26 March, 2014

Forward thinking

I never know how to start posts like this, mostly because my brain is going forty seven directions at once, yet stuck in the same place.

It's weird how life is like that, everything's always changing yet it always seems to stay the same.

Anyway, let's start with the books.

Two novels (SPORE and MORGAN'S RUN) are out of my hands and seeking the next stopping point on their journey to publication. I currently have no idea when, where, how, or any other details. It's just a whole lot of waiting. Waiting's tough. Having no news while waiting is tougher. But we writers just have to stick it out because that's the job. People keep asking me when they can get the books, and I have to shrug and admit I have no flipping clue. As soon as I know, you'll know.

I'm struggling with SLIPPAGE, the book I intend to follow SPORE with (it, too, is a speculative thriller, in no story-line way related to SPORE, but I am gonna stick in a very slight connection between the two - Go Ghoulie! ;) ). It's crazy, how stuck I am, especially since the whole book is laid out and glistening in my head and in my notes. I'm just got getting any drama on the page. Seriously, WTF?!? I always have drama on the page. Another issue is getting the main characters (two kids on the run) to open up with me. Both are closed up tight, not willing to divulge anything to me beyond bare bones story essentials, and I haven't been able to crack them open. Yet.

Since SLIPPAGE isn't going anywhere other than circling around an assassin of sorts named Huey, who is NOT the focus of the book dammit, I've returned to poking Dubric's next novel, STAIN OF CORRUPTION, with a pointy stick.

There are a lot of issues with STAIN, not the least of which is its commercial viability. The original three Dubric novels didn't exactly create new sales records, and, after all this time, I don't think it's likely to sell to a traditional publisher. I could be wrong, yes, but I kinda doubt it. But the fans wants it, precious, but it's gonna be a long, brutal, convoluted, layered kinda book, which will become the pivot point for the second half of the series and I just.... ARRGH.

ARRGH.

Anyway, I've griped talked with a couple of friends about it this past week, and have told them about the big twisty storyline shift in mid book. They've been consistently OMG!! This is, OMG!! So cool! OMG!! Fuck, yeah!! and they've helped me maybe figure out a way to pull off the big shift without cheating (I don't want to cheat, but I don't want to show my whole hand for the plot by the midpoint either) so, anyway, I'm kind of back on it. Again. With new hope I can make the big pivot work.

That's been the sticking point all this time, how can I pull off the pivot that turns the series from a set of murder mysteries (sort of) to political upheaval and war (sort of) while maintaining the integrity of the storyline, characters, world, and all those pesky ghosts and still keep it exciting, honest, and brutal, all while writing essentially two books in two separate times and storylines all at once? Gah! One of my pre-readers currently has what I've written and I'm hoping he'll have some useable feedback on the actual viability of the overall plan. The book's looking like it'll be crazy-long, a real doorstop of a book, and a whole lot of bodies and ghosts will pile up before it's over

I also have a Lars based novella which is about 1/4 done, ish, called Six Sides of Blue where Lars is called to a rural area to investigate the rape of a handicapped girl. I need to get some words in on it this week. No ghosts, no magic, just straight up investigation into some brutality that ends up being bigger than it first seems. Fun, right?

Okay, that's pretty much it in writing related news.

In other matters, I'm back on plan with Weight Watchers, and it's going all right. I'd pretty much fallen off the wagon this past winter and I decided to climb back on a couple of weeks ago. So far so good, but it's a slow, aggravating process. But at least it's working forward again.

Health is okay. I'm getting my troublesome-but-not-dangerous medical issue re-checked in May. Really, really hoping it's improved. *fingers crossed* Stupid mutinous parts! Get back to work and quit screwing with my life!

Here in Northern Iowa, Spring and Winter are battling for dominance and, today at least, Spring seems to be winning. We've had snow the last few days, but today it's wind and sun, so I am thankful. Since Easter is just a few weeks away and I'm helping out at our community's annual Easter Egg Hunt, I really hope Spring takes control. I don't want to be hiding eggs in the snow. ;)

My sewing machine is still acting up so I have done NO SEWING since I sent a couple of quilts out to friends. None. Zippo. It's beginning to feel alarming but I don't know how to fix it. Grr.

I've had some depressive issues, mostly feeling stuck (see books above, and the weight loss stall) but it seems to be lifting.

Marketing is just, blergh. Since I do have two novels out in the world seeking publication, I've been looking at marketing (insert gaggy noises complete with exaggerated facial expressions here). My preferred social media venue (Facebook) is limiting the exposure of business page posts to 1-2% of subscribed readership unless you 'pay to play'. I refuse to do that, so I've opened my personal FB page to friend request from everyone. I am not happy about this since I've had some issues with boundaries, but it seems to be the best option, considering. I've let a few fans in and so far so good. I'm on Twitter, but since I don't have a smart phone and only tweet from my computer I'm not very involved there, plus I am on G+, at least I check it a couple of times a week. And then there are my rare blog posts, which auto-post to Goodreads and Amazon (which also gets my tweets).

Gah, I need a better marketing plan. I am so not good at this stuff.

Pets are all fine, but Puufy is acting a little.... uncomfortable. He's ten years old this year and he's had some medical issues in the past. We're all worried he might be creaking toward the end and it bothers me. I loves my Puufums Baby. All of the cats want Spring, dammit! They keep begging to be let out, go out, decide it's still to freaking cold (and there are no birdies, bunnies, etc to chase anyway) so they want right back in only to want back out again 5 minutes later because, surely, Spring has finally come. Right? The dog, tho, is perfectly content to laze around the house and doesn't want anything to do with outside unless he has to potty. MeowMeow, the cat we rescued last fall, is finally fitting in. Mostly. She gets along great with Puufy, but there are occasional altercations with Abbie and Peanut, mostly because MeowMeow starts them. These altercations, however, have decreased dramatically in frequency and noise level, so we're taking all that as indications she's being accepted into the group.

I'm not a basketball fan (Go Steelers!!) but I've been watching the NCAA tournament some because Iowa State is playing. I almost went to ISU and my niece is currently a student there (plus we shop in and drive through Ames fairly often). So, Go 'Clones!

I'm also rooting for Kentucky, mostly because they were plating Kansas State, and I don't like the Wildcats, so Go Kentucky! Yeah, I'm weird. Other than Iowa State and Kentucky, I apparently don't care at all about March Madness. lol I think they're in different brackets. Maybe they'll play each other?? That'd be cool and give me more good reasons to cuss at the TV.

Bill has remodeling on his mind, which is awesome, but we can't agree on what to do to streamline the house, which is not awesome. We'd like rearrange the plumbing, get a better kitchen (while my kitchen is lovely, it's not very cooking-friendly workspace and layout wise) and a downstairs bedroom/bath. Plus no ceiling on the upstairs-stairs. All without doing a massive gut job of our delightful old Victorian farmhouse or spending a crap-ton of money on a 2-story addition. Is that too much to ask?!? Is it? I mean, really! Geesh! :p

Bill wants a second floor addition over the back end of our existing kitchen, so he can move the bathroom and get rid of the 'landing' over the lower part of the upstairs stairs, plus straighten the stairs, and simplify the household plumbing and stack. I want a lower level addition so we can move the kitchen and get the bedroom/bath. But if we do the 2-story addition it'll free up all kinds of space to do stuff and we can basically rearrange everything, but we'd end up with 5 or 6 bedrooms and make the house about 3,200 sq. feet (which is insane, we really don't need that much space for the four of us) so it's been a mental exercise in floorplans, cost issues, how to change the basement to accommodate all the support/plumbing/electrical/etc, how do we even get TO the basement with each plan, and what the hell are we gonna do with SIX Bedrooms?!?

I have to disclose here that Bill and I utterly LOVE remodeling. We'd essentially gutted and re-built our previous 2 houses by ourselves (well, we did hire out the furnace work at the previous place, but that's about it) so we're both finding this wonderfully aggravating and, frankly, encouraging. It's a GOOD sign we're talking about this stuff, even if our house is pretty much awesome just as it is. We'd both been feeling stuck for a long time, no idea what to do to move forward again, to hope again, and we are. Finally. We've even done some rearranging within the existing house, have ordered new living room furniture (it'll be here in about 2 weeks! YAY!!) and are making plans for stuff to do later this year.

I am so, so happy with all of this, now if I could just get one of the books to click together (or one of the finished books to sell!), everything would be golden! Have a happy Spring, everyone and many, many {{hugs}}

11 February, 2014

Tea

There, right now, six different kinds of tea in our cupboard. I know, because I just counted them. Plain teas, flavored teas, six different kinds of teas.

None of them are mine.

In my household, everyone drinks hot tea except me. Oh, we all drink unsweetened iced tea (it's my beverage of choice all summer and when we go out to eat) but I never developed a taste for the hot stuff. Bill and Laura both have their own steeping pots and our granddaughter is delighted to steal take sample sips of whatever blend mommy or pah-pah are drinking, but I only fill up the kettle if I'm making instant cocoa (sugar free, um, yay?) or the occasional instant apple cider (also sugar free).

Does anyone else out there drink iced tea, but not hot tea?

04 February, 2014

Welcome to February!

Been rather crazy busy here. Working on SLIPPAGE (it's a spec thriller about 2 kids running from a murder rap and a hit man) and it's coming really, really slooooooow, mostly because I always struggle with book openings. I tend to front load books (get the action, main plot points, all the important characters out right away) and that's tough to do in three or four chapters without being infodumpy and boring. So I fight beginnings. Always.

I had a lovely conversation with fellow writer Shirley Damsgaard last week about it, and we hashed out some ideas (mostly for backstory of the murder victim and the motivation of one of the kids) and it helped. I've had a decent writing week since. Not great, not craptastic. I'm happy with it, anyway. Maybe this opening will be the one! ;)

Sewing is... meh. We really can't afford one of the machines that I like, so we got the broken one sort-of fixed. He couldn't find anything wrong with the computer (it's an intermittent fault) so he cleaned, tightened, and did regular maintenance on it. It's running, but that's about all I can say, to be honest. I sewed some over the weekend and kept having problems with thread breakage. I never have problems with thread breakage. So while my machine is working, it's not working as well as I'd like and I really don't trust it to do anything picky or precision oriented.

Sigh. It's gonna be a tough spring if I can't sew.

My diet and exercise regimen seems to be getting back on track after falling in the doldrums for about six months. I'm down a couple of pounds, which is good.
I hope everyone is having a great week and is looking forward to a fantastic February!

15 January, 2014

Broken Threads #2

I feel like I have looked at a hundred sewing machines, but it's actually about thirty, total, at six different places.

They all start to blend together, so thank goodness for brochures. Would I like the $3500 does-everything-but-cook-supper model in the pretty sewing cabinet with a gazillion attachments? Absolutely. Do I need such a machine, or would I use all those swanky features? Probably not. I make quilts, not couture for royalty. I'm looking for power, durability, and precision, not swank.

I think, at this point, I've narrowed it down to the Brother Simplicity SB3129 (at about $500, it's by far the least expensive, but I wonder if the price is indicative of durability), the Pfaff Ambition 1.0 (just under $1,000) the BabyLock Tempo ($720) and the BabyLock Melody ($1300). Both BabyLock machines are very similar, except for a few handy features (like automatic thread cutting) and attachments (an extension table included) but are those features worth $600?? In fact, all of the machines are very similar. Now it's just deciding how many bells and whistles I need/want/am willing to pay for (let alone justifying spending that much money on a hobby in the first place) and which brand seems to have the most staying power.

I have a couple of weeks to decide.

13 January, 2014

Broken Threads #1

Many of you know I make quilts. A lot of quilts. It's a compulsion and I have a freaking boatload of fabric here in the house, even after giving my friend Katie nearly a full trunk of my overflow (as in the trunk of my Corolla, not a steamer trunk, although the volume is probably similar).

I've been sewing since our daughter was an infant, maybe three or four months old. She'll be twenty four years old next month and I have made, minimum, 25 quilts a year for the entirety of her life. I made twenty six one summer (it was a very good quilting year) but there have been slow years too, so an average of 25 seems conservative to me. That's right about six hundred quilts. Likely more.



Before your eyes pop outta your heads over that crazy number, most of these quilts are on the small side. I've done a couple hundred baby quilts (let's say eight a year, average), I usually only do one bed sized quilt a year (probably 30 total), three or four lap or couch sized quilts a year, and the rest are small, table runners, wall hangings, odd little funky, artsy things. Still, a LOT of quilts.

My first sewing machine was a 1953 Elna model I got after my great aunt Mary died. It used different cogs I had to insert into the machine to make it do various stitches. I burned the oomph out of it in about two or three years, mostly making baby clothes plus some quilts. My second machine was an inexpensive BabyLock, and I used it literally to death, wearing out the motor and gears after about six years of quilting, quilting, quilting. When it became too tired to quilt anymore, I bought a really nice computerized Pfaff and I've driven it through hundreds of quilts (very few garments). The Pfaff was a dedicated workhorse. I dragged it all over the place for classes and sew days and to keep me sane during my down time at writing events, even out of state. I love my Pfaff.

My Pfaff on my sewing desk.
But it's a 15 year old, used, abused, and hard worked machine. Over the past few months, it's had oddball issues with stitching (mostly dropping stitches for no discernible reason) but, in November, the computer started to act up. It would 'count' through different stitches (zigzag, basting, buttonhole, stars, etc), while I was sewing, even while the machine was sitting there on but unattended. In short, the poor little computer was dying, and taking my adored sewing machine with it.

Since I need to sew or I get a little cuckoo, and it's been nearly two months since I've managed to sew, Bill has basically told me to Go Buy A New Sewing Machine. I am now on a quest. I test drove Brother brand machines today and the Brother Simplicity 3129 seems to be my best fit, at least in their lines.

I'm looking at BabyLock and the new Pfaffs tomorrow, then I'll have to decide what's the best way to go from here. I really miss sewing.

29 October, 2013

By George

Working on SLIPPAGE tonight and I took a little break from the still-not-right opening (Gak, I SUCK at openings!!) to follow a link or two and ran across this gem from 2010.


It's Louis CK giving homage to George Carlin.

And it's freaking awesome.

The middle of the video is absolute spot-on advice for writers, as well as comedians (and, most likely, any creative professional). It's from about 4:10 to about 8:20. It's the truth and, really, is the only way to get better at a crazy creative job like this.

Throw out the old.
Dig deeper.
Speak the truth.
Repeat.

It's scary as hell, but do it anyway.

01 October, 2013

What's up with Tam?

Howdy.

Life is, as always, its own brand of ups-and-downs-and-all-arounds here and I decided to give everyone a quick update.

To start off, I have a new agent, Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency. I am incredibly excited about this new phase in my writing career and Laura is going to shepherd me into becoming a major thriller author. She currently has two of my novels, a Mainstream/Speculative Thriller titled SPORE and a quirky New Adult Thriller titled MORGAN'S RUN. Since I've pretty much promised to stop screwing off and actually write two books a year, I've begun another Mainstream/Spec Thriller with a working title of SLIPPAGE.

Yeah, yeah, I know none of those are Dubric books. As much as everyone loved the series, it's currently considered non profitable and I just can't keep beating my head against a brick wall that doesn't want to get written and has virtually no hope of selling even if I can get it done. I am not giving up on Dubric and Co - there are a LOT of things I still want to do with the series and characters - it's just not happening right now in my head, my heart, or my life, and I really need to get moving forward again, instead of circling the same damn story. I mean, crap, I've been fighting Stain of Corruption for almost eight years now without making real progress. I need to move on. Maybe I'll get back to it, maybe not, but I'm not doing anyone any good kicking at it but not making progress.

SPORE has the potential to be a breakout blockbuster novel and, in fact, I had four agents wanting to rep it, and me, after my original agent decided it was time to retire. FOUR. This could be a very, very big deal here and I am happily writing totally new things. It's exciting and wonderful and if, someday, Dubric, Dien and Lars start banging on my brain again I will definitely write their next foray into the dark. Until then, I must move forward and write cool kick ass books (oh the twists in SPORE and SLIPPAGE!! *swoon*).

So, anyway, the writing is going pretty damn fantabulous! :)

I do have some great Dubric news, though. I recently agreed to an offer from a major German publisher for all three novels. They'll come out as three separate trade paperbacks, in German, with all new covers and everything. With one phone call I became an international author, and that's pretty damn cool. I shall do my best to keep everyone updated as news develops there.

I did my first ever 5k over the weekend and it was awesome, other than I've found myself with shin splints. I do not like these shin splints at all, but I'm stuck with them for the time being.

Before the 5k with a friend.
I'm the tall one. ;)
Our daughter got a job - YAY!! - which means I get to babysit my almost 2 year old granddaughter more. Which is also fun, but often exhausting.

I'm up for re-election for city council this November, but there are four of us running for three seats. Not sure if I'm going to make the cut or not, and, really, win or lose, I'll be fine either way. It's been an honor to serve and very eye opening.

My Write Your Novel class at the community college begins October 17th. It was originally slated to start in September, but not enough people signed up, so they've pushed it to a later date. Frankly, I think that most anyone who wants to take a novel writing class doesn't have the money for the tuition (I have absolutely no control over the price) but we'll see what happens in a couple of weeks. I don't want to push the start into November because there's too much likelihood of crappy winter weather and it's already a pretty long drive for me, let alone the potential students.

Sewing is going all right, when I can carve out time. I've been making smallish, sort-of-artsy quilts for specific people and they've turned out well. They keep me sewing, when I can.

It's about 22" square, if I remember right. All batik.
I'm still taking a monthly block making class at the quilt shop. Here's what I sewed in September.

Two six-inch blocks.
Yep, even that one with all of the diamonds. Six inches.

Frankly, it's the only guaranteed sewing time I have. Wish I had more.

Health is great. Been drinking protein and fruit smoothies every morning, exercising most every evening, and although my weightloss is still stalled - damn you plateaus!!! - I feel awesome. Other than my shins. They're still hurting.

We have a new cat, a rescue named MeowMeow (she came with that name). She's all black other than a few white hairs on her belly and is Very Friendly. I really need to take some pics. ;)

I don't like to end on a downer note, but this past month I lost my long-adored desklamp (it was a miniature draftsman's lamp that I could move around however I wanted) and my granddaughter dumped a full glass of Crystal Light on my Mac keyboard, shorting it out. I have had no luck finding a replacement lamp that I like (sorry, they're all fugly or too big) and I do not like the replacement PC keyboard I'm typing this post on. The command/alt/control/function keys are in the wrong place and, frankly, it can't keep up with my typing or the keys are a slight difference apart or something. I'm getting screwy ass typos which I never used to get and my shortcuts don't work, so I have to pause and find the right key combination. I know it's a nothing first-world kinda problem but it's still aggravating. But we'll be down to Des Moines at some point and I can get a replacement Mac keyboard.

All in all, though, I'm glad autumn is here. I like fall!  {{hugs}}