Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Living With Books

I have books in boxes beneath my bed. In the corner of my room I have what my husband calls the granny chest—it’s also full of books. In the family room there’s a book shelf that takes up a wall. And of course, there’s a book shelf in every bedroom. Just in case you can’t sleep and you need something to read.

If you’re wondering how to happily share space with all your books, please visit my friend Claudine’s page. Claudine knows how to make anything beautiful. Even books.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Health. Financial Fridays

Financial Fridays is shifting gears and talking about health. Why health? Because Americans spend lots and lots of money on healthcare. Some health issues and the resulting costs are unavoidable, but many, if not most, are the result of small, daily choices. And so, while it might seem odd to be talking about fiber, hydration, and sleep in a financial-help post it’s important to remember that your health is as much of an investment vehicle as your 401k. It’s been said that your body is the most miraculous piece of equipment that you will ever possess.

And the bodies we’ve been given are as unique as snowflakes. No body is the same. This sad truth is grotesquely unfair, but there it is. Clyde, a bouncing, wiggly, unable to sit still sixty-year-old, has a burning hot metabolism and at six foot and 150 pounds, he can eat as much as he likes. I know someone like Clyde. When I was pregnant I couldn’t share a sofa with him because his constant fidgeting made me nauseated. Clyde is a very different animal from those of us who are more sedate and he needs to feed his body accordingly.

I have a very sleepy child. He can sleep anywhere. He’s fallen asleep on the stairs, behind the pulpit at church, at school. Loved his naps, welcomed bedtime. His sister, on the other hand, always wanted to play and gave up her naps long before I was ready. She needs less sleep. She has more hours in the day than her brother. It’s not fair, but it’s what she’s b
een given.

So, for the next few weeks while I focus on health, please keep in mind that while I’m not a doctor, I am a mom of many. And as a mom of many, I know that our bodies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. What’s good for one isn’t necessarily right and best for the other, BUT some things, some basic, small daily healthy choices can, in the end, save you hundreds, if not millions, of dollars in health care.

For the next few weeks/months I’ll be writing about healthy living on my
Financial Fridays posts, but I’ll also be writing healthy living tips on my companion blog—Losing Penny and Pounds. I’m starting a new novel and the blog will be, in part, a marketing tool for my book.

Here's the premise: My main character, Penny, is a blogger who chronicled her recent 70lb. weight loss online and attracted a huge following and unfortunately, a stalker. With the help of her honeymooning best friend, she decides to pretend that she's traveling the world. Her friend is taking pictures of exotic locals and Penny is photoshopping herself into t
he pictures, posting them on her blog and all the while hiding out at a remote beach house where she comes face to face with a novelist, Drake, who has his own brand of stalker-- his boss. The two--Penny and Drake-- who intensely dislike each other, decide to fake a marriage to thwart the boss and protect Penny from her stalker. While learning to share a house, a kitchen and a refrigerator, my characters are eaten by dinosaurs, just kidding—but really, I’m not going to tell you anymore because I want you to read the blog and, eventually, my book. Losing Penny, my novel, should be ready for the world by December, 2012.

My blog, Losing Penny and Pounds, will mirror Penny's blog and will featur
e Monday’s Menus, Wednesday’s Workouts, and Feel Good Friday’s Personal Affirmation quotes. (This will be a blog about healthy lifestyles, not about being skinny at any cost. And, of course, all body parts will be referred to in the most respectful manner.)Please visit Losing Penny and Pounds at Losing Penny & Pounds.

And just in case you're wondering--my novel, A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE, is currently being formatted and should be live soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stars on Thars

A few years ago I attended a fundraising event sponsored by the Orange County public library system. A friend arranged (paid) for a well respected, literary author to sit at our lunch table and because I’m a generally lucky person, he sat next to me. I found him to be as charming and witty as his books and short stories. At the time, I was struggling to fit my writing into a schedule and I wanted to know his. That’s what we were talking about when we were interrupted by a New York Times bestselling author. Of course, she hadn’t actually paid money for his attention as my friend had—but frankly, he could have been much kinder to her.

I had previously met and complimented the interrupting author at an earlier workshop and so she, an undoubtedly commercial success, introduced herself to the literary author who, even though he was sitting down and she was standing, managed to look down his nose at her. “I’ve really wanted to meet you,” she said. And he replied something along the lines of humph. (Maybe literary genius repertoire requires some mental stewing.)

And maybe I’m imagining the pain and confusion in her expression as she struggled to strike up a one sided conversation, but I couldn’t help reflecting on another literary genius, Dr. Suess. In Suess’s story The Sneetches, there are two types of creatures—those with stars on thars (on their bellies) and those without. The starred Sneetches control the society while the bare belly Sneetches are social outcasts.

And as I watched the New York Times bestselling author walk away and the literary author returned his attention to me, I couldn’t help thinking that in so many ways, in so many situations, we’re not unlike the Sneetches, and we haven’t come very far from where I first learned to love and read Dr. Suess—the elementary school lunch tables.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Congrats to Kimberly Reid who won the blog hop!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Commas and Pomegranates

The blog hop lives on--scroll down. It's not too late to win.

I’ve gotten my book back from an editor. To me, it looks like she sprinkled it with little red commas. I scroll through page by page, considering all her commas and suggestions. I fall asleep. And then wake, keep myself alert by eating cookies, telling myself that someone out there, someone without little red commas, may love my book almost as much as I do.


Because while I loved writing the book, I don’t love editing it. For the umpteenth time.

I don’t know why, but this reminds me of the pomegranate tree in my yard. My pomegranates have split their seams. No longer nice, round red balls—they’ve morphed into inside out pomegranates- exposing their bright seeds for the birds to eat. For many years, my dog would growl and lunge at the fruit, thinking they were toys, balls, being held purposefully out of her reach. She’d bark and jump and when she’d get a hold of one, she carried it around the lawn proudly. Any pomegranate silly enough to grow less than three feet off the ground died a slobbery death. My piano students also loved the pomegranates. I’d feed them the fruit and send the surplus home to their families.

I no longer teach piano and my dog is too lazy to chase the pomegranates. They’re going to seed on the tree. Really, they’re no better or worse being inside out--—they are just different.

Which is a lot like writing/editing my book. The story isn’t radically changed with all those little red commas, it’s just different. And the umpteenth time around isn’t nearly as entertaining as when the story was brand new.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Letter in the Drawer

No worries. The Valentine Blog Hop lives on. Just scroll down to the following post for a chance to win my novel and a key necklace.

A few days ago I cleaned out a drawer. This is remarkable in and of itself, but the remarkable thing was I found a letter I wrote to myself ten years ago. At that time I was serving in a young women’s presidency and the letter was an assignment given by our young women’s president. The president and I had been friends since our oldest children were age three. We bought our first homes at the same time and had children roughly the same ages. Fifteen years later, we served in our church youth group. Barb was the president. I was her first counselor. I had six children between the ages of 18 and 4. Barb had four. She also had cancer.

This was a busy time for me. I had six children attending five different schools. I had pianists, flutist, horn players and violinists. I had a track star, and a swim team captain, a book addict, a comic book groupie and a junk food junkie. I had a rental property (which meant I had pesky renters.) I was training for a marathon and I owned an overweight, frequently naughty beagle. I remember that busy time and wonder how I ever had time to write to a novel, but I did. Because I wanted to.

Looking back, I realize now that everything I did I did because, quite simply, it was what I wanted to do. And I’m glad.

A few years after serving with Barb in the young women’s program I was called to be the Relief Society president. I helped plan Barb’s funeral. I dressed her body in temple clothes. More than 800 people came to her service. I hope the years until my own funeral are long and many, but because of my experience at Barb’s I hope I can say when I’m on her side of the veil of life--I did everything I wanted to do.

I don’t think my life will be measured by the books I’ve written on the shelf, but by the people I love sitting on the pews. The books are something that I squeeze into the corners of my busy, full life. I love them, too. But not as much as I love the people I live with.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine Blog Hop

Sometime soon I'll be publishing my novel A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE and to celebrate I’m offering a coupon for a free download of my novel Stealing Mercy for everyone who:
follows my blog
leaves a comment
and likes my novel on Amazon.
These three steps also qualify you to win a signed hard copy of Stealing Mercy and a key necklace like the one on the book cover.
Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy your free download from smashwords! Did you follow, comment and like? If so, here’s your coupon code BK66D. I hope you win my prizes! I hope you visit all my friends and win their prizes, too! Hurry, the coupon and the blog hop ends on February 15.

Blurb Help Wanted

I’ve two blurbs I’m working on and I’m open to suggestions. The first is for A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE, the book I hope to share with the world soon. And the second is a novel I wrote many years ago and am now editing, rewriting, hacking and chopping into pieces. Originally, it was called A LIBRARY IN RHYME, but since I’ve decided to create the Rose Arbor series, that title no longer works. So, I’m also open to title suggestions. Feedback welcome and encouraged.

An eastern wind carries more than dust and ashes, it uproots secrets and everyone knows once one secret is told, no secret is safe. Laine’s included. While struggling to shelter her multiplying secrets—the estrangement from her husband—the unknown body lying in her grandfather’s coffin—the sudden and strange appearance of a cantankerous ghost—Laine also searches to answers these questions:
Is she willing--does she want--to end her eighteen year marriage?
What has become of her beloved Poppa Sid?
Is she truly being haunted? Or has she lost her mind?
Laine’s journey takes her to the tiny town of Rose Arbor, her grandfather’s hometown and the place of her grandmother’s death. As Laine unravels the mystery of her grandparents’ marriage she is forced to face two more very important questions—is there love after death? And if a love dies, can it live it again?

Crazy Aunt Charlotte is missing again. Blair Rhyme, Rose Arbor’s young librarian, doesn’t bother to check Charlotte’s regular haunts- -the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars lodge, the Four H-Club, or the bins behind Milton’s Fish shop- -because unlike her past vanishing acts, this time Charlotte is dead. Blair has discovered Charlotte’s body amongst the boxes of what-nots and whatevers in the library’s basement. Unfortunately, when she returns to the library with the police in tow Charlotte is missing. Again.
A hooded face in a window, a shoe theft, her aunt’s disappearance- Blair needs to prove to the police, and to herself, that she doesn’t share her aunt’s dementia, but, a former love and a stranger with his own agenda seem intent on trying her sanity.
Desperate to find Aunt Charlotte, Blair tangles with a Boy Scout troop more interested in swinging each other from hooks in the slaughter house than doing good turns, Friends of the Library like Marcus Nichols, an aficionado of science fiction and devotee of all things alien, and Audrey Morris, a spinster who would rather blackmail than card catalogue. Blair also picks up a couple of unwanted allies, a half drowned cat and a feisty eighty-three year old Romeo who is spoiling for a fight. Blair tells him, “I’m just a librarian, hopefully years away from spoiling.”
But, she wonders if spoilage and madness aren’t inevitable. At first Blair dismisses the skin pricking sensation of being watched, but as small disturbances grow increasingly threatening, Blair must examine the boundaries between paranoia and truth before she falls victim to the enemies, real or imagined, that haunted and drove her aunt to madness and death in the Rose Arbor town Library.

Friday, February 3, 2012

First Page Fridays

I entered the first page of my upcoming novel A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE on Julie Bellon's First Page Friday blog and received this critique from an editor. THANK YOU JULIE AND MS. UNKNOWN EDITOR! Read the excerpt and critique below and tell me what you think. Do you agree? Disagree? Would you like to read my book?

When you’re done, visit Julie’s blog so you can find out how you can buy Julie’s book which has just been declared a Whitney finalist!http://ldswritermom.blogspot.com/2012/02/first-page-friday.html

Soon, A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE will be available as an e-book through Amazon and most e-readers. It should return from the editor on Monday. I had hoped it would be available by Valentine’s Day, but that may or may not happen. Really, it makes more sense for a ghost story to be published on Halloween, but who wants to wait until October? Besides, it’s a love story, actually, two love stories, so Valentine’s Day seemed like a nice fit. Unfortunately, depending on circumstances, I may have to shoot for St. Patrick’s Day…and throw in a leprechaun or two. Just kidding. No leprechauns. Maybe Abe or George for President’s Day? We’ll have to see what the editor,formatter and distributor have to say.

Here’s what the unknown shreditor said:

The Entry
A Ghost of a Second Chance
by K. Tate

The Chinook wind stirred the fallen leaves and tossed them around the deserted street. An eastern wind carries more than dust and ashes, Laine’s mother had told her; it uproots secrets. And everyone knows once one secret is told, no secret is safe.

Hers included.

Laine paused in front of the Queen Anne Hill Chapel doors. The sun, a faint pink glow over the eastern hills had yet to shine, but Laine hadn’t any doubt that it would rise to another scorching Indian summer day. She looked out over sleeping Seattle. The dark gray Puget Sound stretched away from her. On the horizon, distant ships bobbed and sent quivering beams of light over the water.

She turned her back on the ships, on any dream of sailing away and inserted the key into the heavily carved wooden doors. They slid open before Laine turned the key. Odd. The chapel, built in the 1930s, had a musty, empty smell. She stepped into the cool shade of the foyer and the door swung shut, closing with a click that echoed through the cavernous room. The morning sounds--birds, crickets and insects--disappeared when the doors closed. Laine’s sneakers padded across the terracotta tile, her footsteps loud.

She had thought she’d be alone, which is exactly why she’d chosen to come at near dawn. Not that she’d been able to sleep. She hadn’t slept for weeks. Which may explain why at first she’d thought the girl standing in the nave, facing the pulpit, her face lifted to the stain glass window, might be a ghost, or even, given her surroundings, an angel.

Although Laine couldn’t see her face, the way the child’s head moved, it looked as if she was having a conversation with the Lord trapped in the glass, or one of the sheep milling about His feet, giving Laine the uncomfortable sense of interrupting. The meager morning sun lit the glass and multi-colored reflections fell on the girl, giving her an iridescent glow. Slowly, she turned and Laine realized she wasn’t a child, but a young woman, around twenty, wearing vintage clothing.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

I like that this chapter begins with a secret, because it gives the reader immediate motivation to keep reading. After all, there are few things more compelling in a story than untold secrets. The eastern wind carries with it the threat/promise that Laine’s will come to light at some point in this story.

The Seattle setting feels authentic because the author gives us just enough (but not too much) detail. Establishing setting in a specific geographic location can be tricky; you want to root the reader in the narrator’s environs without sounding touristy. I assess setting in a book the way a psychologist might assess a lie: Just as a psychologist suspects a lie if a person offers too many details, I suspect that an author is writing about a place he or she has never actually visited if the descriptions are too flowery or the story is full of regional clich├ęs. There's nothing wrong, of course, with writing about a place you've never been; you just have to go about it carefully. If you pepper a story that takes place in, say, San Francisco, with sightings of the Golden Gate Bridge, trolley cars, and Rice-A-Roni, the reader is going to see through it. So make sure to do your research and establish setting with a light hand, as this author has done. Give readers enough to go on without turning it into a travelogue.

The writing in general is quite vivid. The author taps into multiple senses to engage the reader in the unfolding scene, and the story takes on an eerie quality when the iridescent girl appears.

One thing to watch for in this sample: verb tense inconsistency. In the first sentence, we have an observation from Laine’s mother in the present tense. It might read more smoothly if it went something like this: “According to Laine’s mother, an eastern wind carried more than dust and ashes; it uprooted secrets.” The first sentence of the fifth paragraph also shifts from past to present tense. You might also try to eliminate the “is” from that sentence by recasting: “She’d chosen to come at dawn so that she could be alone. Later in the paragraph, we switch again to the present with “Which may explain why…” Make sure to pick one tense and stick with it.

This chapter could also benefit from some light copyediting to resolve minor mechanical issues (e.g., “come at near dawn”) and some clunky syntax here and there. But the author does an excellent job of setting the scene, making it vivid, and leaving the reader with enough unanswered questions to keep the reader turning the pages.

Thank you so much for our submitters and for the time and effort our wonderful editors put in to help us. See you next week!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Five Things I've Learned in Five Years

I’m rewriting a novel I began in 2004. Originally, it took me three years to write all 102,409 words. Most of those were stupid words. I’m not saying that in the last five years I’ve gone from stupidity to witty cleverness. Not at all. But, I’ve learned a few things and I’m here to share. (The Rhyme’s Library is now at 81,000 words and shrinking.)

1. Use wordle. Don’t know what wordle is? It’s a website that creates word clouds out of any document—the more frequent the word usage, the bigger it appears in the cloud. This is an easy way to find your pet words. One of mine happens to be “look.” He looked, she looked, everybody looked. Try it out at www.wordle.net/

2. Don’t use words you don’t typically use in conversation. I actually stopped reading Elizabeth Peters novels because her frequent use of the word orb bothered me. Some words shouldn’t be used more than once and some not at all. Same with phrases. I read a friend’s novel where the lovers kept melting into each other. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds messy and really shouldn’t happen very often. If at all.

3. Watch out for passive sentences. The Rhyme’s Library is riddled with them. Example: the word COULD. Claris COULD hear a soft voice in the background—versus--Claris heard a soft voice in the background. Another example: the word FELT. Claris ran a finger along Alec’s glass of soda, and FELT the cold condensation wet her finger tips. Better-- Claris ran a finger along Alec’s soda glass--the cold condensation wet her finger tips. Example: the word WAS. The trip to the morgue WAS a trip she COULD make alone--OR--She’d go to the morgue alone.

4. Evaluate Criticism objectively. Since writing this story, I’ve been told the same thing by two industry professionals—my plots are too complicated. The first to tell me this was an editor for a small romance publishing company; the second was a reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly—the review was part of the “prize” for my placement in the Amazon Novel Breakthrough whatever. I live by the standard that I can swallow one critique with a sugar cube, but if someone else independently tells me the same thing I should probably take note. So, I’m reading my five year old manuscript and wondering--is this too complicated? Can I be less convoluted? Another thing I’ve been told by more than writerly person is my work is “very British.” Can you believe that two people who don’t know each other would actually use the words “very British?” I don’t even know what that means. Or what to do with it. Which brings me to number 5.

5. Love your work. It may have wrinkles, fat rolls, and zits, but ultimately, it is your story. It’s your baby. Love it enough to cut away its rough edges. Coax it into simplicity. Shave off unsightly adverbs. Love it enough to leave it in a five year time out. And if someone tells you your baby is very British tell them thank you very much.