Thursday, November 18, 2021

Noah Strikes Again - Part 2

    Katie came in and set her bag by the front door. Michael was the only one in the room, and he barely glanced up.
    “I’m home,” she said.
    “You’re always home,” he said, still paying very little attention.
    It was true that she came home from school nearly every weekend. But it would be nice if her siblings acted as though they missed her just a little during the week.
    “Hi, Katie.” Liz came around a corner.
    “Hi, Katie.” Cecelia was right behind her. “We named the ghost Muffy.”
    Katie wrinkled her eyes at her sisters. “What ghost?”
    “Noah’s ghost,” Cecelia said.
    “The one that doesn’t exist?”
    “Yeah. We named her Muffy.”
    Liz nodded but looked as though she was mostly humoring her younger sister.
    Katie was sure they still weren’t making any sense. She shrugged it off as unimportant. She was just glad the two girls were getting along again. Noah had pulled off a months long prank where he was moving stuff in their room. Liz blamed Cecelia until they started to convince themselves it was a ghost.
    “Forget Muffy,” Michael said. “Let’s play a game.” He went to grab something from the shelf. He had to grab and return several before he got enough players to agree to one.
    Katie did feel missed when they argued over who would be on her team. She enjoyed several games with various subsets of her family during the weekend. She was happy to be home and stuck around until Monday morning since her first class didn’t start until 11 am.
    She and her dad were the first ones up and sat at the table sipping orange juice when they heard the shower turn on upstairs.
    “That’ll be Liz,” he said.
    Katie nodded. “I’ll check the pancakes.” They had two big puffy pancakes in the oven. Her dad had gotten them in there before she was dressed, but she felt justified in saying they were making breakfast since she was in charge of getting them out. The sides were curling, and the scent was heavenly.
    “What smells so good?” Noah asked as he came into the kitchen.
    “Puffy pancakes,” Katie said.
    “Yummy.” Noah went to the cupboard and grabbed a stack of plates.
    Cecelia joined them as Katie was cutting slices for those plates. “I want some,” she said.
    “Dad!” Liz appeared clutching clothes and a towel to her chest. She was in pajamas. “Can I use your shower? Michael’s in my way.”
    “What’s he doing up so early?” Dad asked.
    He asked way too calmly for Liz. She added some urgency to her tone. “I’ll never get my hair dry if I have to wait for him!”
    “Go ahead,” he said. “But try not to disturb your mom.”
    Liz rushed off.
    Noah seemed entertained by the encounter. “Did you do something?” Katie asked him.
    He only smiled. The water had shut off upstairs. Michael came charging down a few moments later. His hair was dripping and his shirt darker in spots that were wet. It looked as though he’d skipped the towel. “Oh, man, I’m missing pancakes.” He grabbed a granola bar and started stuffing things into his backpack.
    “Why are you in such a hurry?” Cecelia asked.
    Michael answered somewhat angrily. “It’s called a school bus.”
    "But it won’t be here for like a half hour.”
    Noah burst out laughing.
    Michael froze. Then he looked at the clock on the wall. His confusion passed as he glared at Noah. “Someone must have changed my alarm clock to make me think I slept in.”
    “Noah strikes again,” Cecelia mumbled. He’d stopped saying it but sometimes other family members filled in the blank. The baby of the family had enough sense to run out of the room as soon as Michael figured out what had happened.
    Michael looked for a moment as though he was thinking of following before he simply rolled his eyes and returned to the kitchen to grab his share of pancake.
    Katie had finished hers already. She looked up as she heard a door opening.
    Mom came out of her bedroom squinting at the light. “Why is Liz in our shower? And why is she singing?”
    “Blame Noah.” Michael spoke around a mouthful of food so it wasn’t just the early hour that kept their mom from understanding him.
    “Liz always sings in the shower,” Cecelia said with annoyance. “And she’s already singing Christmas songs.”
    The squint deepened and Mom shook her head as though she didn’t care enough to have anyone else try to explain anything to her at the moment. She moved farther into the room and pulled down a coffee mug.
    Katie was thinking that it was almost November so it was almost not too early for Christmas songs. Cecelia wouldn’t appreciate that observation. Someone should tell Michael not to talk with his mouth full. He wouldn’t appreciate advice from his sister. And Mom certainly wouldn’t appreciate a reminder that she was the one who encouraged Noah to become a prankster. Katie quietly took another sip of her orange juice.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Noah Strikes Again - Part 1

 

I’m switching to fiction for the next three months.  Why?  Because it’s becoming a tradition for me to do this near the end of the year.  And because I want to.  I have three installments of a short story that borrows a few peripheral characters from my next book (Romance Arts #3).  Don’t worry, there are no spoilers.  This is part 1.

---- 

    There was a sheet blocking the doorway into the kitchen.
    “Is this really necessary?” Katie called through it.
    “Is what necessary?” came her mom’s voice from behind it.
    “The sheet.”
    “Yes!” Noah yelled. He was also behind it. “Don’t come in.”
    “It’s fine,” Mom said.
    Fine wasn’t the same as necessary, but Katie knew the answer meant she needed to respect the barrier.
    “They won’t let anyone in,” Liz said.
    Katie had been upstairs doing homework. It was Dad’s birthday. She knew her youngest sibling, Noah, had talked their mom into letting him help with dinner in honor of the occasion. Because she was in high school and he was only eight, she had already been closed in her room when he got home from school and didn’t know there was a big reveal in the works.
    Michael had several papers spread out on the floor for his homework, and Liz was reading a book. Katie wondered where Cecelia was. Surely the most emotional member of the family would be less calm about being left out of the loop. She heard clinking from the dining room and found her youngest sister setting the table.
    “It’s almost ready,” Cecelia said.
    Katie asked her if she knew what Mom and Noah were making.
    “No, but it’s almost ready.” Cecelia smiled. She appeared satisfied to at least know more than Katie.
    Another sheet was over the entrance to the kitchen on this side, too. Noah’s head popped out near the edge with his hand clutching the sheet under his chin. “Go get Dad,” he said. “We’re bringing it out.”
    Cecelia dashed off at the request, calling the names of everyone in the family as she went.
    They gathered around the table to a meal of spaghetti. At least, it sort of looked like spaghetti. The noodles seemed almost crumbly and the sauce was… the color was off. Katie concluded that they’d used a different recipe than usual. After the food was blessed, the family waited for the birthday guy to sample the first bite.
    His mouth puckered in the weirdest expression. He didn’t look displeased, just confused. Then he started laughing and said, “This is not spaghetti.”
    Katie took a tentative taste of her food and found that instead of tomato, it was strawberry. Apparently, it was crepes and strawberry sauce in the shape of spaghetti. Once she got past the odd appearance, it was delicious.
    Cecelia was poking at hers with her fork. “I’m not eating this until someone tells me what it is.”
    “You’ll like it,” Liz assured her.
    Cecelia sent a glare around the table at everyone enjoying the meal without her before she carefully touched one tine to her tongue. She pressed her lips together, then took a slightly larger sample. “Okay, I’ll eat it,” she said.
    Noah was grinning at all the reactions. He’d recently pulled off a few minor pranks, and it was starting to look like he couldn’t get enough.
    “Mom, are you sure you want to encourage him?” Katie asked.
    Mom only smiled indulgently at her youngest. “It’s a little harmless fun.”
    “Eat up,” Noah said. “We made cookies for dessert.”
    “Are they really cookies?” Michael looked between Noah and Mom as though he wasn’t entirely sure who would be honest. “Because if they’re actually dog biscuits or something, that won’t be funny.”
    “Ew!” Cecelia nearly dropped her fork at the idea. “Is there anything in this that isn’t food?”
    Noah frowned at her. “You said it was good.”
    “I said I would eat it,” she countered. But she took another big bite as soon as Mom assured her it was food.
    They skipped the candles but sang “Happy Birthday” as Noah proudly brought out a plate of what Katie hoped was chocolate chip cookies. He seemed pleased that people eyed them suspiciously as he passed them out. Michael smelled his, which seemed to convince him to take a healthy bite. Katie left hers on her plate because she noticed that Noah paused after setting one in front of Mom.
    She gasped at her first bite. “Hey! When did you put mint in these?”
    Noah laughed and said, “Noah strikes again!”
    “Seriously,” Mom said. “These are delicious, but I was right there. How did I not see you put mint in the batter?”
    “I’m good,” Noah said, pumping his fist.
    “Do you still think the pranks are harmless fun?” Katie asked.
    Mom shrugged at her. “I like surprises. And mint.”
    Katie did not like surprises so she was still wary that this phase would not end well. But she had to agree that the mint was a good addition to the cookie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tips for Writers

Good news. I’m going to take a few minutes to offer some advice for writers. Though I’ve been a writer for quite a few years now, I’ve been a reader even longer. Here are a few random tips I’ve picked up from the many books I’ve read. This certainly isn’t all the things a writer should know or even the most important. It’s only what popped into my head when I decided to write about it.

1) Step one for writing an excellent book is to give your main character an unusual name. This could even be a common name that’s spelled weird. Whatever you choose should be something that makes the reader pause to consider several different pronunciations the first several times it appears. If you want to be helpful, you can have someone in the book eventually explain the pronunciation by saying that it rhymes with or sound like another more common word. But make sure this doesn’t happen until the second half of the book. You want your readers to struggle to correct the mistake in their heads for at least a chapter afterwards.

2) If you are writing a Christian book and want your protagonist to be listening for direction from God, make sure this is found in a still, small voice. Did you catch those words? Still and small. Don’t try to get creative with synonyms or suggest that God might communicate in any other way. And don’t write still and small. The “and” would mess it up. You are only allowed to describe God with a still, small voice.

3) To make a character likable, describe him or her with the word quirky. This doesn’t mean that the character has any unusual habits or mannerisms. In fact, it’s better if he/she doesn’t. This only means that the reader is required to like the character.

4) To really set your book apart, have the characters speak with an unusual dialect. This can’t be mentioned and assumed, it needs to have most English words spelled wrong in order to work. You want your readers to hurt their brains trying to parse the conversations. I l’nie und’stan we reeters d’it. If you understood that, I’ll have to work on my own dialect writing skills.

5) If you are writing something set in the Old West, your hero will need superb tracking skills. Spotting footprints isn’t good enough. Noticing broken brush isn’t good enough. When someone inevitably needs to track the bad guys (kidnapping the heroine usually works), he will need to be able to step outside and say, “There were four of them. Their hideout is three miles due west. One had black teeth, and he’s riding double with Charmayenne on a five-year-old sorrel. Two of the guys are brothers and another was born in Canada. They left two hours, 16 minutes and 12 seconds ago.”

6) It’s always good to find a place in the story to include some incorrect math. You could mention how many years ago something happened in one chapter, then how old a character was at the time in the next chapter. These two numbers cannot add up to within a year of the character’s current age. You don’t want to leave room for off months.

7) I read a lot of love stories so I know the importance of this last one. Make your days insanely long. The minutiae of each day should take at least eight chapters to describe. This way, when the heroine declares her true and lasting love for the hero, the reader will have forgotten that they only met two days ago.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Things I Almost Said

I’ve written about the importance of editing and thorough proofreading a few times. (Feel free to check the archives for examples.) The one that sticks in my memory is a post where I listed and mocked errors that had made it into final books. I was trying to illustrate how a sentence that doesn’t say what it’s supposed to say disrupts a story. The reader, at least when the reader is me, pauses to imagine the unintentional meaning. While the point was valid and I didn’t name the books, it sticks with me because I still wonder if it came across a little mean-spirited.

I will try to re-illustrate the same idea with sentences from one of my own books. Let’s all acknowledge a critical difference first though. These are sentences that I found while editing an early draft. None of these mistakes were in the book when it was published.

“It’s the same game,” Audra said, brining it to the table.
Why is she brining the game? And how can she brine it to the table? I didn’t think brine was sticky.

Logan put four kinds on top of the straight.
Even readers who don’t understand the game the characters are playing will understand that there are no kinds in a deck of cards. How did Logan end up with four of them?

She was grateful thought.
The only thing funny about this sentence is that for about half a second I thought the mistake was a missing “a” between was and grateful. Careful. It wouldn’t have been the first time I introduced a typo while fixing a different one.

The shape of Grandma May floated out of the crown and reached the back of the counter as he reached the front.
If his grandmother is floating out of a crown, why is he still moving towards that same counter? That’s too creepy.

We word on the furniture here so there’s regularly some banging and…”
I cracked myself up with this one. What does it mean to word on the furniture? It sounds like a reason you might yell at a toddler. Stop wording on the furniture! But this character says it as though it’s something good. Is it fun? Maybe they entertain each other with furniture puns. Do we need a new table? Let’s postpone that discussion. With a gavel. That’s why there’s banging. I was thinking this made them awfully weird while I was the one thinking it.

That’s be awful.
Something about this sentence makes me picture someone with an eyepatch. “Arrgh! That’s be awful.” Spoiler: There are no pirates in my book.

“And they sell if for her?”
Someone apparently sells if. Does that mean people buy if?

“The lazy part of the creepy part?”
A clown dragging one leg behind it? That’s certainly creepy, but I don’t know if it would count as lazy or why anyone would want to ask about it.

Both sides of the room seemed to be crammed with mostly woodened furniture or various types.
I’m not sure what makes furniture woodened. But mostly I’m wondering why we’re left hanging on what has various types.

She spun around with that lovely pony talk swinging.
I don’t know what pony talk is, but it sure is lovely. I guess it swings, too.

I think that’s sufficient proof that typos can be distracting, that I get distracted even when trying to correct them, and that I can imagine some odd stuff. It probably also shows that I don’t mind making fun of myself. I’m not done. It appears I wrote something else that makes no sense, and unfortunately, I can’t find a mistake to blame. I compiled this list of almost-quotes at least six months ago. (Before The Art of Introductions was published, which I’m sure everyone has recognized as the source.) When I opened the file to use the material, I discovered that I had left a note to myself at the bottom. It said, “Fix book 1. Tap on the floor.”

I stared at that for the longest time. I can only conclude that it’s what I meant to write, I just don’t know what I was trying to tell myself. Now I’m concerned that there might be something I was supposed to fix and didn’t. Yet another reason that clear writing is vital. New note to self: Include more details in future notes to self.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Another Troglodyte Story

Once upon a few weeks ago, I was reading a paper copy of Our Sunday Visitor from sometime before that.  There was an article about books for the modern Catholic.  It included a variety of topics and at least one that I made a note to maybe get around to reading eventually.  I did notice, however, that there was no fiction on the list.

The next issue printed a letter to the editor lamenting the lack of fiction on the list.  I was a little more interested in the story once I knew I wasn’t the only one to notice.  But I cringed at what I knew was coming.  I’ve seen it too many times.  I watched the following letters, waiting for someone to suggest JRR Tolkien.  I kind of wanted to scream.

I need to pause here to state for the record that I believe Tolkien is a great writer worthy of mention.  I have in fact been working my way through The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the last eight months.  Why is it taking so long?  Because I’m reading it with my teenage daughter.  She does voices for all the characters.  We stop every few paragraphs to laugh at the latest indignant dwarf, to recount the many names of Aragorn, to trace the journey on a map, to take sides when Sam and Gollum argue, to discuss whether or not it’s historically realistic to have so many broken swords.  It’s many kinds of awesome.  I have nothing against Tolkien.

But he is not the only Catholic to write fiction.  And more importantly, no one needs that suggestion!  Ask around and let me know if you find the one person who hasn’t heard of Tolkien.  I’m curious about the size of the rock that person is living under.

The story doesn’t end here.  One of the editors kept it alive for me by writing a piece suggesting that maybe we need a Catholic literary revival.  She acknowledged that a few Catholics have written novels in the past.  Including Tolkien.  Cue scream.   

This was the first time in my life I was tempted to write to a newspaper.  I did not.  I cannot.  As a Catholic writer, I am not allowed to be part of the conversation on Catholic writers.  Anything I say can and will be used to accuse me of only trying to draw attention to my own books.

Well, now that I’m having a conversation with myself, I will list current authors.  To be clear, these are not personal recommendations.  I am familiar with only a few of these writers.  (I have a small budget for books, and some genres are just not my cup of tea.)  All of the following authors claim to be Catholic, have published at least one work of fiction in the last five years, and have multiple positive credible-looking reviews and/or have won at least one respectable award.  Since these are fairly objective criteria, I will include myself.  That’s right, I’m breaking all the rules here where I make the rules.

Carolyn Astfalk
Carrie Sue Barnes
Jacqueline Brown
Michelle Buckman
Davis Bunn
A.J. Cattapan
CJ Daily
Fiorella de Maria
Sophie de Mullenheim
Jean Schoonover-Egolf
A.K. Frailey
Ellen Gable
Amanda Hamm
Therese Heckenkamp
Lisa Hendey
Ruth Logan Hern
Joshua Hren
Myra Johnson
Patrick Augustin Jones
Antony Barone Kolenc
Dennis Lambert
Jane Lebak
Theresa Linden
Carmela Martino
Paul McCusker
Lynn F Monahan
Amy Schisler
Cynthia T. Toney
Fr. Lawrence Edward Tucker SOLT
Corinna Turner
Jacqueline Vick
Marian O'Shea Wernicke

Goodreads is my primary social media.  I check in there a few times a month.  I let newspapers pile up before I read them.  I am not exactly on the cutting edge of the information age.  And yet this is how many authors I came up with when I gave myself one hour to search.  Think how many more there must be.  Catholic writers of modern fiction are not hiding.  This is why it’s frustrating that I can be completely sure that the next time someone asks about Catholic novelists, the very next person will say something to the effect of, “There was this one guy seventy or so years ago.”

And then I will go bash my head against the wall.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Transparency and the Troglodyte

Once upon a time, I decided to try something new.  The time was June 29th.  The new was a different way to give away copies of one of my books.  I’m usually content to toil away in obscurity.  I love writing my books, and I have a few fans who enjoy reading them.  I don’t worry too much about trying to increase my readership.  Marketing is less fun than writing and past attempts have regularly led to more hassles than success.  

But with a new series, it seemed like a good time to try a simple promotion.  I generated a coupon code to make the new Nook edition of The Art of Introductions free from July 1 – 31.  I bought a tiny bit of ad space to let potential readers know.  Then I went on vacation.  This is the part of the story where me being old fashioned comes into play.

We went to an amusement park where I saw no point in downloading the recommended app.  At another site, we even used a paper coupon.  I didn’t check my personal email, let alone anything work-related.  It was a complete vacation.  After we returned, sometime the morning of July 7th, I wanted to see if the promotion was having any luck.  I found that over a hundred people had shown interest (i.e. clicked the ad).  How many of them redeemed the coupon?  Zero.

Yeah, that hurt.  It appeared quite a few people read the description of my book and still turned down a chance to get it for free.  My reaction changed when I got an email from Barnes & Noble later that afternoon informing me that the code had just been activated.  A week late.  I don’t know how many people actually tried to use the code before that or what sort of error message it generated.  I only know that it reflects poorly on me that I was, however unintentionally, advertising an invalid deal.  My ego shriveled against the annoyance and possible anger that might have been directed my way.

I’m not telling this story to disparage Barnes & Noble at all.  Bugs happen.  That’s life.  I’m being open about the details because I need to apologize, and this is the only way I know to do so.  I want those affected to recognize to whom it’s owed.  I’m sorry.

To try again, or for the first time, BNP100ART should now make the Nook version of The Art of Introductions free until July 31st.  If you utilize this code, please consider returning to rate or review the book.  I might not see it immediately, but I will eventually check in and notice.  The gratitude will have no delay.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Summertime News

I’m celebrating another release. If it sounds super impressive that I’ve finished another book after only three months, that’s good. Because I cannot do that. This is the wider release of The Art of Introductions. The paperback and kindle versions have been available since March, and now it can be found at most other ebook retailers. Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, etc.

I’m still expecting to release the second book, The Art of Patience, in August. Does using the word “still” turn that into old news? Maybe. It feels like an announcement to me because I’ve had some doubts about meeting that goal. For now, let’s just say it’s good I haven’t said when in August. There’s probably enough wiggle room.

News coming my way, in several notices, is that FeedBurner will stop sending emails in July. Anyone signed up to receive my wonderful thoughts through that service will need to find another way to keep up. My blog is also posted at Goodreads so that is my suggestion. I also swapped out the subscription links on the sidebar to the other options offered by blogger.

The most exciting announcement, at least for me, is another award! The CMA Book Awards were posted this month. What Goes Around took 2nd place in Catholic Novels. There’s a good excuse to go back and reread that one. But it’s always best to start at the beginning of a series. Everything Old is #1 even if it didn’t win anything.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Timelines and Math and Okay, I’m Weird

If you don’t know what factitious means, now is the time to look it up. This post will be a bit scary. I might sort of almost accidentally reveal my age. That kind of thing happens when we mention specific years and how we remember or are connected to them. I want to talk about why I avoid years in my writing by sharing an example of a book that did not.

Something I read recently mentioned one specific year. That year became the anchor for every other number in the book, and it distracted me the whole time. The main character was 23 years old. Let’s just say that’s “at least” 20 years younger than I am. The one year stated in the book was the year the character’s mother graduated from high school, which was only one year after my mother graduated from high school. Other details in the book suggested that the character’s mom and my mom were about the same age when we were born, 20-some years apart. Do you understand why this messed with my head?

The book was published ten years ago, but that only accounts for half the gap. Plus, the story felt current enough that I would not have checked the publication year if I hadn’t been bothered by the year in the book. This is the point that’s more important than my preoccupation with making all the numbers add up. Specific years will make a contemporary story sound old very quickly. Dates equal dated. That should be obvious.

Instead of saying when something happened, I try to say how long ago it was or how old the character was when it happened. Then the reader can insert the current year if he or she feels the need for math. I admit, however, that I still reference a calendar while I’m writing. It isn’t the year but the days of the week that I’m following. If it becomes relevant in the story that August ends on a Tuesday or Christmas falls on a Saturday, any other days of the week that get inserted will line up. That’s the real secret to a good timeline. You’re welcome.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Rest isn't All Downhill

It was not very long ago that I didn’t think I’d ever write a series. I didn’t have anything against the idea. I just hadn’t even finished one book yet so a whole series sounded beyond daunting. That was nearly fifteen years ago, which people younger than me might suggest was a long time ago. But this isn’t about my age.

Having written several series now, I have enough experience to see the advantages to writing related books. The most obvious plus is the shared setting. My current series already has a small town with a couple of local businesses and some minor characters to populate it. That is material I can use in the other books. It means decisions I don’t have to make again. That’s very helpful.

But the downside is that I have to be consistent with those decisions. Even the little ones I don’t always remember. (Still not about my age.) In the Romance Arts series, the one I’m currently writing and others should be reading, I knew Audra said in Book 1 how long she’d been in her apartment. I had to check her exact words to make sure she didn’t say anything in Book 2 to contradict that. Cameron only came up a few times in the first book as a minor character so I couldn’t remember if I’d mentioned his eye color. I had to skim each mention of him to remind myself which details I’d established. A particularly frustrating memory lapse involved Logan’s last name. I knew I gave him one, but I couldn’t remember it. After failing to find it in the first book, I had to go back to my notes. I had trouble finding my notes. Then I discovered that I didn’t like the name I had picked out for him, and that was probably why it hadn’t yet appeared in print. It was a way of delaying that decision. He’ll get one that sticks in Book 2.

Another thing that can be difficult about a series is knowing how much to involve future main characters. I want readers to get to know them a bit while they are minor characters without introducing significant plot points. I have occasionally read books where a major development occurs in the last chapter, and it’s clearly been put in to get me to buy the next book. I do not like that. Cliff-hangers and I are not buddies. But it can be a tricky balance to hint at something going on in a character’s life without setting it up as though there is a huge decision that everyone has to wait until the next book to read about. Of course, my readers know I don’t dish out major drama to begin with. Maybe in another fifteen years, but I doubt it.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Happy Release Day to me!

The Art of Introductions released today in paperback and kindle. (Other ebook formats will be available in June.) I’m celebrating. My celebration consists almost entirely of being happy. I might dance later. I’m excited the book is finally ready for people to read. I’m excited to see or hear what people have to say about it. I’m also terrified of seeing or hearing not-so-nice comments, but I think I’m ready for that. Finishing a book feels no less significant now than the first time I did it. I put a lot of time and effort into the story, and it’s time to enjoy that accomplishment.

The only gifts in honor of this happy day will go to others. I got permission from my publisher (wink, wink) to give out some free copies of my brand-new book.  Free copies of The Art of Introductions are up for grabs in celebration of the book’s release. 5 paperback copies and 5 kindle copies will be given away on April 5nd.

The Rules.
Simply enter your contact data into the form. Winners will be selected at random. Must be 18 or older. Paperback copies will only be sent to US addresses. Entries may be submitted for both formats. Paperback winners will be chosen first, those will then become ineligible for kindle copies. Information is collected for contest purposes only. All information will be deleted at the conclusion of the contest.

Ready to Enter?
Use this form for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Art of Introductions.

Use this form for a chance to win a kindle copy of The Art of Introductions.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Another Cover Video

Hey, I have a great idea. Let’s beat a dead horse. I keep thinking about landscapes even though I’m tired of landscapes. And I keep thinking about them because I need one for each book in this new series. How many times have I talked about working on covers? Maybe even more than I’ve been bringing up landscapes. Which horse are we beating here?

It doesn’t matter. I’ve put them both together for a quick video on the creation of a new book cover. This is a little different though because I skipped all the mistakes. When I only show the steps to putting it together, it almost looks like I know what I’m doing.




Monday, January 11, 2021

No More Landscapes

I have never been more sick of landscape paintings than I am at this moment.  In all fairness, I’m not sure I’ve ever been sick of paintings before so…

I used to watch Bob Ross and William Alexander create beautiful landscapes when I was young, and it was nothing short of magical.  A few dabs of the brush and a cloudy sky appears.  A few more strokes and there’s a happy little tree.  It’s still very cool to watch as an adult because I know I can’t do it.  I admit I have never actually tried.  But I can extrapolate using the data from all my other artistic endeavors.  My landscapes would look like blotches of paint on a canvas.  Messy blotches of paint.

Way back in August, I wrote about an idea to put some landscapes on my next book covers.  I haven’t given up on that idea.  I’ve been putting it off while I write, but I haven’t given up.  I took some time off work to hang out with family during the last two weeks of December.  Well, maybe it was most of December.  During that time, I was still thinking about possible pictures I could use.  I kept an eye out for interesting scenery I might capture.  I kept trying to imagine the nature around me as a painting.

I discovered a few things in the process.  Number one, there isn’t a lot of nature around me.  People don’t paint landscapes of the suburbs.  People don’t paint a majestic mountain with a swath cut for utility lines.  Number two, winter can be ugly.  This is why people like snow.  It covers up all the gray and brown and sameness, and we don’t have any snow.  Number three, sky is boring.  Sometimes clouds swirl and float and dance around the sun in amazing patterns.  And sometimes the sky is just a big blue spot taking up more than half a picture. 

I was already getting pretty sick of thinking about landscapes when I sat down to see what I had to work with.  When I tried to turn one of my pictures into something that possibly resembles a painting, I learned something else.  Landscape paintings are somewhat idealized.  Yeah, I knew that, but I hadn’t really thought about what it meant.  A painter creates a lovely stream that draws the eye to the ripples and splashes.  In real life, it’s that patch of muddy weeds that captures attention.  A painter envisions a field of colorful wildflowers.  They may have dropped a few petals or have a broken stem in the foreground to give the scene character.  In real life, half of those flowers are wilted and the prettiest ones are in the back.  I’ve been trying to edit and combine and mash together some scenes to make what someone else might paint.  It’s been fun.

Meanwhile, I still have books to write.  I left a couple of characters in the middle of a conversation when I took a break.  In fact, one of them was in the middle of a sentence.  That hasn’t been driving me nuts or anything.  I’ve been plotting out the rest of that scene in the back of my mind so I can eventually pick up where I left off.  Guess what they’re talking about.  I bet they’re about as sick of talking about paintings as I am of thinking about them.