Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I have the next part of my work-in-progress. This week I have a little insight into my heroine, Sophie:

The ladies in the quilting group kept up a lively conversation, but Sophie remained silent as she cut the pieces for her own quilt. She loved the weekly meetings because she could live vicariously through their stories. All of them had families, and she enjoyed listening as they shared their trials and joys.
Sophie loved children and had wanted to become a teacher, but there had been no money for college. Her grandparents lived simply in rural Indiana and couldn't afford extras. Jeffrey had promised she could go to college as soon as he finished his own degree. But as soon as the wedding license had been signed, he began to groom her into what he felt a successful businessman’s wife should be. She needed to wear the right clothes, and wasn’t allowed to leave the house without her hair and makeup in perfect order. She had to eat right to keep her weight down and her complexion clear. She had to watch her speech and not use that “hillbilly language” as he had called it.
At first she had been flattered that Jeffrey wanted her to look and act her best. She absorbed everything she could from magazines and books, and observed the wives of Jeffrey’s colleagues to learn about style and deportment. But it seemed nothing she did was ever good enough. She always fell short of his expectations.
“Sophie, I can’t get these pieces to line up correctly. I know the squares are cut correctly because I double-checked. But every time I sew them together they shift or something and the corners don’t match up. What am I doing wrong?”
She quickly put her thoughts away and turned a smile toward Sylvia. “Let's take a look. Did you pin your pieces together?"
Helping her customers with their questions kept her occupied for the next hour. The ladies were at various levels of expertise and some needed more help than others. Sylvia’s problems stemmed from the fact that she had recently purchased her machine and wasn’t totally familiar with it. Sophie had helped her select the machine and felt responsible for helping her use it.
“Did you hear about the convict who escaped from the prison in Indianapolis?”
Kirstie’s question sparked a lively conversation among the other ladies, but Sophie didn't hear any of it. Her blood ran cold and she froze, her heart beating furiously. And then her world went black.
         Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment and then check out other great excerpt by other authors by clicking their links at Sweet Saturday Samples.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Scrapbooking in the Woods

This past weekend I went to a scrapbooking retreat. About twenty of us gathered at In the Woods Retreat Center and spent two full days working on our projects. I brought my laptop of course, but I spent a lot less time on it than usual. Other than keeping up on email (both home and work) and writing my daily 750 words, I worked on my pictures. I managed to get my family album caught up through last November.

I didn't get a lot of sleep, but the weekend actually energized me in several ways. I'm a list person, so I'm going to number them here:

1. I had extended "girl time" with people I enjoy. There's a lot to be said for that.
2. Looking at my pictures, I was able to re-live the events celebrating the good times. I've attended soccer games, orchestra concerts, school plays, and birthday parties. I have a wonderful family.
3. Women talk. We share what's going on in our lives. And while I do my share of talking, I also listen. We have our problems, but they're nothing compared to what some others are going through. My family and I are blessed.
4. Since I've been writing so much in the past year, I've spent a lot of time in the world of make-believe. But as they say, "truth is stranger than fiction". Sometimes the things that happen inspire scenes that occur in my stories. One of the ladies at my table had some interesting misadventures in the shower. Hmm. I wonder if I could write a comedy?
5. I did my weekly creative project! Here's a picture of some of my pages:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sweet Saturday

            Welcome back! I'm continuing with the next part of my work-in-progress, tentatively titled Sunlight and Shadows:

Brad Carmichael buckled his daughter into the back seat and gave her another hug before closing the door. His heart still beat furiously as he thought about the danger his little girl could have been in if the lady at the quilt shop hadn’t taken her in and called him. How could he have been so irresponsible? He’d known what time the party was over, but he’d gotten engrossed in the task of finding parents to chaperone the high school band’s trip to the festival next week, and the time had slipped away.
Starting up the car, he checked his rear-view mirror. His little miracle sat quietly in her car seat, content to gaze out the window.
“How was the party, Princess?”
She looked up and connected her gaze with his in the mirror. Her grin showed the gap between her teeth and he felt his lips lift in an answering smile. “It was fun, Daddy. We played games and stuff. And we had ice cream and cake.”
“Sounds good. Were all your friends there?”
“Yes. Sherry, and Callie and Bethanie…”
Brad smiled and let the girl chatter while he navigated the car toward their home. He and Lynn had made plans to buy a bigger home and expand their family, but now he was glad they hadn’t moved from the tiny bungalow. Upkeep on a bigger house would have been a greater expense and more effort to maintain, and right now his time and money were stretched to the limit.
“What, Princess?”
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going home to have supper. Why?”
“Because we passed our house already.”
Rats. Daydreaming again. He turned the car around in the nearest driveway. If his daughter hadn’t been on the ball, there was no telling when he would have realized where he was going. He might have ended up in the next county. Spotting a family smorgassboard type restaurant, he pulled into the lot.
“Princess, I changed my mind. If I start cooking when we get home it’s going to be late by the time we eat. So would it be okay with you if we eat here tonight?”
Jennie’s eyes lit up. “Okay, Daddy. I like their chicken. And they have corn with butter and stuff on it. And mashed potatoes and applesauce…”
The rest of jennie’s list faded away as Brad opened his door and got out. He went to the back seat to unbuckle his princess, who continued to name off her “favorites.”
“…And can I have chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert, Daddy?”
“Sure Princess. Anything you want.”
He’d be a good dad and make a home cooked dinner for his daughter some other night. Right now he just needed to get them both fed. One of these days he’d get caught up, and then he could think about nutritious dinners. In the meantime, they’d have to make do with someone else's cooking.
Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment to let me know what you think about Brad and the others in this story. Is he believable, or too syrupy? Be sure to check out other excerpts by going to Sweet Saturday Samples.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Character Interview and Giveaway

Today I'm a guest at SG Rogers' blog, Child of Yden. SG is a fellow Astraea Press author and she is a whiz at promoting herself as well as the rest of us. So I jumped at the chance to promote Aegean Intrigue with her. She interviewed Francie, the main character in Aegean Intrigue. She also asked about my trip to Greece, so I sent her a few pictures, which she also posted. So if you want to find out more about Greece and Francie, come and visit. If you leave a comment, you'll have a chance to win a copy of the book!

Find the interview by clicking HERE:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Cleaning

The weather has been unseasonably warm this month. Every time the news comes on the meteorologist reminds us about how we're experiencing weather forty degrees warmer than the average for this time of year. Whenever I look at facebook I see my friends sharing about all the ambitious spring projects they've taken on - painting the house, clearing out flowerbeds, and spring cleaning. I'm not a gardener or a painter, so I decided to work on things inside the house.
Yesterday I had one of those increasingly rare days when I didn't have to go anywhere -- until after supper, when I had band practice. My younger daughter is coming to stay with us for a little while between apartments, so I thought I'd start by clearing out her bedroom, which has been used as a storage room for my scrapbooking stuff and whatever else I don't know what to do with. I made some progress with that. Two or three large boxes and she'll have a room she can move around in.
I also found a home for two large boxes of books. My local library has a used book sale twice a year and takes donations. They got some old textbooks (my kids don't seem to get into re-selling their texts) and some books I've read but didn't particularly enjoy. And then a website called Freecycle helped me get rid of a whole bunch of craft supplies.
So that's a small dent on the clutter in my house. Looking at my calendar, the next unscheduled day is April 7, unless something comes up before then. If I want to get things accomplished then I'll have to do it in small chunks, like I do with my writing, music, scrapbooking, and sewing. I'll have to schedule it, and make it a priority. Last year I made a goal to dedicate at least one hour a day to "organizing" something. Maybe I'd better reinstate that. Or maybe my goal could be to get rid of at least one box or bag per day.
That would make my kids happy, I suppose. If I continue to purge, by the end of the summer I should a lot more room in here.
After cleaning out the bedroom and boxing up stuff in the basement for my daughter's garage sale, I sat down with my manuscript and started purging words. Words, phrases, and entire paragraphs were deleted. I'm hoping the streamlined version will be stronger and better than the previous version. If it's good for the house, it's good for the book too, right?
I actually managed to get in some sewing this week. I suppose it was guilt after writing about my fabric obsession. If you haven't read about it, I wrote a guest post for the Astraea Press blog. Anyway, I made myself an infinity scarf like the one my daughter modeled (and took with her!) a few weeks ago. Since it's identical to that one, I'll just direct you to the picture of her wearing it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! Here's a continuation of last week's sample, from my work-in-progress:

“My daddy is really busy at school. Sometimes he forgets what time it is and I have to ask somebody to call him.”
“Does your mommy work, too?”
The girl’s face clouded. “No. My mommy is in heaven. Daddy takes care of me by himself now, but I have to help him.”
Sophie’s heart ached for the little girl. She, too, know how it felt to grow up without a mother. She kept an eye on the girl while helping her customers. But unlike most other children who came in the shop with their mothers, this child stayed in place at the front window and kept her hands to herself, though she gazed with interest at the displays and the various fabrics.
In less than five minutes a late model sedan screeched to a stop in front of the shop and a lean dark-haired man jumped out. His hair practically stood on end and his eyes were wide with anxiety. He threw open the door, spied Jennie, and flew to her, wrapping her in a tight embrace.
“Jennie, I am so, so sorry! I knew the party was over at 5:00, really I did. I should have set the alarm on my phone. I’m sorry you had to wait for me again.”
“Daddy, that’s okay. This lady said it was okay for me to wait for you here because the ice cream man turned the lights off next door.”
“He what? Why would he do that to you? Especially when it’s raining! I ought to go over and…”
“I think the man’s gone now. But it’s okay. I’m safe.”
The man took a deep breath. Sophie noticed his face looked calmer, but anger still burned in his eyes. “Right. I’m glad you’re okay, Princess.” He looked up at Sophie. “Thank you for letting her come in and for calling me.” He held out his hand. “I’m Brad.”
She took the offered hand and smiled. “I’m Sophie, and you’re entirely welcome. She was no trouble at all.”
Brad took his daughter’s hand. “We’ll get out of your hair now. Thanks again for taking care of my little princess.” The pair waved and left the store.
Sophie watched them go, tamping down her desire to sigh. Brad Carmichael wasn’t strikingly handsome, but he had pleasant features and a kind face. And he cared about his little girl. Really cared. That made him even more attractive, in Sophie’s eyes. What she wouldn’t have given for someone who cared…
Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment – last week's comments were so helpful and I've made edits based on some of them. Thank you! Be sure to check out other excerpts at Sweet Saturday Samples!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Blogging Today

I'm a little late in posting this, but I'm a guest at Joanne Troppello's blog "The Mustard Seed Blog" today. There's an interview where you can learn some random stuff about me, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I share some memories about my trip to Ireland back in 19... well, it was a long time ago. Come and visit! One commenter will receive a free copy of one of my novellas. 
Click on the link HERE:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Novel Works

This week's post is up earlier in the week than usual, but I wanted to share the news that Novel Works is featuring Astraea Press books and authors this week on its facebook page. You can find the page by clicking HERE. Come and visit! You can have a chance to "visit" with other Astraea Press authors. We've been talking about books as well as movies and other forms of story-telling.

Many thanks to Jerry Hines for hosting us this week! It's been such a thrilling ride participating in these promotional activities. Things like guest blogging and designing things like postcards and bookmarks have kept me very busy in the last month. On Thursday I'll be at Joanne Troppello's blog, "The Mustard Seed". And next Monday I'll be the guest at the Astraea Press blog. I'll have notices here and on facebook.

Since I'm posting earlier, I don't have a project to share. It's been a very busy week between working and writing. Hopefully I'll have two things to show you next week!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I am recovering from my writing group's Winter NaNo challenge. We committed ourselves to writing 32,000 words in 28 days. It was tough but I managed to get it done, and I have a new manuscript that I hope to have edited and submitted soon. Here's part of the opening from my new work-in-progress:

Sophie looked at her watch. She had ten more minutes until the store officially closed. She'd leave the doors unlocked until the rest of the quilting group arrived. The door opened and she looked up to greet the newcomer. But it wasn't a customer or a quilter.
A little blonde cherub stood in the doorway, looking around her with wide eyes. She looked to be about seven or eight years old. Just about the age another little girl would be about now...
"Do you need something, sweetie?" Sophie asked.
The little girl turned her soulful blue eyes at her. "It's raining outside and my daddy hasn't come to pick me up yet. Is it okay if I wait here?"
"Sure. Was your dad supposed to pick you up from the ice cream shop next door?"
"Yeah. I went to Suzy's birthday party after school and everyone else is gone. The ice cream man turned the lights off so I couldn’t stay there."
"He turned the lights off while you were still there?" Sophie couldn't imagine why the shop owner would be so cruel.
"Yeah. He told me I had to wait outside."
"Well, I won't turn the lights off here. Do you want me to call your daddy?"
"Yes, please. I have his phone number.” The little girl reached in her backpack and pulled out a worn slip of paper.
Sophie took the paper, squinting at the number scrawled on it. "Where does he work?"
"At the high school."
"Is he a teacher? School was out a long time ago."
"Yeah, but he always has work to do after school. Especially if there's a concert or something. He's the band director."
"Okay, I'll see if I can reach him. What's his name?"
"Brad Carmichael."
Sophie called the number on the paper. After several rings, the line was picked up and a deep, velvety voice answered.
"Rivertown High School Band Office."
"Mr. Carmichael?"
"This is Sophie at The Quilting Bee. Your daughter is waiting here for you."
"Jennie's there? She's supposed to be at a birthday party until--oh drat. I'm sorry. I'll be right there. Thanks for calling." The loud click told her he had disconnected in a hurry.
Sophie put the receiver down and smiled at the girl. "Your dad is on his way here."
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to read the excerpts offered by other authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples and clicking on their links. You may find a new favorite author!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stitching a Story

This week is spring break for the university where I teach. I decided to take a break from my other part time job as well so I could indulge in some of my hobbies and get some things done. So yesterday I spent the morning with the quilting group at church and for the rest of this week I am in a very quiet room on campus, along with a dozen other professors, writing. The university regularly sponsors writing retreats for faculty members, providing us with food, beverages and a distraction-free environment. I have two WIPs to work on, including my Winter NaNo project, and some guest blog posts to finish.  The director told us this morning we were to report at the end of the week how many words we wrote in three days. I'm hoping my numbers will be near the top!
Yesterday, as I was sewing quilts, I thought about the stories I'm trying to write (yeah, I tend to try and do several things at the same time—once a mom, always a mom) so that I would be able to get more writing done today. I'm planning a series of stories about a group of women with the same passion for creating beautiful quilts. Each story will be tied to a quilt pattern. So I've got five plots in various stages of planning. I need to come up with names, character sketches and conflicts for each woman in the group. And I need to find a way to tie all the stories together. It's quite a task. Hope I'm up to it!
I just have to make sure that each story is unique, like the quilts our group sews. Each one is different, even when we use the same pattern, because the choice of fabrics affects the overall look. Each quilt is going to a different home, for a different reason. Some are given to people who have lost a loved one and are grieving. Some are given to people who are very ill and need comfort. And some are simply lonely. In the same way, the stories I write may affect different people in different ways. But since the type of stories I write always end with a "happily ever after," my aim is to provide a pleasant time reading.
I guess I'd better get to work. Here is a picture of the quilts our group got done this week.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! February was a fabulous month for me with the release of Aegean Intrigue on February 2. The time since then has been a whirlwind of promotion, and I've been so pleased the novella has received positive reviews. In the story, Alex has been hired to find the thief of several priceless Greek artifacts. In this scene, Alex is expressing his doubts about Francie's involvement in the thefts to Zotis, his employer:

Later that night, Alex's phone chirped as he wrote his report. Glancing at the caller ID, he frowned and answered. His employer was nothing if not persistent.
“What have you found?”
“Nothing new. Francie is meticulous at her recordkeeping. I haven't seen any suspicious behavior. It seems she's doing everything she can to make sure nothing is missing.”
“It's a cover. She's guilty.”
“Why are you so convinced of that?”
“She has that innocent face. Nobody can be as innocent as that.”
“So it's just a hunch?”
“Call it what you will. I know it in my heart.”
“What about the professor?”
“He's not cunning enough. He's solidly entrenched in the past. Half the time, he doesn't know where he is, or who he's talking to. There's no way he'd be able to pull it off.”
“Francie is his protégé. She could be doing working for him without knowing it.”
“I don't believe it. She's used to the finer things in life, what with her famous parents. She's probably looking for a way to increase her income while she's studying.”
“But if she made extra money from previous heists, wouldn't she be living in more luxury? Her apartment is in a run-down part of Athens, she dresses simply, and she wears no jewelry. She brought only a small duffle bag with her for the trip. That is not the usual way of a materialistic woman.”
“It's a façade. She's trying to fool you.”
“Why would she need to do that? She doesn't know about the investigation.”
“She's cunning enough to know that people will be watching her even after she's been officially cleared. Keep digging. It's her. Or someone she's feeding information to. She's got to be the link.”
Alex wasn't convinced, but he gave his verbal agreement. Zotis was paying the bills.
Thanks for stopping by! If you like this sample, the novella is available at Astraea Press by clicking on the book cover above, or by going to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Be sure to check out excerpts from other great authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples and clicking on their links!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winter NaNo: Crunch Time!

We are in the middle of week three of Winter NaNo! Since I accepted the challenge to write thirty-two thousand words in four weeks, I figured that breaks down to 1143 words per day. I have to have a visual to keep myself on track, so I keep a calendar on the desktop of my laptop. Each day is marked with the total number of words I need to have written by the end of the day.  So yesterday I needed to have 21,717 words, and by the time I closed my Scrivener program, my manuscript had 21,792. I am on track!
Going into the challenge, I thought I was prepared. I had my characters fleshed out and knew their internal and external conflicts. I had planned my major plot points, and knew how I wanted them to meet. So on February 10, I started writing, starting at the beginning of the story. And for a week or so I kept writing. I'm not a linear writer. Sometimes I get tired of where I am and skip to the end. Or I get inspired to write the Black Moment, when they main characters fear "all is lost." So I just skip to that part and write away. Later on, when the words are all there, I can go back and adjust. I'll probably find there are all sorts of plot holes and inconsistencies. And if I don't find them, my critique partners and/or my proofreaders will find them.
I once mentioned to my family that I read books this way too. I start at the beginning, read a few chapters to see if I like it, then skip to the last quarter of the book and read the ending. And then I go back and read it to find out how they get there. They all looked at me like they were ready to have me committed. Oh, well. They'll get their chance someday. In the meantime I'll continue to do it this way. 
Back to writing. With a little over a week to go, I think I'm doing well. I have the "meat and bones" of a new story here. Next week Saturday, I'll look back and start editing, and hopefully I'll have something I can start grooming, and eventually submit!
My mom is back from Florida. Since my publisher doesn't do print copies of books that are shorter than 50K, I made her a printout of Aegean Intrigue so she can read it in her easy chair. Hope she likes it.