to deal with you. Submit your work as-is, and see how many “Not right for me” rejection letters you get.

If, however, you’re serious about your craft, and you want to make your work the best it can be, getting it critiqued is highly recommended. Is there a local writers group you can join? If not, is there an online group you can join? You will be expected to critique other people’s work as well as getting your work critiqued, which will offer you valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t.

If there are no groups that you want to join, is there someone you know who is good with English who might be willing to critique your work? A working knowledge of the English language, of grammar and spelling, is an invaluable tool, so choose wisely. Pick someone who isn’t intimately concerned with your emotional well-being. You’re more likely to get an honest appraisal of your work.

Will you like everything your critiquer says? Probably not. It’s human nature. We do our best, and because we’re imperfect, our work is imperfect. We don’t see the flaws ourselves when we’re so close to it. And it’s natural to resent it when someone tells us we’ve done something the wrong way. However, try setting the critique aside after the first read, get a couple of days away from it, and then read it again. What was said will probably make more sense to you. As time goes by, you’ll learn to recognize your usual mistakes and correct them before sending future work off to be critiqued.

Will everything that your critiquer says be something that you’ll want to apply? Again, probably not, although it would be good to give each point some serious thought. Sometimes other people simply dislike words that you may have used, and their personal tastes might lead them to ask you to change those words. Are they the words you meant to use, or would the others be better? Try setting aside your ego as you go through the critique to see which suggestions you’ll apply. Do you have a love of long and complicated sentences? Or of big words? The term ‘purple prose’ is defined as prose that is too elaborate. This is not a writing sin you want to be guilty of.

Writing is not so much a destination as it is a journey. You will never reach perfection, but a good critiquer will help you get as close as you can. You will never stop learning, but the better you get, the more satisfying it will become. Don’t give it up just because, at the beginning, you found out there was actual work involved.

And don’t forget to thank your critiquer. You’ve been given a gift of someone else’s time and attention, with the aim of improving your craft. This was not something they had to do, and should never be taken for granted.

Click on the Writing label for all other posts on writing.


The Critique, Part One

So you’ve been asked to critique someone’s writing.

Before you plunge headlong into that manuscript, you need to ask some questions. Not everyone means the same thing when they want a critique. You need to ask them what exactly they’re looking for. Do they just want a read-through and a pat on the head? Or are they serious about their craft and want the works—grammar errors, spelling, syntax, what works and what doesn’t in the story? Finding out these things in advance can save you some grief later.

Is the person whose work you’re about to read related to you? Someone who’s otherwise close to you? If you want my advice, don’t do it. Not only is it very hard to tell someone you’re emotionally close to that you didn’t like parts of their story, in all likelihood, they’re not going to take it well. It’s better to recommend a critiquing group. Many towns have writing groups that meet at libraries and coffee shops. Help them find one that will work for them.

It’s best to give a story a read-through first, then go back and see about errors. That will give you a chance to look at the overall structure and flow of the story, to see if anything jumps out at you right away. Take notes if something does, so you’ll remember what your impressions were. Were there mechanical errors that need fixing? Misspellings, sloppy grammar, sentences that are way too long or too convoluted to be easily followed? Make note of those, too. Is it an electronic copy of the manuscript? Some people use the ‘track changes’ function in MSWord to show their suggestions for fixing those problems. Others type the suggestions into the sentences in parentheses, in another color, to make them noticeable. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy, and possibly a grammar guide, if you’re not that familiar with the rules.

Remember, this is someone else’s story. All you can do is suggest, and if the writer doesn’t want to take some or all of your suggestions, it’s aggravating, but you can’t force them. As you’re writing your suggestions and giving your overall impression of the story, try to start off with something you liked or that you thought was done well, even if it was only a short description of something that really hit home with you. This will make the person on the receiving end a lot more ready to hear the not so good stuff. Try not to say things like, “This is so bad, I can’t believe you thought you could write!” You may be thinking that, but you’ll accomplish nothing useful by saying it.

When you list the things that don’t work, make suggestions for how to improve it. If word choice was a problem, what words would work better? Are there sentences that say something that the author probably didn’t intend? Point out why, and suggest other ways of saying it. Can long and convoluted sentences be divided to make several sentences that say the same thing in a less confusing way? Make note of that as well. Try to phrase things in a way that doesn’t come across as harsh. None of us like to be poked with a sharp stick. Think about how you’d feel if you were on the receiving end of your own advice.

All stories are someone’s baby. It’s human nature not to like it when someone tells us our baby isn’t beautiful. What if you did your best, offered the best advice you could, and the recipient is offended? It happens. Sometimes people tell us they're ready to hear everything that’s wrong, but they really aren’t. All you can do is let it go, and if they ask for your help again at a future date, politely decline. The same with someone who repeatedly asks you to critique for them but never takes your suggestions, even on things that are glaringly wrong like spelling and grammar. It’s not worth the aggravation. It’s also why you shouldn’t critique for family. If they get angry about what you’ve said, you’ve got to live with them, whether in the same house or within the confines of the extended family.

Next time, Part Two. ~~

Click on the Writing label for all writing posts.


Another cold weekend

Did I mention before that I hate winter?

It's the all-pervasive coldness, I think. Even places that are heated are cold, at least to me. I really hate going to bed with cold feet.

The anthology story that was going through edits, titled "Picture Imperfect," is now back with the head editor. Glad to have that done. And I'm back to doing research...Kira's story is going to be a slow write, so I'm going to work on it between working on other projects.

The diet's going great. Went out to buy some new jeans this weekend, and got the next size down from where I was, figuring I'd be able to wear them in another week or so. After I got them home, I tried them on and discovered that I should have gotten the next size below that, because these are loose. Nice problem to have, though.

My website has moved to a new addy. It's now at http://www.peppersmithbooks.com There's a forward set up at the old address to get you to the new one, but that will eventually be gone.

Still pondering the critiquing post.

Until next time~~~


Mission Accomplished

Whew! The talent show that got canceled last week was rescheduled for the 19th, and as the day got closer, it looked like the weather was going to get us again. It held off just long enough, though, and the program went off almost as scheduled. A couple of acts couldn't be there that night, due to scheduling problems, but all the rest came off well, I think.

Just got back that story I wrote for a new anthology, so I've got a bit of work to do. Thankfully, it's just small things, like the overuse of the word 'that'. Funny how that stuff creeps in and I never notice it. Thank goodness for editors.

Still working on the critiquing post, although I think it'll be two posts, now.

Until next time~~~


Sigh. I hate winter.

We're looking at getting freezing rain Saturday. Okay, I know, it's not like other parts of the country haven't been inundated by freezing stuff already this year, but the singing group I'm part of was scheduled to be part of a talent show Saturday night. There's been a lot of time and effort put into it by all parties involved, and it will be a shame if we have to cancel, although of course lives are more important than getting up on stage and singing. There's still a chance that the weather will change before Saturday actually gets here, but it seems like every time I check the National Weather site, the forecast gets worse. We'll be rescheduling, of course, if we have to cancel. Just a matter of finding another time when the performance site is going to be available.

I'm working on a post about critiquing. Don't know exactly when it will be ready.

Kira's story is still evolving. The baddie is finally making some serious input into the story. 'Bout time, is all I can say. I hate when they hang back and don't tell me what they're up to.

Christine Speakman over at Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine reviewed the entire Patty O'Donnell series as one piece. Very nice review.

The wind that's coming in ahead of the weather has stirred up a lot of crud, so I'm a bit allergy-brained right now. More when I'm a bit more lucid.