Posted in Books, Winter Fairy

Winter Fairy is back!

Winter Fairy_edited-1-3I’m pleased to share with all of you that Winter Fairy is once again available for purchase, but with a whole new look.  Also new, this universal buy link. If it works, you should be directed to the retailer of your choice. If it doesn’t work, let me know.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to get Winter Fairy republished. This is my “little book that could,” and I’m glad so many of you have read and recommended it to friends looking for a holiday romance.

Currently, Winter Fairy is only available as an ebook, but if I get enough requests for paper or audio, I’ll see if I can make that happen.

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Posted in Environment, Family life, Uncategorized

Kicking the plastic habit

Ever since a stint living in Germany in the 1990s, I’ve tried to be thoughtful about my use of plastic. Twenty years ago, cashiers didn’t know what to do when I brought my own love_birds_2pkreusable bags to stores. One even called a manager! Could you imagine that happening in 2018? I average one case of plastic bottled water a year. I do keep some in the house (and in the car) in case of emergency, but I never drink it at home (unless there is a drinking water emergency) and I rarely buy water out because I use a refillable water bottle. I buy resealable plastic bags for school supply lists, but lunchboxes I use these sandwich bags and other refillable containers.

With China’s announcement that they will no longer accept the world’s plastic for recycling, I’m looking for more plastic alternatives.  I’ll share a few things I currently do, a few changes I’ve started to implement, and a few wishes. I’d love to know how YOU reduce plastic.

WHAT I DO (in addition to those above):hk048-sap

  1. refuse straws
  2. use glass containers for storage
  3. skip plastic in home decor items
  4. seek out clothing and other fabrics made from recycled water bottles. If you are in the market for a new purse or backpack, I love Haiku bags. I recently bought a second one – not because the first wore out, but because after 6 years, I wanted a different pattern.
  5. shop the farmer’s markets. Less packaging = less plastic.

WHAT CHANGES I’M MAKING NOW:

  1. Switching back to bar soap. This one hurts. I love body wash and hate slimy soap, but I love our planet enough that I’m giving up the bottle.
  2. Bamboo toothbrushes.

MY WISH LIST: (Can you help?)

  1. Alternative to plastic wrap in the kitchen. I want something to protect oddly shaped food (say cut avocados) from the air and to cover bowls of rising bread dough.
  2. A peanut and tree-nut allergy safe place for buying food in bulk. Every single place I’ve seen has potential for cross contamination and I won’t risk my daughter’s life.
  3. plastic free toothpaste.
  4. Lip balm in non-plastic container.
  5. antiperspirant in non-plastic container.

I would love to hear ideas and suggestions from you. How do you reduce plastic in your life? I’m on the lookout for new ideas.

Posted in On Writing, organization

GDPR makes my brain hurt

I’m neither a lawyer nor a web developer and legalese gives me a headache. I’ve been wading through a sea of information for nearly two weeks and I still can’t figure out if this blog is GDPR compliant. I’ve been in what feels like an endless loop of developers, font providers, hosts and big fancy words to try and avoid getting in trouble with my European followers.

I haven’t figured it out, yet, but I will tell you this. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, I’ll need your email address and your permission. If you want to comment on my site, I’m asking for a name and email because it cuts down on the amount of spam comments unrelated to the reason you came to this site. Plus, if you decide to follow the thread, it will send you an email if there are changes in the response. If you sign up to follow this blog, you will get an email when I post.

The only thing I personally do with the data on this site, is get excited when I see a map of my visitors. Thank you for letting me do that. I love maps.

Sometimes ads appear at the bottom of this site, so I suppose cookies are collected somewhere and used by someone. I’ll keep digging through the GDPR words until I find answers that satisfy me.

Posted in Christmas, Family life, Writing

Rethinking the calendar

Over 15″ of snow fell on my driveway this weekend, and I’m not counting the drifts. This would have been welcome and fun in December, but in April, not so much.  We barely had snow in December, the month when we sing songs celebrating the joy of snow. Something is wrong.

I blame our collective attachment to the Georgian calendar, the one predominately used today. The Georgian calendar has been kicking around since the 1580s.  Prior to that, the Roman Calendar provided dating in Western Civilizations. That problematic calendar had only 10 months and was about 60 days too short for Earth’s journey around the Sun. Adapting a new calendar is not out of the realm of historical possibility.

Change is tough and I suspect song writing is too. But something is not matching up. Those lazy hazy days of Summer are not likely to roll around until September.  We need a new system with different names. Now, I’m not a scientific expert, and I really like the handy way of remembering how many days are in each month by counting on the knuckles, so I’ll keep the dates the same, but the months get new names. Any holidays deeply tied to a specific month will move to appropriate “new” month.  Also – this is a bit North-hemisphere -entric. My brain is too cold to fully think through all the consequences, that’s because my foolish brain still associates April with Spring.

February becomes “Newano.” By starting the calendar on the old Feb first, we will better align with the traditional Chinese New Year.

March becomes “Midwinter.” I would suggest moving Groundhog’s day to Midwinter, but some of us are ready to choke the little rodent so maybe not.

April becomes “Stillwinter.” St. Patrick’s day brightens up the snow with a bit of much longed for greenery.

May becomes “Frostend.” You can begin to put out garden plants, but chances are high your crocus will end up covered in snow.

June becomes “Junette.” It’s a light name befitting long hours of sunshine and springlike warmth against your skin.

July stays July.

August becomes “Highsummer.” The temperatures soar during this peak summer month.

September becomes “Lingersommer.” The long summer has become stale. Parents are counting the days until back to school.

October becomes “Threeano.” The month has been misnamed so long, why break with tradition. School starts.

November becomes “Plantend.” Harvest the last of your tomatoes before Halloween night.

December becomes “Monthopause.” The calendar year is transitioning. The linguistic gymnastics burn an extra calorie or two so you don’t need to feel guilty about that extra slice of pie on Thanksgiving.

January becomes “December.” Just because I’m reinventing the calendar, I don’t have to throw away all our mental associations with December. Let’s keep the last month the same, except with more snow and a more realistic expectation of how long we have to wait until spring.

 

Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Romance is necessary

I’m currently serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. The time I spend in service to my chapter comes at the expense of time spent updating my blog, but maybe I can double dip from time to time.

Each month, I write a “From the President” letter for our newsletter. Some are more chapter oriented, but others are not. All require me to think about what it means to be part of Romancelandia and the world of publishing.  I know a number of authors who are frustrated with the business and the world at the moment. Please don’t quit. This one is for you.

Between the #metoo movement, children dying at school, and all the other forces at work highlighting the chaos and cruelty in the world, writing romance can be a real challenge. Whether in social media or in conversations, I’ve heard a lot of writers question how they can continue to write romance in this climate. I myself have days where the news of the world both far-flung and close to home overwhelm my senses. Combine this with the struggle I’ve had to find a publishing home for my last two manuscripts, and giving up seems like a rational solution. Except, it isn’t.

To paraphrase Damon Suede, Romance is the literature of hope. Our happily ever afters (or nows) come only after the characters have struggled and sunk to their lowest points. Only by finding inner strength can our characters overcome obstacles and find themselves in better places by the end of the story. We can much learn from our fictional creations.

Our stories can help readers find hope. We provide a valuable service to our readers and the community at large. We don’t know exactly what word or plot line will resonate with any given reader. Maybe our words bring a smile to someone’s face. Maybe that person shares the smile with the next person they see. Maybe our stories offer aspirational relationships and help someone leave a toxic relationship, or maybe our stories help deepen already strong bonds by reminding a reader of what made them love their partner in the first place. Maybe our stories make someone feel less alone and that is enough to help that person reconnect with the world. That was certainly the case for me.

For those days writing hope does not come easy, please find ways to take care of yourself. Turn off the news and meet up with a friend or fellow writer for coffee. Take a walk in nature—sans earbuds—and tune into the sensory experience around you. Go to a concert or a party and leave your phone at home. Try something new or rediscover an old passion. We need you. We need your stories. We need your hope.

Posted in Conference, For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Murdering Darlings: Revisions

When we writers struggle with edits, inevitably someone will mention the phrase often (but questionably) attributed to William Faulkner, or Stephen King, or Colette, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or… You get the idea.

Whether the chosen word is murder or kill, for a slow writer such as myself, this concept can bring tears, especially when entire scenes (and the precious words that change a novel to a novella) are lost.

I’m almost ready to submit a new manuscript, but only because this week, I sacrificed my darlings.

Teddy bear knife block found on pinterest
sadly not available

My first page has been a years long education. I first conceived of this work as a short story.  I was ready to contribute my 8,000 polished words to an anthology or anywhere else looking for short work. And then, at a conference, the acquiring agent revealed the most overused cliché in her rejection pile – the opening in a rainy cemetery. Guess where my story started. Oops. I set the manuscript aside.

I next picked up the manuscript with the “brilliant” idea of the heroine driving into town after a long absence, I layered in plot and new depth. The short story grew to novella proportions of 22,000 words. My beta readers loved the idea but one thought it started slow. Nevermind. I was ready to pitch until I was an a conference and an acquiring editor called the car ride open her instant “no.” Oops. I set the manuscript aside.

Still, I couldn’t let the story go. All through my broken arm induced writing hiatus, these characters sat with me. I expanded the story, adding subplots and conflict. I reached 56,000 words. A Novel! Almost. I still didn’t have a good opening.

I spent a week recrafting the opening chapter, and an entire day hand writing various opening sentences and more time tweaking and revising and finally, I had it.

“C.E disliked sticky mud, but grass alone didn’t give the grave the necessary freshness.”

Victory! You are intrigued and I get a cemetery. Win! Win! Win!  Except the first chapter was totally wrong for the book. I scrapped it. I murdered that sentence I worked so hard on. The one that absorbed days of my time, where every word had been carefully considered and my beta readers swooned – at least until they reached the end of the second paragraph and then slogged through to the 10th page where the story actually began.

This week, I murdered some words. I have no guilt. Killing them made my heart lighter and my story better. I have a new opening sentence, one that I love and will share wide and far when the time comes.

Until then, if you are wondering what is in that grave, I’ll tell you. It’s murdered darlings.

Posted in Books, Christmas, Family life, First Friday Five, tween

Books to give – teens and tweens

As in years past, I want to help you give books to the children in your life. Hook ’em young, and keep ’em hooked on reading. This year my recommendations are not as organized as some years. My medical saga gave me quite a bit of brain fog, but I have a few scraps of paper collected through the year and I’ll share them here.

 

For the TWEENS in your life:

You can’t go wrong with a book by Chris Grabenstein. He taps into silliness like no one else, but also goes deeper. He understands the emotional life of tweens. Even reluctant readers will connect with his books, including the terrific Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series.

Both my kiddos (the tween and the teen) enjoyed the graphic novel Real Friends by Shannon Hale. Don’t let the cover fool you – this is a book for boys and girls. 

 

 

 

TEENS

My teen is cranky – the authors she loves are not producing books as fast as she can read them.  I think she has already marked the 2018 release of the next book in the Talon series on her calendar. Julie Kagawa is a masterful storyteller. Legion, book 4 in the saga, came out this year. Fortunately, Julie Kagawa has a number of other books to keep her busy.

 

She’s also read a lot of Michael Crichton and Douglas Adams this year. Unless there is a hidden manuscript somewhere that will magically appear this month, I have no new recommendations from them.

Do you have any recommendations for me? I need an excuse to run to the local bookshop.

Posted in organization

Construction delays continue

I’ve been doing some behind the scenes prep work on my website renovation.  I picked an image for my banner, and have updated my social media sites with various crops of the same photo, and yes, I’m proud to say, I took the photo of red-buds in bloom.

I don’t have all the pieces in place yet. I still have colors to change and text to update. Before I go too far down this path, what do you think of the new look?

Is the font easy to read? Is this a place you’d visit again? Let me know in the comments or by email if something on this design is wonky.

Thanks for your patience.

Posted in For Writers, Writing

Break out the orange cones

Construction season has arrived in most of North America. Even though most of you are probably sick and tired of seeing orange cones, orange barrels, and “Work Zone” signage, I have more for you.

My website needs an overhaul. There are a few potholes – er – broken links – and frankly, I’m tired of looking at it.

I’ll do my work behind the scenes until I’m ready for the reveal. Until then, for the latest news, please follow me on my Facebook author page and/or my newsletter.

Before the website overhaul is finished, I’ll have some goodies for my newsletter subscribers.  Subscribers may be asked to help pick some website design elements but more importantly, I have some books to giveaway. As part of my office-clean-up-surgery-prep, I decided I have some books in need of new homes. I have a stack of contemporary romances and a stack of paranormal romances. Details on how to enter will be in my next newsletter, arriving late July.

Safe travels everyone!

590ce3a3b8f75-image
From The LaCrosse Tribune. http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/road-construction-season-in-full-swing-in-la-crosse-area/article_8078746c-3910-50f9-ba51-00bf51dcaa9a.html 

 

Posted in Environment, Family life

I have many Egrets

My laptop faces a wall, but my office has a window that looks out over farmland, a marsh and a pond. With spring in full swing, I often crack open the window to listen to the birds and frogs sing. When I need to stretch my legs, I walk to the window and check out the activity.

Canadian Geese and Mallard ducks are standard fare. Sometimes, I see a muskrat taking a swim. Occasionally, Merganser ducks put on a diving performance.

But my favorite are the egrets. Once, five egrets waded in the shallows; most days two stop by. With their high-stepping black legs and neck that extends out of the standard “S” shape as they walk, I find them delightfully slow and awkward. When they spy a snack, they go statue still for a moment. In the blink of an eye, they snatch the tadpole or fish or insect and jerk their long neck straight. Even at a distance, I can see them swallow and pause before starting the process anew.

I may have some regrets in life, but time I waste watching egrets is not one.