31 December, 2010

Joely's Awesome Tools

My friend Joely has just posted some great organizational tools for plotting, including some that follow The Hero's Journey. I know lots of folks are looking for new tricks to try and this might be just the thing!

26 December, 2010

Starting with a clean desk

We have too much stuff. There, I said it. And while Bill and I certainly are not shop-a-holics by any measure, we both have 'keep this because we might need it' tendencies along with the ever popular 'I don't know what to do with this, so I'll just put it over here for now' general malaise. These two habits tend to clump in certain places, especially the back end of the bathroom, the entry room closet, and my desk.

Last night, I cleared off my desk and emptied the drawers. Everything except my computer and desk lamp went into a clothes basket and, sitting here looking at it, I can honestly say it's a huge pile of crap. Yep, crap.  I have calendars and address labels and book plates and figurines and my stockpile of vitamins, music, data, and blank CD's, a dictionary, ball cap, tweezers, and I dunno how many miscellaneous papers, receipts, business cards and other papery things. And that's only what's on top of the pile.

It's awful, and it must stop because it's just... Uck!

I have decided that I shall, for one week, root through the pile when there's something I need. If it deserves to stay, I shall find a tidy, logical place to put it. Next Sunday, I'll haul everything else to the garbage can. Then it's the hall closet (most of which will surely end up in the garbage or Goodwill) and after that, the bathroom.

So far, the only items to resurrect themselves from the Laundry Basket of Doom are my eye ointment, mouse pad, and nasal spray. So far so good.

16 December, 2010

I should have stayed out of the kitchen :/

Most of y'all know that my regular day job is housewifery. I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have a fabulous husband who encourages me to be my creative if somewhat ditzy self (including doing various things that I know he finds outright wacky) and, honestly, he's pretty freaking awesome.

Since he works crappy hours and I adore him so, one of the usually-not-so-ditzy things I do on a daily basis is cook. I like to cook, it's another one of those creative outlets for me, and while I do occasionally talk him into taking me out for a burger or something, I'm making supper pretty much every single day. Have been for years, so one would think that I was fairly accomplished at it. I also bake regularly, cookies and quick breads and pies and things (for some strange reason I'm not compatible with yeast. Dunno why, it just never works right for me, but I've learned to adapt) and it *is* Christmas season. Christmas means I make lots and lots of cookies and other sweet treaty things, mostly because, well, it's what I *do*, and I hand out packages of treats and nummy goodness to pretty much everyone I can get to. So. Tonight. Supper and Christmas baking, which should have been easy squeasy but, for some reason was just about a total fail.

I'm going to link to three recipes just to show you how simple tonight's tasks were, and to encourage you to try cooking these things yourself, because they are usually awesome. And easy. Just not tonight. ;)

It started with the Saltine Toffee. The main ingredients are 2 sticks of butter, some sugar, and saltines. Seriously. This is like the simplest thing on earth to cook. I usually add chocolate chips or ground pecans when it's heading to the oven. Super duper easy. And I make it a LOT. It gets gobbled up like crazy around here and people request it. But, tonight, I tossed it in the oven for it's 5 min or so cook time to get the toffee into the saltines and...

I got distracted. Not sure with what, exactly (Ooooh! Shiny!!), maybe it was the creaming the butter for the cookies, or starting the rice (both of which are yet to come in tonight's goof-up-o-rama) or maybe the cats, I honestly don't know, but I smelled something burning, said some bad words, and opened my oven to a cloud of smoke and BLACK saltine toffee.

It was smoking so much and was so insanely hot that I had to take it outside and set it on a snow drift. Thank goodness for snow!

I hadn't set the timer for the toffee like I usually do because I needed to use it for the rice since we were having tambo fried rice. I'd made a roast a couple of days ago and it makes great stir fry leftovers. Yum! Me being me - and always looking for any possible way to get more fiber in our diet - I always make brown rice. You have to plan ahead for brown rice and while I sometimes use Alton Brown's oven method, tonight I made it on the stove because I *had* planned on using my oven for cookies and toffee.

Until it filled with smoke, that is.

I was good and not too ditzy, though, and I set the timer for the rice and cooked it just like I always do, but tonight it was a gushy, sticky, undercooked mess. Which NEVER happens (I've been cooking brown rice for pretty much all of my adult life) and the fried rice was sticky and gloppy instead of, well, super yummylicious. But we ate it anyway, it's not like I had time to make anything else before Bill left for work.

I'd mixed up popcorn cookie dough (a huge family favorite I make all. the. time. Like every couple of weeks.) while ruining the toffee-cinders and gloppy-rice, and had set it in the microwave to just, well, sit and be out of the way until after supper. The fridge is pretty much full and the microwave is really cold (because the below-freezing wind blows up the outside vent) and I thought it'd be fine. Nope. It dried out. I have never, ever, anywhere in my memory had cookie dough dry out while chilling. And it's not like it sat there for hours and hours.

So instead of being able to scoop it up with two teaspoons like I usually do, I had to make little cookie-balls by hand - sticky!! - which wasn't so bad, but I BURNT THEM TOO. While in the kitchen doing NOTHING but waiting for the cookies to cook. WITH a TIMER.

I'd set the time, but apparently when I pushed start, the timer was off daydreaming or something because it didn't count down, therefore it didn't go beep-beep-beep like it was supposed to, so there I am, standing there, doing nothing more exciting than wiping up my assorted messes and waiting for my cookies. But they burnt. Black on the bottom.

Laura (our daughter) laughed at me, can you believe it?

The other three sheets of cookies are fine - thank goodness - but I do not like tossing a dozen cookies into the trash. Oh no.

So today I tried to cook three simple things, and failed each time. Three easy, routine recipes, stuff I don't even have to LOOK at the printed recipe to make, I make them so often. But today was not a good day to cook.

It had better be a better one tomorrow, because I have a LOT of Christmas baking to get done.

03 December, 2010

P!nk's lyrics

I like P!nk, been a casual fan for a long time (Sober is hands down my favorite song in my playlist) and there are four lines of lyric from her 2006 album I'm Not Dead (not going to mention the song here for fear I might jinx this), that I want to use in the opening of 'M'.

Tomorrow I'm calling the William Morris agency to get preliminary approval (or not) and, hopefully, the price to include all four lines, or even the two that freaking SCREAM this book, so that I can have the legal details all figured out before I send it out to my agent, and, if the lines are pricey, if their cost can be included in the book's sales contract, if it sells. The song I want to quote wasn't a hit, so I don't know if that'll have any bearing or not. This is kind of new territory for me. Any other quotes I've used have either been written by me and put in the story (like the rabbit's poem in Threads of Malice) or written by a friend who only charged me a dollar plus attribution in the front matter (a hundred or so words used as the book Nella read Risley in Ghosts in the Snow)

Some people think that 'fair use' means you can lift a small portion of any published (or non published) piece for your own use. You *sort of* can, if you're reviewing it, and there's no potential to make money, AND that the amount lifted is very, very small. However, since this is, hopefully, a book for commercial sale and it's one full verse of a song, I will get some sort of permission before I include it on the manuscript I send to my agent (or at least have a contract in hand that tells how much said permission will cost, if anything).

Respecting copyright is essential, even for as little as thirteen words of a song lyric. Regardless of P!nk and her agents' decisions on price, if I can include the lyric, she and Billy Mann will get full credit with the lyric and in the book's front matter.

21 November, 2010

Writing Groups and Secret Project M

Okay. So, here's the deal. Yes, I am writing, rather a lot, in fact.

I joined a writers group, a real writers group of published and getting-dang-close writers a month or so ago and we meet every couple of weeks to critique each other and generally have a great time. We four are all ladies of mature temperament (if rather silly at times) and we get along great. We also really encourage each other to craft the best dang words we can. I haven't really been critiqued yet  - I'm in the muddy middle of M and don't want to lose momentum by revisiting my opening bits - but I've talked about the book, dissected and discussed it a lot, and the gals (S, S, and V) have just been freaking awesome.

Have I mentioned that they're awesome?

Anyway, I come home pumped and excited, which in itself is wonderful, and, when I settle in to write, I get lots of lovely words. Lovely, lovely words, and I'm now writing pretty much every day instead of just Tuesdays and Thursdays while The Kid is in class.

M is on Chapter 18 and a hair under 70,000 words (should pass that mark today) and churning right along like a good little machine. My agent loved the proposal I sent him months ago, and, honestly, it's looking like I might get a polished first draft by the end of the year. Seriously. Is that wild or what?

The only problems, if they even are problems, are two little issues. First, it's definitely NOT a Dubric book. It's likely going to be categorized as Women's Fiction. There's no magic, no anything even remotely spec-fic related, and not only is it mundane modern, there's only one POV: the protagonist. I found single POV really difficult at first, but I've kind of settled into it. It definitely works for this story.

Second, I'm writing it under a pseudonym. I have issues, okay? And one of those issues has consistently been the public nature of being a published writer, while I myself am a rather shy homebody who, well, gets a bit freaked out by the aforementioned public nature of things. While some close friends know I'm writing (and all of you blog followers, ha ha) very, VERY few people actually know what the book's called or is about or anything concrete. There are maybe 10 people on the planet who have heard the gist of M, let alone read any, and that's just fine with me. Will it stay that way? I don't know. I guess it comes down to how comfortable I am when the time comes.

But, anyway, I'm having fun writing, for maybe the first time ever, and it's pretty freaking cool. Lars, though, has been banging around my head these past few days after months of silence, so I'm thinking I'll revisit Stain of Corruption while my agent is out trying to sell M and, with luck, I can get it finished up and out as an ebook sometime next spring. No promises, only hopes. There's still a lot of story to tell in the Dubricverse, I just have to get the guts to tell it.

17 November, 2010

Getting stuff for free ;)

I'm trying something different with the blog. There's a linky to the right for a new page called 'Downloads' and - I think - the url for Fire works. At least it works for me. I'll get similar urls for Endorphins and Sid up tonight or tomorrow.

If it doesn't work, try pasting in https://files.me.com/tambo/9ow07d into your address bar. The link should be valid for one year. :)

Thank you all for your patience.

01 November, 2010

Excuse me while I blow my nose

Went to the doc last Friday for a regular check up and all is well except for my crappy sinuses. I actually thought I was getting bronchitis, but nope, was just sinus drainage trying to make a home on the south side of my respiratory system. I'm now on horse-pill antibiotics and a nasal spray.

As a life long allergy sufferer, I've tried just about everything. Neti pots (AAAAAAH!!! My face is on FIRE!!), over the counter pills and sprays (oh, yeah, might as well take a tic tac for all the good they do), tons of prescription stuff (so, I can either be congested or have debilitating headaches/nausea/twitches/fatigue. Hmm... What a choice!), and most anything else you can think of. The best 'combo' for me has usually been Sudafed and a mucus pill. At least then I'm not totally miserable. Just kinda miserable. And I really, really hate getting ID'd just to buy the Sudafed. Can't the drivers license people just put a sticker on there that says I have allergies so give me a break?

Anyway, when Nicole (my beloved P.A.) said she was writing a prescription for a nasal spray, I expressed my doubts. None had ever worked before (other than a burning sensation and a bad taste), heck, nothing had ever worked before, so why should this be different?

Well, it IS.

The stuff's called Azelastine HCL and it feels like, well, alka seltzer in my sinuses, itty bitty bubbles that tickle, not burn, and I can BREATHE. Hallelujah, I can BREATHE! Great big deep breaths through my nose! It's AWESOME! I've been sleeping too, and I tell ya, it's amazing. Normally I'm a frequent-waker and I know it's because the goop in my sinuses shifts and momentarily cuts off my air. It's not apnea, it's my sinuses. Well, the past couple of nights I've slept clear through. No tossing, turning, or nightmares. Lots of dreams but no nightmares.

This is incredible stuff. At least for me. And I'm very excited. Here's hoping it keeps working. :)

In other news, I am now involved with three, yes, three writers groups and I think I'm gonna knock it back down to two. The local group just isn't working out for me, I haven't had much encouragement to write more, and have received zero feedback, so I think I'll just focus on the two groups in Des Moines. Not looking forward to the long drives this winter, but the other writers there are a better fit for me, I think.

My sewing machine blew out its bobbin hook assembly last week and I'm struggling with not-sewing while it's in for repairs. I'm an addict, I know, but I can surely hang on a few more days. It's supposed to - hopefully - be finished this weekend. I look at the pile of projects I need to get done before Christmas and, oh boy, there's a LOT.

I'm making steady progress on Secret Project M and it's currently at about 62,000 words. Hoping to get the first draft done yet this year. I'd better get it done this year because my agent is waiting and I must not disappoint him. :)

24 October, 2010

Yeah, I know it's been almost a month since my last post :/

I'd like to say that I've been super busy with tons of interesting stuff, but that'd be a fib. Mostly I've been blowing my nose and taking Sudafed. Harvest season always wreaks havoc on my sinuses.

I've joined yet another writers group (really looking forward to our first official meeting in a little more than a week!) and I've passed 60k words on Secret Project M. Lars's first story, Fire, is now available on Amazon (a free .PDF is still available if you email me!), and if I can just convince Amazon that I'm the same TSJ that wrote the Dubric books, it'll be all connected like it should be instead of under two separate search listings.

I've been sewing a good hunk, survived the quilt show, sent Stuart's quilt off to Scotland, and have begun working on Christmas presents, all while nursing this respiratory/allergy crud that's making me grumpy. Mostly, things are good, if cloggy, and I hope you're all doing well. :)

26 September, 2010

My talk in Montezuma

I was the opening speaker for the All Iowa Writer’s Conference last weekend**, and it was the first time in a long time (almost 4 years) since I’d been in front of an audience of strangers. And I was first.

Have I ever mentioned that I’m pathologically shy?

Anyway, I’d struggled for weeks over what to talk about, especially since I was ‘first up’ and all, and I reasoned (accurately, as it turns out) that most writers at these things talk about how they got published. While that’s helpful and can offer insights, everyone’s journey is different and, well, the information can get kind of redundant. So, with that in mind, I decided to try something different.

I decided to talk about you. Yes, YOU.

I started, as most writers do, by talking about me. About how I grew up incredibly poor in a rather dysfunctional home, and how I’ve been writing my whole life. I talked about how my mom has a story I wrote when I was seven (on construction paper, complete with illustrations) and how I wrote my first novel at 14 (hand written in spiral notebooks that got passed around school) and that, throughout my life, one constant was writing. I wrote to escape. I wrote to vent, to purge, to scream, to dream. To hope. I wrote in little snips and vignettes and scenes that just dumped out of my head. I wrote whatever I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, and where I wanted.

And I didn’t know that was precious. I did not know that the process of writing what I needed to write for the reasons I needed to write it were vital to me. So please, every one of you, think for a minute (or however long it takes) and figure out WHY you write. Why are you compelled to put words on paper? Are you looking to vent, to explore, to give yourself a voice, to create, to explain, to learn? Are you writing in the hopes it’ll make you cool, or because if you don’t you’ll go mad?

There is no right or wrong answer for this, it’s all up to you. And you need to grasp it, hold it, and protect it because it’s IMPORTANT, okay? It’s precious, and it’s yours and you need to keep it safe.

So, I wrote throughout my whole life. Back in 2001, about the time my dad’s diabetes took a bad turn, I started a new book that became Ghosts in the Snow. It came out of me in an endless gush, a flood, anger and shame and hate. And hope. Part of this gush happened because of my dad, who’d often been a thorn in my life, a thing to fight against, was dying. I lived next door, and I had to spend a lot more time with him, tending him, than I wanted. 

So I wrote. I wrote a lot. The book ended up being one thousand and thirteen pages long, about a quarter of a million words, which was a LOT longer than a book was supposed to be. But what did I know? I was a wife, a mom, a graphic designer. A dabbler in writing. But, being who I am, I do what I’m supposed to do – whether I really want to or not – so, okay, good books are supposed to get published. So, how do I do that?

I didn’t consider WHY I wanted to get published. It was just the thing I was supposed to do, and I should have thought about it, thought about it a lot more than I did, so once you know and understand – and are prepared to fight for and protect the why you write – think about why you want to publish. Is it to be noticed? Validated? Do you want to get laid? Get rich? Have a venue for your vision?

WHY do you want to get published? Think about it, think about it really. Why? Why this quest? Do you merely need to see your words in print, hold the book in your hand, and say ‘I did this!’ then, please, for God’s sake, go to lulu.com and get a copy printed up and save yourself a lot of heartache.

But me, I didn’t know any better, didn’t think any better, so as my dad’s sickness worsened, I set out to sell the book. I did think a little, and I’d decided that I wanted a real book in a real bookstore, and that meant a New York publisher. There really isn’t any other way to get into a bookstore, not with any real distribution, unless it’s from a major house, and the only way to access them is through an agent. So, that decided, I queried agents, and when I got one, he sent it off to publishers. A few months later, Bantam bought my book.

But I didn’t think about what selling to a New York publisher meant. I didn’t stop and think about why I wrote and why I decided to send it out into the world until long after, after it was already done, after my brain broke.

See, I wrote Ghosts as the opening book in a 7 volume fantasy series. But my editor didn’t like the fantasy parts, only the murder mystery that served as a catalyst for the opening, and she asked my agent if I’d be willing, and able, to cut the epic and write a mystery instead. I said sure – mostly because that’s what I do – and I deleted about 7/8 of that book, and all of the follow-up novel that I’d nearly finished.

(insert shocked gasps here)

So. Me, Tammy Jones, wife and mom from rural Polk County, who wrote little vignettes and scenes and brain dumps her whole life, found herself writing a book she hadn’t envisioned to a length and content and character list specified by others, on a DEADLINE no less, because when you’re published by New York, that’s what you have to do.

If you want to make money as a writer, you have to write FAST and to order. I have a friend who writes a book every six weeks. She is a great fit for New York publishing and she makes good money. She also writes in several genres under lots of pseudonyms, and writes books for hire that she can't claim as her own. People like her do great with traditional publishing, people like me... not so much.

See, when you publish a book, it's not your book anymore, it's a widget, a thing, that's going on a shelf in a store. Publishers pay you for your widget - and that's all it is to them, not your hopes, dreams, or identity, it's just a thing for sale - in the hopes that someone will walk down the isle, see your widget on a shelf and think, 'Oooh, that looks like a good widget! I'll buy it and try it out!'

It's no more and no less than that. Selling widgets. If you can't deal with that reality, then please do not try to sell to New York. Life is too short to be miserable making widgets.

Anyway, my first book went all right. While writing the second, my dad died. And I found myself writing full time and working full time and marketing full time and being a wife and mom full time, and I was cracking at the seams, so something had to go. So I quit my job to stay home and deal with the book mess as I got more and more miserable writing to order, but the second book, Threads of Malice, kept churning right along. I finished it early, in fact. Thank goodness. Somehow I knew I needed to get it done before Ghosts hit the stands.

When Ghosts came out, my cracks became deeper, harder to work around, let alone live with. I cried, I cried a lot. I hear of authors who relish and squee over the first sight of their books. Not me. My first sight of the books, in a box from my publisher, sent me wailing to the bathroom to scream and vomit. It has only gotten better because I’m accustomed to the angst and fear and loathing, so I just count them and put them in a closet. 

Anyway, Ghosts sold well, really well. It ran through its first printing and earned out in nine and a half weeks, which is unheard of, especially from a new author. A few months later, it won an award, and my brain TOTALLY SHATTERED, right as I was starting on my third novel, which nearly didn’t get written at all.

So think. THINK. What kind of publisher do you, just YOU, want and need. Do you just want to have your words out there for the masses and the physical book doesn’t matter as much as the words? Then go epub. Do you want control, absolute control because your words are not to be trifled with, then try self publishing. Do you want to be edited without so much conformity? Then maybe small press is for you.

I didn’t know, didn’t THINK, and, because of this, my brain broke in the spring of 2005. More than five years ago. I don’t want anyone to ever think that I’m blaming my agent and editor for any of this. I’m not. They were and are absolutely awesome and amazing people. I’m blessed to have them. The problem is with me. Because I didn’t think.

I spent months in intensive therapy just to get words onto the page for Valley, to get it out and get it done and do my job like I’d promised to do. I’m still recovering from that, from forcing out the words. Valley was another book that was totally re-written (about 2/3 of it was tossed and re-done) but that’s part of the job. If you’re writing for New York, that’s the way it goes sometimes. There are books like Threads which are nearly word-for-word matches to my first polished draft, and others like Ghosts and Valley that are completely restructured and redone.

And it’s work I did. When you get edited, your manuscript comes back all marked up with red pen – I’m sure most of you have heard of blood on the page – and it says things like ‘tighten’ and ‘need more conflict’ and ‘no - delete and redo’. It’s up to you, the author, to figure out how to fix it, and do the work. The editor just tells you what they want fixed, not how to fix it.

Stepping into this unaware broke my brain for five years, I’m just now starting to write again, and I don’t want it to happen to you. In some ways getting published was a wondrous magical thing. I’ve met lots of great people, seen places and done things I never thought I’d have the guts to do, and I have three great books – how cool is that? But, getting published was one of the biggest mistakes I made, at least for my writing brain. I broke my creativity. I did this to myself, because I wasn’t ready, wasn’t prepared, and didn’t ask the right kinds of questions of myself.

So please, PLEASE, decide for YOU why you write. Why YOU want to publish, and what YOU need from a publisher. Figure it out, protect it, and hold it dear. I don’t want you to lose it like I did.


***Please note that I don’t speak from prepared remarks, this is just a gist of what I’d actually said (there were jokes, off shoots, and TONS of questions along the way) I also talked about a few other things, which I'll post about later, but this was the meat of my talk :) ***

21 September, 2010

But my microwave is under warranty!

Way back this past April, Bill and I bought a new microwave/hood to go above our stove, mostly because the old one occasionally shot sparks, which surely were not a good thing.

Totally loving the microwave, btw. It's an Amana, it's white, and it nukes things quite well. Installing it was a bit of chore (it's taller than our old microwave and Bill had to cut and remove ceramic tile to get it to fit) but it's worked beautifully.

Anyway, a week or so ago, I noticed that there's a little, itty-bitty crack forming near the bottom of the handle. We had this problem before with the microwave at the old house, and it became kind of a PITA to use the microwave once the handle snapped completely off. I'd rather not go through that again, so we went to Menards to see if they had any suggestions.

Well, our microwave comes with a full one year warranty, and they said we could either order the part directly from Whirlpool for free, or call for a free service visit and have it fixed. Okay, we thought - knowing how crazy-nuts our life has become and how Bill already has too many 'fix it' projects - we'll just call for service. So we did. Last Wednesday or Thursday, I believe. And the service guy was supposed to come today, sometime between 1 and 5 pm.

Did I mention we've been kinda busy lately? Bill's working overtime, Laura's working and has college, I have writing, quilting, errand running and quilt-shop duties (plus the ever looming quilt show that's coming up) and, well, we haz thingz to do! Especially during those prime hours of 'thingz to do!' time. ;)

But we made a point to be available all afternoon. Bill stayed up until I got home from writing while Laura was at school, and I busied myself downstairs while the clock ticked along. Gozer, the poor guy, was banished to his pen in the back yard in case he decided to attack the service guy, or, more likely, lick him to death. All in all, folks every day face the 'wait around for the service people' issue, and it's really not a big deal, other than Goz desperately wanting in the house instead of being alone, in the rain, out back.

He was crying. It bothered me, okay?

About 5 minutes 'til 5pm, I called to see if they were gonna make it out today, mostly so I could let Gozer in. It's not like I have anywhere else to be this evening. Really, my life is VERY dull and I was kinda looking forward to watching the 'microwave handle removal and installation procedure'. Hey, you never know when something like that might happen in a book. Anyway, I called, and they had no idea what the bleep I was talking about.

The guy on the other end of the phone keyed in our phone number and had no service call listed. Nothing. And the information that popped up was for an address I'd never heard before in a town that's about eleven miles away for a name that's definitely not us, and they had no record of requesting a service call today. So he ran our address, which gave him some random non-local phone number and name. Our name turned up something totally not matching anything resembling our lives, and whenever he tried to re-enter information to match *us* instead of the whomever the computer said we were, it wouldn't let him key it in.

So, we and our microwave apparently do not exist, and if we *do* we never had a service call for today.

About twenty minutes and much confusion later (it's rather surreal to give someone your address several times and have them repeat it back each time as something totally different) we're supposedly scheduled to get a new handle tomorrow. Between 1 and 5. And all names, numbers, addresses, and things repeated back match our information. Finally. Here's hoping they'll still match tomorrow.

Gozer, however, will stay inside this time, I think. No reason to traumatize him twice. ;)

31 August, 2010

Classes and such

Been a really busy couple of weeks. I'm working part-part-time at a local quilt shop and, tonight, am attending a class there where 30 of us share strips of fall fabrics to make an autumnal quilt. I spent one day most of last week cutting those fabrics (each participant supplied 2-1/2 yards of their fabric which I then cut into strips) and I know that some of the fabrics are severely cool. Mine is kinda funky (see the pic to the left) and I bought extra for borders or binding or whatever. There's one leaf print that's omg amazing and a pumpkin print that I wish I'd seen on the bolt so I could buy a ton of it too. I'm really looking forward to tonight. If nothing else, it'll help round out my fabric stash. ;)

Since I've mostly been sewing on large or complicated projects lately, I've kind of taken over most of the kitchen with my sewing stuff. Bill has suggested rather strongly that I might want to move the whole operation downstairs since there's more space. I've started packing and moving things to get that going (gotta clear out the back living room closet, find new homes for all that stuff, pack all the fabric and such upstairs, sort the misc crap I've accumulated... you know the drill). That's my big goal for this week, to get the upstairs office emptied of my sewing stuff so Bill can rewire it and maybe turn it into a guest room. In case we have guests. lol. (I think it'll end up being more of a reading room than anything else, a bit of quiet with someplace soft to sit or lie down).

Stuart's quilt is finished other than about 4 feet of binding (which I should finish up tonight) and it even has a label. I always seem to forget the labels, but not this time. ;) I also finished a doll quilt for Vicki's child care business, and got the foiling on an art quilt I'm making for the show (from a class I took a couple of weeks ago by Ilene Bartos). I also sewed a lap quilt top in French Country fabrics, and a table runner, and have three more tops ready to stretch and quilt. And another big quilt is about due to be back from the quilters, so I'll have to sew the binding on it, too.

I've written Secret Project M through the end of Chapter 8, so that's coming along, if slowly, and I wrote about a thousand words this afternoon while waiting for Laura to finish up at school. She works almost full time and has decided to add one community college class to her already kinda busy schedule. While she's in class, I've committed myself to working on the book so, at the very least, on Tuesday and Thursday, from 11:30-1:30 I shall write.

The three ebooks have had a LOT of sample downloads and a few purchases, which still boggles my mind. Their numbers have taken a HUGE jump since they appeared on BarnesandNoble.com. Please remember that all three short stories are available for free if you email me at tambowrites AT gmail DOT com.

Still trying to decide what to talk about at the conference in a couple of weeks, but my books have arrived. I purchased 10 of each title so I'd have something for folks to buy, should they want to, and even if they don't it's nice to have some around the house for a change. I almost never have copies of my books around, which is really weird when people ask about them. Uh, yeah, I wrote three novels but I don't have any. Oops! ;) Seriously. My only copy of Ghosts is a red-covered galley with my notes in it. Not cool. And my copies of Threads and Valley are both ARCs. I tend to disburse any actual books I acquire, but I think that, should any be left after the conference, I'll put one of each aside for me. Maybe.

I've also been really busy with my two writers groups. Not only did I spend a fun couple of hours with the Sisters In Crime gals down in Des Moines, I spent last Tuesday evening chatting, laughing, crying, and generally gabbing away with W at the local group meeting. She's just awesome and great to talk to about all the angsty crap rattling around in my head.

Mostly, it's just keeping on keeping on, and keeping busy. I hope you all are having a great week, too!

22 August, 2010

Writer's Conference - housing update

My buddy Michele, some friends from Sisters In Crime Iowa, and yours truly are going to be spending the night before the conference together talking, laughing, and generally having a good time. If any of you are planning on coming to the conference - and want to get in on the fun of hanging out with writers until the wee hours of the morning (assuming we can stay up that long) email me at tambowrites at gmail dot com and I'll give you more information on our hotel choice.

15 August, 2010

The post where Tam grumbles about her characters

I have't been writing lately, oh the past couple of weeks or so. I've been sewing. There's a show coming up and I'm entering eight quilts (I think) and most I need to finish up. 

But.

My characters, they plague me. Especially Lars and Jess. They have so, so much story left to tell - Dubric is apparently quite happy with his paperwork and new wife - but I don't know how to tell their story without it being, well, boring as hell for everyone but them. So I tell the kids I'll get to them later. They're just not listening anymore. Nope. They want to get on with it, whether I do or not.

I NEED to work on Secret Project M. Which my agent has green-lighted. I NEED to work on a mid-Mage War short story for an anthology (also green-lighted), and I certainly have other viable, sell-able books partially finished on my hard drive. Like SPORE. I've lost count how many folks have seen bits of SPORE and still pester me about it. And Stuart has asked several times about SLIPPAGE. 

Arrgh! This is all so diddly dang frustrating. There's plenty of viable, publishable work I could be doing, yet my brain keeps landing on Lars and Jess and their gushingly happy - yet violently tragic - future.

Dang kids.

31 July, 2010

Writing Conference

I'm going to be at the Montezuma All-Iowa Writer's Conference on Sept. 18th in Montezuma Iowa. Here's what info I have to date:


Make plans to come to the 2010 Montezuma All-Iowa Writers’ Conference! It
will be held in Montezuma, Iowa at the Montezuma Community School on
Saturday, September 18 from 9 – 5, with registration starting at 8:30.
Join us for an all-day event where you can learn writing tips, get advice
on how to choose a publisher and learn new ways to market your work. Iowa
authors scheduled to attend and inspire include: Donald Harstad, Shirley
Damsgaard, Kathy Bacus, Leigh Michaels, Tamara Siler Jones and Kali Van
Baale. Admission is only $25! If you have ever dreamed of writing a book,
this is a must-attend event! Email debwrite@zumatel.net for more details
or look us up on Facebook at Our Front Porch Books Publishing Company.
Details and a registration form will soon be available at
www.ourfrontporchbooks.com.

Our Front Porch Books is sponsoring a fiction writing contest! Winners
will be announced at the 2010 Montezuma All-Iowa Writers' Conference (you
don’t have to be present to participate). Entries must be 1500 words or
less, no more than 2 entries per person. Fee is $5 per entry. Mail to: Our
Front Porch Books, P.O. Box 902, Montezuma, Iowa 50171. Deadline is
Friday, Sept. 10. Good luck!

29 July, 2010

Clogged

Not words, it's my stupid allergies.

I've had a pretty much constant headache for a week or so, around my eyes - especially on my brow-line - and I'm just full of gunk. Urgh.

Counting the days until frost.

26 July, 2010

It's morning! It's morning!

Well, if you consider 11am morning. Which I guess I do. Because I just started my day.

I keep really weird hours, partially because I'm a night owl - I get energetic and awake around 4pm until, oh, 2 am or so - partially because Bill works nights so our life-schedule has kinda shifted in that direction. Bill, however, is one of those leap out of bed when the first pale line of pink appears in the eastern sky with a hearty 'What a beautiful day!' a laugh and a stretch before bounding out to meet the world.

I, however, will groan and roll over and hide my head under the pillow. Then, later, when I do mostly wake up, I'll stagger to the bathroom, yawn through my shower, and stumble through the day until about 4pm (stealing a early afternoon nap if I can) then I'm busy, busy busy until I finally get sleepy sometime in the wee hours of the night.

I keep trying to change and it's just not working. Strange thing, isn't it, our own natural rhythms? When I worked paycheck kinda jobs, I LOVED working second shift, 4pm to midnight, it was a natural fit for me, but my husband doesn't take night work as well. He will convert, almost instantly, to daytime hours on weekends and vacations. Heck, he's outside right now with the weed-eater while I'm sitting here bleary and blogging. And he worked all night. Sure, he took a 2 hour nap with me after he got home, but still. He worked all night and he's outside right this moment being energetic and productive.

Things like this make me wonder sometimes what other preferences are naturally wired into us. Is our sense of taste (for example, I much prefer crunchy/salty things over sweet things) natural or learned? Creativity? Work ethic? Political beliefs? Fitness habits? Vocabulary? Problem solving?  Kinkiness? Questing for knowledge? Loyalty? Depression? Music?

Bill's the only eager early-riser in his family. I'm my family's night owl. Why is that?

It's something for me to think about as I stumble through making lunch for my busy family. I hope y'all have a great day pondering your own ponderings.

23 July, 2010

Yup. That's my laptop clacking.

I've written about 20 pages this week, which, for me lately, is freaking awesome. M is in a bit of a pickle, and her whole life - or at least the primary assumption she's counted on to live it - has been turned upside down. And she's stranded. And stuck. And it's pretty cool. :)

I've joined two real-life writing groups. Sisters In Crime - Iowa and a local group which I don't want to mention here on the blog because I'm still trying to convince myself that I have some remaining anonymity in the great, green north of Iowa. Yeah. Go ahead and laugh, I certainly do. ;)

Anyway, all that's good. What's not so good is all this RAIN.

We've had rain every day or two since, well, about Memorial Day, give or take, and while the near constant dampness in the basement isn't a huge big deal, the two times we've had actual WATER down there have pretty much sucked. We're lucky in that nothing vital has been ruined, and it is just ground water in an unfinished basement (my friend Tanya had sewer backup in her finished basement!  Yikes!) but it's still a pain in the butt. Bill's been awesome at dealing with it, though, including fixing the sump pump this morning when it quit working. Our back yard, especially the dog pen, is a sloppy, muddy mess and the newer dog, Taylor, is addicted to splashing and rolling in water and is coated in mud, so we don't let him in the house unless by some miracle he's dry. Stewie hates the mud, and Gozer hates the flies, so it's been a bit of a juggle with the dogs, especially since we have all these kittens FREAKING OUT at their presence when they are in the house.

I've also been sewing, quite a lot, because the quilt show is coming in October and I must have things ready. Of course all the things I want to enter are either unfinished, un-started, or so complicated they make my head swim, but that's pretty normal for me. I'll post pics as things are completed.

The kittens are GREAT and the black ones are ready to go to their permanent home, we just have to get them down to Des Moines and drop them off. Gonna miss the little fluff-buckets.

And, oh, I'm trying to clean my desk today. Wish me luck. ;)

21 July, 2010

My other blogs

I have other blogs (if you click on my profile, you can see most of my list) but I'd like to take a moment to plug TamboCooks, where I've been typing up some of my regular recipes, and new things I'm trying. Some of them are healthier than others, some are quick and easy, some super cheap, it just kind of depends on my mood that day.

Anyway, if you're looking for something nummy, you might find it on TamboCooks. ;)

16 July, 2010

You Suck, Your Story Sucks, Why Have You Wasted My Time?!?

The title of this post was the entire critique I received for a story I'd started, oh, about the same time I sold Ghosts, and it's stuck with me ever since. I had it stuck to the top of my computer monitor for a long, long time, and, strange as it may sound, the comment gave me strength and, stranger still, comfort.

I tell myself that I suck often enough, so maybe it was the familiarity that struck such a cord with me. Maybe it was something else. But it has stuck in my head all these years - I received the comment in the fall of 2001, perhaps that following winter.

Yep. Nearly a decade ago. But I still remember. Because it's important.

Nathan Bradford writes on his blog how, often, the untalented believe they're awesome and the talented believe they stink. That's certainly true for me. The pieces I think OMG! This totally rocks! fall flat with readers, and the pieces that I'm unsure about, that seem like steaming doggy doo on a plate to me, others squee over and gobble up. Why is that? Why can't we see our own brilliance, or our own madness?

I haven't written anything of note since Valley of the Soul, its revisions finished in the spring of 2006. More than four years ago. Oh, I've nearly completed Stain of Corruption twice (once stopping about 3 scenes from the end and scrapping the whole thing), and I've started several totally unrelated books (Spore, Morgan's Run, Paul's Story, Katie Rose, and I can't even remember how many more), but nothing is grabbing me. None of it. There isn't one single story that's screaming You must set all else aside and finish me! 

Why? Because they all suck. I suck. Why am I wasting my time?

Why am I wasting your time? Why do I so this?

I must stand in the shower and ponder these things a while.

13 July, 2010

Creating the Creativity Habit

My friend Jess posted a link on facebook today about how the internet can hinder creativity (I swear, sometimes I can feel it suck the brain cells right through my forehead) and I was happily surprised to see that article link to another article on one of my favorite sites, ZenHabits, which I don't read as often as I should anymore.

If you're struggling with your creativity, or simply feeling overwhelmed and exhausted (and less productive) from spending too much time online, please take a minute to check out these two articles. :)

(And, yes, I do get the irony of blogging about limiting internet usage. I do. Really. I'm rolling my eyes at myself this very moment. Honest. ;) )

04 July, 2010

Clafouti!!

We bought some pie cherries at the farmers' market yesterday, and, me being me, decided to try something new. I found this recipe on FoodWishes (one of my fave foodie sites) and it's OMG YUMMY! And easy! And cheap! So what's not to love?

The super cool thing is that you can substitute most any fruit, whatever's in season or on sale, and have a nice, somewhat-fancy yet simple dessert. :)


Fruit {cherry) Clafouti (instructions written from Food Wishes video)

1/2 c flour
2/3 c sugar (divided)
1-1/4 c milk
3 eggs
1 tb vanilla
pinch salt
12 oz fresh cherries (or other fresh fruit)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Whisk flour, 1/3 c sugar, salt to distribute. Add milk. Whisk till smooth. Add eggs. Whisk. Add vanilla. Whisk.

Butter 2 qt casserole. Pour in about 1/2 of the custard. Bake 12 min. While baking, pit cherries if desired (or prep other fruit).

Arrange cherries on custard. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 c sugar (I added bit more since I had sour cherries) Spoon/ladle on remaining custard. Bake 45 min. Serve warm.

02 July, 2010

It's all in the eyes

My surgery went great! I've tested twice at 20/15 vision in both eyes, and there hasn't been any real pain or problems. My left eye aches some times - kinda feels like a sinus headache, just all around and behind the eye (supposedly normal) - and there was some bleeding on my eyeballs from the suction thingy (also normal, and fading) and, lastly, it sometimes seems like I'm looking through plastic wrap. Things are in focus, just... slightly obscured. That's normal too, and at first it was like looking through milk, so plastic wrap is a definite improvement and it's getting better every day. Been driving just fine, going through my day to day life just fine, but I need reading glasses to pull stitches out of my sewing, and for some - but not all - reading. The coolest thing is having DEPTH PERCEPTION and I spent a lot of the first day or so boggling how bumpy things were, or tall, or thick, or all of these textural nuances I hadn't really ever seen before.

So two thumbs up on the eyes! (more below the cut)

21 June, 2010

And the winner is...

Jean!

I've already contacted her asking for her snail mail address,  and I'd like to thank everyone who tackled the questions. You guys are awesome!

More manuscripts are stacked up in my sewing room, and I'll post another contest next week. Tonight, though, I'm getting ready to head into surgery tomorrow. Getting pretty nervous.

{{huggs}}

16 June, 2010

Big Threads Giveaway Details

Everyone loves winning things, and I have something to give away.

Here are the details!

I have a polished first-draft copy of Threads of Malice sitting on my ironing board, the same copy I sent to my editor in December 2004. It is 553 pages long and marked in red and blue inks with corrections, questions, notations, and other assorted edits from my editor, as well as some other notes, written by me, in green.

There’s also a 17-page letter from my editor that explains and expands upon the corrections as well as additional comments about the book, the series, and my writing. I’ve written a few additional notes on this letter, too.

Both documents have my address and direct contact information for my agent blacked out, but otherwise they are complete and un-altered. I will, on request, personalize and sign the manuscript, or leave it as is. I’ll also ship it anywhere in the world – outside of the US it may take several weeks so that I’m not paying the current crazy-expensive prices for fast international shipping.

Now, how to win it?

Just answer some questions. Seven of them to be exact, three from Threads of Malice, the others from the other books, the series, and the short story, Fire.  Entries close at 11:59 pm CST, Sunday June 20th. On Monday June 21, I will draw one name from all correct entrants. So that no one can copy someone else’s answers, please email all entries to tambowrites AT gmail DOT com. I will delete any answers that appear in blog or facebook comments.

So. The questions:

1. How many times were Lars, Jess, and Aly in the cemetery and why were they there each time?

2. How did Dubric find a clue in Braoin's painting?

3. Who does Dien threaten to feed to the hogs?

4. What snack do Dien and Lars share when Dien explains what working for Dubric really means?

5. How did Oriana die?

6. What disguise did Nella use to move through the castle with Bostra?

7. What was Lars' dog's name?

Again, send all entries to tambowrites AT gmail DOT com.

Good luck!

14 June, 2010

Giving away Threads

I need to clear out some space in my filing cabinets and I have a pile of manuscripts that are just sitting there. So, later this week, I will be giving away a signed first-draft manuscript for Threads of Malice, complete with my editor's comments letter, notes, and assorted markings. Also, this version should contain a deleted scene with the killer alone with Otlee.

This contest will run here and on facebook, and I'll post more details on Wednesday.

11 June, 2010

Stillness

I just want to pass on a couple of links. First, here's a blog post on Unclutterer about the art of being still, something I definitely have to work on, that's about an artist who sits still, no speaking, no moving, and her audience can choose to sit with her for a time. It's fascinating to see.

Near the bottom of the post, there's a link to portraits of the people who sat with her and, frankly, I found them to be a lot more powerful, and moving, than the artist herself. Also, I know that a lot of writers use actors, actresses, and other famous people as inspiration for their characters and I personally think that regular people are much more interesting. There's an amazing assortment of folks in these portraits, surely something for any writer looking for inspiration.

10 June, 2010

Worshipping at the Altar of the Princess

Our cat, Malaysia, would like everyone to know that she is a princess.

She also just had five babies. Yesterday. And it was quite traumatic. Much more than it should have been. Because she's a princess. And all things should go smoothly for princesses.

Tonight her special 'I'm a princess with babies on the way' single-serve* canned food is stale. A bit dry and crusty. Just on the top and edges. But still.

She IS a princess.

I tell her, 'But it's our last tub, oh sweet princess. I shall buy you more tomorrow, on grocery day."

My pleas for understanding fall upon deaf ears.

Stale, slightly crusty food will not do for princesses, or their babies.

So guess who's making a trip to the store at 10pm on a Thursday.

The serf. ;)

*The cheap stuff tastes ucky and is not worthy of her princess-ness. Accept no substitute!

09 June, 2010

Getting nervous

Bill and I met with the eye surgeon back in May - the 14th, I think - and we decided to schedule my surgery for June 22nd. So it's been about three weeks, and I still have two weeks to go.

Maybe we scheduled too far out, because I'm getting nervous. I really hate my bifocals (progressives are easy to adjust to, like hell) and I still get headaches and eye strain and they just make me miserable, but... Surgery? Me?

Financing is all arranged, I've been perfect in my 'pre-op regimen', but... I still have two weeks to go. I'm really balking at spending the money. Since I'm getting the wavefront intralase (a completely laser-guided, laser-cutting procedure that's customized for my unique eye structures, patterns, and oddities) it comes to nearly $3,000 per eye. It'll total $5700. Spent on ME. It makes me super jittery just to think about that much money. We're going to an eye surgery center in South Dakota - they were recommended as the regional specialists who take the tougher cases (like severely nearsighted and astigmatic me) as well as folks other surgeons have messed up. Everyone there was super nice, and they did I-lost-track-how-many-tests-and-scans on my eyes. Swirly light things and bip-bip-bip flashing light things and lines and x's and side to side scan things and it was all very fascinating. They even glued little paper strips inside of my lower lid - quite itchy!! - and I had to sit with my eyes closed while they measured my eye moisture and tearing.

Everything looked great, other than I'm just about blind without my glasses.

Post-surgery, my vision is supposed to correct to 20/40 or better in both eyes, and there's an 84% chance that my night vision and dim light vision will be improved. I'll most likely still need reading glasses, available cheap at any drugstore. I have nice, thick corneas and my eyes are super healthy (other than mild dryness) so they're not expecting any problems. All that's fine.

But. Still. It's scary. And expensive. And June 22nd creeps closer and closer every day.

04 June, 2010

Hot Compress

I'm supposed to get my eyes lasered in a couple of weeks and my eye-surgeon has put me on a lubrication regimen to get my eyes ready. This includes liquid tears, ointments, antibiotics, an eyelid scrub and, twice a day, a hot compress.

That's five full minutes - I use a timer - of me sitting with a hot, damp roll of washcloth pressed to my face. Five minutes of dark and heat and not doing anything else but sitting with that dark, moist heat. Twice a day.

I'm finding it, well, difficult.

I never would have considered myself hyper-active until the first hot compress. That five minutes seemed like two hours. I bounce my knees, frustrated with the inactivity. I contemplate the black void before my eyes. It doesn't take very long before I'm wanting to get this thing off my face, and not because it's hot. Oh no, the hot isn't really a bother at all. It's the nothing. The absolute nothing that forces me to sit and do nothing, no distractions, no to-do lists, no supper to cook or errands to run or commercials to watch or pets to chase or laundry or anything.

Just me, my thoughts, and all that darkness.

So. On the one hand I'm frustrated and antsy. On the other I'm astounded at my own inability to just sit and do nothing. Even for just five minutes. Am I that reliant on technology and distraction? Am I really so busy that taking 5 minutes before my shower and before bed to sit in the bathroom silent and in the dark is too much of a burden?

I don't like either answer, so maybe I'd better make these compresses a priority.

02 June, 2010

A bit about racism

My friend Jean posted a facebook linky to a blog article about racism. I hope folks take a minute to read it. It certainly made me think.

Why does it still matter what color someone's skin is? I just don't understand.

Here, it's not so much blacks, but hispanics, especially immigrants, but any hispanic will do (when I was younger, the venom was directed at Asians). The venom against folks just trying to make a better life for their families shocks and astounds me. I simply do not understand. We ALL were immigrants, somewhere back in our family history, whether intentionally or by force, and, dammit, not every immigrant into our land was documented and cataloged at Ellis Island.

Paraphrased from MLK:

I have a dream that (we) will one day live in a nation where (people) will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I hope, I pray, that someday that dream will come true. For everyone.

Thanks, Jean, for posting the linky.  {{huggs}}

25 May, 2010

Writing Group

I made it to the writers’ group thing tonight, and it went pretty well. I’m too shy, but everyone was really super nice. It seems to *mostly* be poets and non fic writers, and they seem to tend towards shorter forms - unlike my long, rambling prose - but I'll go back.

Among other things, we did a ten minute writing exercise at the meeting, which we all then read out loud. It was taken from Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, and the exercise was to write about a cafeteria (since we ALL have had some experience in a cafeteria)

Everyone else wrote nice, short pieces that evoked smiles our outright laughter. Some were a bit angsty about being on the outside, but I, of course, ran long, and it's, um, not a laugh generator.

Anyway, here's my 10 min exercise, word for word as I scribbled it longhand.

Angioplasty. Dialysis. Heart Attack. Neuropathy. Amputation. Just one more thing, one more long night at Mercy. But he’s sleeping. Finally. Floating high on morphine or his damned hillbilly heroin. They give him more when he’s in, when all it takes is a push of a button to fly.

But it’s 2 am. Been up since 7. Long day, longer night. And we need more than oreos and potato chips from the vending machine down the hall.

And Dad’s asleep. Mom’s not shaking anymore or fretting over his blankets, his pillow his bandages.

‘C’mon, Mom. Let’s go get some coffee.”

She knows I don’t drink the stuff, never have, but she’s grateful for the break, I can see it in her eyes.

Been to the elevator a zillion times the past few years, so many the buttons know my touch. ICU. Cardiac Care. Renal Unit. Cafeteria.

One woman, my mom’s age, bent, black, friendly, is working. She knows us, as well as folks in service jobs can. She says, “The coffee’s fresh, Barb.”

Barb’s my mom.

I get a pop, a sammich. Mom gets her coffee and a roll. Something sweet. The price is cheap. The chairs hard plastic. Mom sits. Cries. Then she goes to smoke. In the rain. Just outside.

I eat my sammich alone.
  
(end)


I look at it and think, Urgh. I suck. So, here's the same thing, tidied up, at least how I think it ought to be on a first-pass revision. ;)



Angioplasty. Dialysis. Heart Attack. Neuropathy. Amputation. Just one more medical crisis, one more long night at Mercy. But he’s sleeping. More or less. Floating high on morphine or his damned hillbilly heroin. They give him more once he’s admitted, when all it takes is a push of a button to fly. At home he has to steal the pills, sneak them from the bottle, but the hospital gives him all he wants, probably because he turns into a bastard if they don't.

But it’s 2 am, more or less. Been up since 7. Maybe earlier. Long day, longer night, done so many times it's ceased to matter. To stay awake, we need more than oreos and potato chips from the vending machine down the hall.

Dad’s asleep. Snoring. Saliva pooling at the corner of his open mouth and turning crusty. Mom’s not shaking anymore or fretting over his blankets, his pillow, his bandages. Mom frets over everything. It's her calling in life. But with nothing to fret, she's bored. Restless.

I have to get out of here before she starts fretting over me.

‘C’mon, Mom. Let’s go get some coffee.”

She knows I don’t drink the stuff, never have, but she’s grateful for the escape from the thing on the bed, the thing that is/was the ghost of my dad. I can see it in her eyes.

She gathers her purse and we go, quiet down the hall because the floor's asleep. The nurses barely notice us, we're as familiar as the carpet and safe, tan walls.

Been to the elevator a zillion times the past few years, so much the buttons recognize my touch. ICU. Cardiac Care. Renal Unit. Cafeteria. I know their floors without looking. I just push. The cafeteria's in the basement. You can smell it before the doors open. Like old grease, stale potato chips, a desperate, quick cup of coffee.

One woman, my mom’s age, bent, black, friendly, is working. She knows us, as well as folks in service jobs can. She says, “The coffee’s fresh, Barb.”

Barb’s my mom. Everyone here knows my mom.

I get a pop, a sammich. Probably turkey, maybe egg salad, if I'm feeling brave. Mom gets her coffee and a roll. Something sweet. Always something sweet. Funny, that, since Dad's slowly dying of diabetes. The price is cheap, all things considered. Where else can you get hot coffee and a fresh pecan roll at 2 am? Mom pays, because she won't let me. Ever. But I still try. The chairs are hard plastic in bright, fruity colors. Orange. Lime. Sunny yellow. Far beneath where babies are born, where bones are set, where people die, it's cheerful, but all plastic. With fresh coffee for my mom.

Mom sits. Cries a little. Says he's looking good. Looking better. But we both know it's a lie. Then her hands shake and she goes to smoke. In the rain. Just outside.

I eat my sammich alone while mom paces. When her nicotine's fixed, her coffee drank, she refills and we head back upstairs, silent ghosts in the hall of the dying.
(end)

21 May, 2010

Oatmeal makes me smile. :)

Oatmeal's site is pretty much awesome and I love this poster about misspellings. :)

It's not like their, they're, and there are a lot of trouble to learn. ;)

18 May, 2010

Just a quick (I hope) update

I have not had a particularly good couple of weeks. My eyesight has hit the crapper (due, in part, to my aging, severely-nearsighted eyes being unable to adapt to progressive bifocals), and I'm scheduled to get laser surgery in June which is expected to take care of the problem completely. To help pay for this miracle of modern science, we had to get financing and, while getting our credit numbers ran, we learned that there was an unknown credit card in Bill's name with a very sizable balance. Which came as a shock to say the least, and we're in the process of getting that straightened out.

Our house is getting painted, inside and out, and that's really disrupted our home life. Neither of us are sleeping much, or very well. We - briefly - acquired another cat (more household disruption as the other cats struggled to adjust), but have since found her a new home. Bill's done a LOT of landscaping - disruption to the back yard - but that's mostly done now. And, yesterday, the dogs got loose and Gozer bit two little kids, drawing blood on one (the kid's fine, not even scared or anything, thank God). But now Goz's in dog jail for a while, as per county regulations. Bill has ripped up part of the back yard again to re-build the dog fence. Stewie is frantic and wailing. And the madness never stops, does it?

I'll be glad when things settle back down again.

13 May, 2010

A quote from Angelina Menchan

Monica posted these fine words this morning, originally from Angelina Menchen's blog. They're pretty much awesome.


…people who have my best interests at heart may advise me, but they don’t demean me, they may give their opinions, but they don’t tell me what to do, they may disagree with me but they don’t stop talking to me because we don’t agree, and they don’t say they love me and treat me as if they don’t…life is too damn short for that…so to be who God wants us to be, we have to be who HE determines us to be, not them…


Wow.

07 May, 2010

Two new ebooks

Hey! I've uploaded two other short stories, Endorphins and Sid. Both are priced at 99 cents - so that they can ultimately be available for iPad - but if anyone wants a free .pdf, just email me at tambowrites AT gmail DOT com and I'll shoot you a free copy.  :)

29 April, 2010

Oh baby, baby!



The baby quilts and bag have finally arrived across the pond, so I can post pics! Yay!

First up is the batik quilt I made from the fabrics I posted a couple of months ago.


It's a modification of a traditional  54-40 Or Fight! block and is about 45 inches square. All batik. I really like using black as a background with batiks, even for baby quilts, because it really makes the other colors pop.

The other quilt is part of a set with a matching diaper bag. Here's Laura modeling the quilt!



It's a variation of Moda's Baby Life quilt designed by Vanessa Christenson. I made some modifications - mostly using a charm pack and coordinating fat quarters instead of a larger layer cake (sorry if the quilting terms mystify some folks) - but I think it turned out super cute! It's about 40x42 inches.

And the diaper bag - 


It, like the quilt above, is made from Moda's Love U fabric line by Deb Strain and the lining of the bag (the yellow/green/red print inside and behind the side pocket) is also on the back of the quilt. The bag is a modification of AllPeopleQuilt.com's Large Patchwork Bag. I changed quite a lot in the pattern - made gobs of expandable exterior pockets with elastic, changed the straps, the inside pockets, the piecing on the outside - but the bones are the same. 

Mommy, Daddy, and Baby are all apparently pleased with the quilts and bag, which is awesome. I hope they get used, abused, and utilized through several children. 

Congrats again, Catie and Ted (and Henry)!  {{huggs}}

22 April, 2010

Words. And such.

Been writing this week on the semi-secret project, and it seems to be going well. Stain of Corruption is super-stalled - again - and I'm pretty sure I know why. Now I just need to figure out how to fix it. Maybe a whole new POV scope or something. Not sure yet. I still believe that the premise is sound, there's just a major problem in execution and layering. So, back to the drawing board on that. But the other project is going well, approaching the 1/3 point and my main character is literally caught in a storm with nowhere to go. So that's fun.

How are your projects coming along? 

Is everyone enjoying this lovely weather? Bill's been doing some landscaping, specifically putting in limestone blocks/rocks/whatever they're called as a retaining wall where our back yard dips. Isn't it pretty? We're hoping that next year - but more likely the year after - we can build a gazebo in the lower part and maybe a pond, kinda within the 'curve' of the limestone wall. Still waiting for the painters to start, and the electrician. I really want to get this done so we can move on to other projects.

I'm also including a pic of 'the boys' Gozer and Stewie, on top of their doghouse. Bill built a deck on it so they can see over their fence and they spend a lot of time up there watching the neighborhood. Sorry they're out of focus, but when I step closer they jump down and it's just about impossible to get a good pic of either one close up.

Here's hoping you all have a great day! Don't forget to spend some time outside enjoying it! {{huggs}}

19 April, 2010

Writing Group

There's a new writing group starting up in a town near us and I am considering checking them out. Maybe. I don't have a good track record with such things - I'm just too self-conscious and would rather just be a silent fly-on-the-wall - but I need to do something, find something, to help me out of this awful slump. So, I don't know.

Does anyone have any experience with writing groups? How can someone like me slip in and be just 'the gal who brings cookies' instead of, well... the whole TSJ mess?

15 April, 2010

And they're out the door!

Four finished sewing projects have been delivered with one package making its way across the ocean. Glad that stuff's all done. Now I can maybe focus on other things. Maybe. ;)

13 April, 2010

The house is always changing

I'm really glad spring is here, and we're at this moment awaiting an electrician who's coming to see about moving and upgrading our breaker box. Bill's been working on the fence today, and there are so many projects to get done around here. Not sure when the painters will start - we're thinking sometime next month - then, once the breakers are moved, it'll be time to start the basement remodel.

We love remodeling and upgrading and making changes to the house. I'm still trying to find a place to put a bathroom on the main floor - we have a huge full bath upstairs and a half bath in the basement but nothing on the main level. Someday, we will be older and have trouble with stairs - and there's always the possibility that one of our parents might need to stay with us, so it'd really be nice to have something accessible.

I'm done sewing for a while, I think, at least at the manic, project-a-week level I've been at for months. Tried to write last night and I got one whole sentence. Which, obviously, isn't going to get a book written any time soon. Something will percolate up, it always does. If not sewing, or writing, then it'll be something else. Maybe I'll get into gardening and have tons of plants outside to play with.

Not likely, since I really dislike gardening - or being outside - but you never know. ;)

12 April, 2010

Fell while walking the dogs

I accidentally mis-stepped off the edge of a sidewalk and went down. Boogered up my knee. Opposite ankle hurts too, but mostly my knee. So much for aerobics tonight.

10 April, 2010

Almost done sewing

I completed the outer portion of the bag yesterday, so today it's making the lining and handles, and finishing binding on the remaining quilt. I think Bill *might* want to get some landscaping stuff at Menards and there's no telling what Laura will have planned, so it looks like a pretty good Saturday in the making!

09 April, 2010

Beagles have no concept of time

Today's Bill's day off and, since he was awake, he took Laura to work this morning so I could sleep. Apparently, Stewie decided that this Would Not Do and he ran through the house bah-wooing frantically. I informed Stewie that it was early, too early, and I was trying to sleep, but he didn't care. (bahwhooo!) So I had to get up and put him out with Gozer (who was already in his pen outside).

The cats, being their opportunistic selves, are all excited that I'm available to pet them and to show them that the food dish is indeed full and to open the door so they can consider going outside and, oh, have you cuddled me yet?

And now I'm awake. I think.

07 April, 2010

I feel a rant coming on

CNN.com has an article today about how some fast food chains are making super-high-calorie menu items.  While the article itself didn't bother me all that much - it was a bit condescending and sprinkled with hyperbolic words like 'waddle' and 'food coma' - the comments made me grind my teeth.

Apparently, it's perfectly acceptable to despise fat people, particularly poor, uneducated fat people. Oink oink fatties, I hope y'all die!

This article about fast food isn't the only place to spew venom toward fat folks. Anything about airlines gets a lot of responses about having to sit beside stinky, sprawling slugs. Health care. Heart disease. Beauty. Fashion. Urban blight. Gabourey Sidibe, the gal who played Precious in the movie by the same name (and was nominated for an Oscar). Midwesterners. Americans. Video games. Technology. Parenting. It seems like almost any news item delivers an excuse to rail against fatties. The hatred is immense and vicious.

04 April, 2010

01 April, 2010

Crazy busy day

It seems like I've been running since I got up this morning. None of it was exciting - unless you consider putting double-borders on a quilt 'exciting' since that was one of the major highlights of my day ;) - but just been BUSY. And I'm very tired, yet awake. Which sucks. Body wants to go to bed, brainz spinning a million miles an hour. Tomorrow I'm working at the quilt shop cutting a mountain of fat quarters. Yay! Tanya got some gorgeous stuff in this week and I'm very excited to get to play with it. Plus, sometime tomorrow, I need to stretch and baste at least one of these baby quilts I've pieced. They're starting to pile up. lol

31 March, 2010

A Lars eBook

While driving around the wide open spaces of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Bill and I talked. A lot. And one of the things we talked about was my writing and all of the stuff on my hard drive. I have partial scenes and snips and brain dumps and short bits and vignettes, some from other worlds and works, but most from what I call The Dubricverse. There are parallel to the timeline-of-the-books things (like Aswin, who readers have never met), stuff about what happened during (and before) the War, what happens with characters and/or their children in the future, various potential paths different characters might take, alternate timelines/dimensions/storylines. Stuff like that.

Anyway, Bill and I discussed some of these story bits and partial novels and things that are just gathering digital dust on my computer and we thought that, maybe, someone would like to read them. A bit of research, and a few conversations with my writing buddies sent me to Smashwords.com. One finished short story later, I have an official ebook that will, hopefully, soon be available everywhere ebooks are sold.

It's called Fire and it's Lars's first case when he's nine summers old, right after he arrives in Faldorrah. Some of you may have read it - it was one of many .pdfs PaperbackWriter gave away during some freebie promotion she did back in 2006. Since Fire was finished and entirely self contained, I thought it'd be a good ebook story to start with. It's short, only about 28 pages of actual story, and it is not available in paper-book form.

I've decided to price it for 99 cents through Smashwords (and Amazon and Fictionwise and other venues when it arrives in their listing) mostly because Smashwords can create all the available formats for kindles and nooks and iphones and whatnot, while *I* can only make .pdf. I do not want to charge for things I've already made myself, so if ANYONE wants a .pdf instead of a pricier format, email me at tambowrites AT gmail DOT com and I will send you a free copy.

If I epublish other things, I think I shall have a pricing structure of 99¢ for anything under 10k words or so, $1.99 for under 25k words ish, and $2.99 for longer works. Does that sound reasonable to you all? Also, I don't at this point intend to epublish any book length fiction that might work better as a traditionally published book.

Anyway, it's mostly just something I'm considering.