Monday, June 30, 2014

From Drab to Fab (Part One): A Good Scrubbing

One of the things we had committed to this summer (and especially, during our week-long vacation coming in July) was to refurbish certain sections of Green Victoria that needed a little bit of care and attention. I've mentioned on many occasions that the guys who owned the place before us did an amazing job of making this place really special, but of course, there are still sections that need a little bit of fixing up.

The back yard needs the most improvement. Corb, who is the master builder, has a lot of ideas for what he wants to do--and some of it is going to take a few years. For one thing, he wants to grade the entire area so that it slopes downward (and doesn't become a swamp during the start of spring). He also wants to extend the back deck so that we can install a swimming pool and fire pit. And around the swing area, we need to remove an old dead tree that is what is popularly known as a "widow maker." It has a huge dead branch that extends over the swing set. If that ever feel while Kaeden was playing on it...

But, first for the easier stuff, and that's why, this week-end, we started on the patio area. It was clearly once really nice--in fact, at one point, the guys had installed a jacuzzi, but while the house was up for sale, the area had fallen into disuse. The stones were covered in moss, and the garden beds had become overgrown with weeds. This week-end, Corb fixed up a power washer that his brother had that was broken (Corb is a handy one, no?) and Sunday morning, bright and early, we got to work.

I did my fair share, but again, I have to give Corb credit for the grunt work. He spent six hours power washing all the stones. It was like watching an archaeological dig, as he used the washer to line by line remove moss and dirt from each stone individually. The whole project (which isn't completely done yet) went quite smoothly, except for one little rough patch, as we were weeding the flower beds and came across one bit of suspicious wickedness.

CORB: Is it poison ivy?
ME (Still weeding): I don't know...
CORB: It looks like poison ivy. Three leaves...
ME: Then we should get rid of it.
CORB: So get rid of it.
ME: I don't want to get rid of it. You get rid of it.
CORB: Does it look shiny? Poison ivy is shiny. Is that shiny?
ME:L Deep sigh...
Anyway, turns out it was climbing hydrangea. It is now dead climbing hydrangea. We didn't figure that out until we had removed it with a steel rake.

Other than that, I am pleased with our progress. We still have some planting to do and have to pick out patio furniture, but I think part one of the "Drab to Fab" project turned out pretty nice!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Don't fence me in.


You know how when you first move into a place, it’s really just the start of the journey? You never have everything you completely need…or at least, completely want, and you kind of live out of boxes for a spell, until you get everything just the way you’d like it to be.
We haven’t exactly been living out of boxes at Green Victoria, but this past week-end, we finally picked out the last pieces of major furniture that we needed: the dressers for the master bedroom.
Before this, that room had been looking rather sparse, with only the bed, my old dresser from when I first moved out of Josie’s house, a plastic crate full of clothes that neither of us really used, and Kyra’s crate. For the most part, Corb and I had crammed all of our T-shirts and underwear and sweaters into five small drawers. The white T-shirts were hidden in one of the closets under all of our dress shirts.
And, we actually have a…get this...a sock box.
What’s a sock box? Maybe other people have them, too, I don’t know. It works like this: instead of matching and folding your sox when they come out of the dryer, you simply save yourself that step, take all of the socks and throw them, unsorted, into one central box, roughly the size of a milk crate.
Of course, since everyone’s socks are mingled together, touching and groping and snuggled up next to each other, it does make mornings interesting. First, you have to locate the box (it’s never where it was the day before). Then, you have to find a pair of matching socks. And by the way, you have to do this by going into the master bedroom, where usually, either Corb or myself are sleeping.
It’s functional, but not very convenient.
So imagine our excitement when two enormous mahogany dressers arrived yesterday afternoon. Corb and I were like kids at Christmas! We literally spent an hour sorting through our clothing and scoping out our turf in the brave new world we found ourselves living in. Where once I had three drawers, now I had six! Where once Corb had two drawers, now he had five! Seriously, it was as if we had died and gone to heaven, prompting cries of:
“Oh my God, I actually have a place for all my jeans!”
“Hey, is that where that thing went?”
“Wow, I forgot I had that sweater!”
"I haven't had a dresser with this much space since I was in my thirties!"
"Oh yeah? I haven't had a dresser since I was twenty!"
And of course: “We actually have a drawer for all our socks!”
It’s in my dresser (since I had the extra drawer), and we are co-mingling, although we have banished the socks of Theo and Ashes to their respective dressers. But it is a thing to behold and made life extremely enjoyable yesterday. It also meant that the blue tub has been banished to the basement and Kyra’s crate has been moved to the room outside the master bedroom, which means that our master bedroom is finally starting to look like a master bedroom.
Of course, somebody had to be there while the furniture was being moved in, and that lucky guy was yours truly. I worked from home, typing away in the den, and the furniture guys arrived at around one. It was a half an hour job: all open doors, and grunting and groaning, and sweat. I offered the guys something to drink. They declined.
Around two, I was working away, and I happened to notice, out of the corner of my eye, a small brown animal scurrying across our lawn. That was weird, I thought. Was it a chipmunk? I put down my laptop and looked around, to see if I could see it again. But it was gone. Vanished into the shrubbery. I resumed working.
Twenty minutes, it dawned on me. Was that? Could that have been? I put down my laptop and looked around the house. Hmmm.
I opened the door, looked outside. It was a beautiful spring day, in the eighties. Wow, this was what the outside world felt like?
I hunted around the front lawn. Looked around the patch of woods in front of the house. Ah, sure enough.
There, under an old tree, looking cozy on a bed of pine needles. Our oldest cat Hayleigh. She was an indoor cat, but always longed to be outdoors. She had escaped during the move, and was enjoying her newfound freedom.
I picked her up. She made an odd groaning noise, as if she didn’t want to leave.
I completely understood how she felt. A little bit more freedom is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Talking inspiration

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend, Bill Richards (who goes by the far more serious formal author name of William D. Richards), to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour, which is a series of linked blog posts by various authors about their writing process. From what I understand, the idea originated with fantasy author Heidi Garrett.

The idea behind it is that each author answers four questions about their writing and then enlists (coerces, cajoles) other authors to join the tour. And so far, quite a few have. So, in other words, if you link to Bill's post, you can then link back to the fellow who enlisted/coerced/cajoled him into participating, and so on, and so on, until by golly, the end of time. That's right, the end of time!

Okay, maybe not that long. But it does make for an interesting thread to follow. It also gives you a lot of ideas about how each writer finds inspiration and then acts upon it. Isn't writing wonderful like that?

So, that said, before I dive write into those FOUR WRITING QUESTIONS, I want to thank Bill for asking me to participate (and beg him to keep quiet about any embarrassing stories he may have on me from high school...yes, we go back that far).

Oh, and who is Bill? Yes, yes, that's a perfectly good question.

(Let's pause so I can clear my throat to use my most serious writer's voice. Think of it as a cross between an Orson Wells wine commercial and a Morgan Freeman voiceover...)

William D. Richards discovered writing at an early age thanks to a writing exercise by his fourth grade teacher and since has been bewildering people with his wild flights of fantasy. Yet, it was only recently that he began writing in earnest when the Great Recession forced him into making an involuntary career move. He splits his time between writing, promoting, and coaching others how to take the leap into publishing for themselves. His book, Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody, is available through most ebook retail channels. You can find his blog at

And now, let's dive into those FOUR WRITING QUESTIONS, shall we?

What am I working on? 
So, here's my Daleks master plan:
·  First, I'm working on promoting the heck out of Pictures of You. Oh, wait, have I done that here yet? I've got this book, see? It's called Pictures of You. I hope you'll check it out...and if you haven't yet, let me make it easy for you: in case you haven't secured your copy, I'm making the Kindle version available for absolutely NOTHING for the next five days, starting today! So what have you got to lose? It's free! Why not pick up what one reader described as " a delightful, page turning experience for readers of all ages"?
· Next, I'm in the revision process for my next novel, The Late Night Show, which I'm planning to issue forth from Green Victoria Press around the end of the year. Think Pictures was creepy? Late Night is even darker. It's all about webcams, but with a Rear Window kind of twist. Here's the scoop:

The camera doesn't lie, but it may not tell the whole story, either. That’s what college freshman Kami Corley discovers when she meets a strange girl named Jeanette in a webcam community and receives a disturbing plea for help. Drawn into her story, Kami tries to help, but one Friday night at the stroke of midnight, she realizes her efforts have deadly consequences, when she becomes a witness to cold blooded online murder. 

Or is it? Without knowing who Jeanette really is or where she comes from, Kami is not sure what to believe or where to turn. But one thing she learns, and quickly: she's now caught in a web from which there is no escape…and next time, she may be the victim on the inside, looking out.

· After that? Well, of course, there's always Confessions of a Diva Rotundo, a murder mystery told from the hammy lips of the ultimate community theater actor, looking to clear himself of being the murder suspect and still get that standing ovation on opening night. And there's also a YA fantasy called Amelia's Bones, which my friends have been asking me to publish for years. So, just a few things in the hopper...

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
Hmmm, that's an interesting one. I'd rather talk about what my stories tend to focus on, rather than how they are different from the rest. In order for a book to interest me, it has to have a strong central character. A lot of times I write about people who don't have perfect lives: gender identity issues, absent parents, single moms, siblings with autism, kids who are bullied. A lot of my work is about giving voice to voices that don't fit the norm. Some that lack the courage...and some, that hide in the shadows.

And then, I put them through hell.

Why do I write what I do? 
I was dropped on my head as a child. Twice. That's the only way to explain, I think.

But then I suppose there is a kinder, gentler way of looking at things. I've been writing since the first grade, ever since my dad tucked me into bed with stories about Nancy Drew's younger brother and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. And my first thought: "I don't want these stories to end." And that's why the stories keep coming.

How does my writing process work?
Usually my process starts by being distracted by something stupid. Like, tonight's story was about the world's oldest cat. No, seriously!

Oh, all right. It starts as an idea. Usually something along the lines of: "Wouldn't it be funny if?" I recently wrote about how Pictures of You came into being on the wonderful blog Skewed Notions. That was completely a "what if" sort of story.

But more than that, there's the sheer mechanics. When I am knee deep in writing a book, my goal is to write a least one page a day. That's all: just one page. After a year, you'll have 365 pages, right? And I do it the hard way, too: hand-written, on a yellow Legal pad (anyone who has seen my handwriting will know what a chore that is to decipher). That makes the first typed draft a first edit, of sorts.

And then comes the re-writing. And the re-writing after that. And editing. And input from friends. I can't help it, I take my time. I want the end result to be as good as I can possibly get it. Well, when I'm not being distracted by cat stories, that is.

Passing the hat. 
What, have the four questions been answered so quickly? My how time flies. Okay, so I am now tagging two other accomplished artists, who have just seven days to come up with their own responses. They are:

Kira Tregoning is a language enthusiast, writer, and book lover. I met her while she was in the process of rolling out her latest novel, She writes mostly fantasy right now, although she has some ideas for expanding into other genres. She lives in Maryland with my meddling cuddle-monster of a cat, Mama-Sita, who enjoys getting in the way when she's trying to write. No, she is not the world oldest cat. Her website is found at:

And then there's my dear friend JM Cornwell, someone I consider to be a mentor and an inspiration. Jackie was the person who dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of self-publishing, and I love her for it. Jackie has contributed stories to several Chicken Soup, Cup of Comfort and various anthologies. Her first novel, Past Imperfect, was published in 2009 and her second, the terrific, Among Women, came out 2011, and she is currently working on a sequel called Among Men. She can be found at:

Rock on, ladies! I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A sleeping dog at Ugly Dog

Saturday was my second book signing at Ugly Dog Books and we decided to take Kyra with us. Although I had some concerns about bringing a puppy (on the second day we've had her) to a store for a signing, here's how she ended up. She was a perfect angel...friendly with everyone and didn't whimper once. Kim, the owner at Ugly Dog, said she is welcome any time.

As for the signing? It went really well. Signed a few books, met up with some old friends (including my favorite teacher from high school), had a local cable station that came to interview me and also received an invitation to discuss the book at a book club. Pretty happy with those results. Now I have to plan the next one.

Oh! Also have been asked to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour, which is a series of linked blog posts by various authors about how their writing process works when creating a new story. I was asked by William D Richards, the author of the The Aggadeh Chronicles, who's also an old friend. How old? Well, we may have actually been in band camp together, many years ago. He played the saxophone, which is a lot cooler than what I used to play. (DON'T ASK.) Anyway, his post about the writing process is up on his site, and mine will be in about seven days. After I write a bunch of other nonsense. You know how it goes.

Anyway, this is going to be a short entry. Honestly, the puppy is wearing us out! I mean, she is a great dog, but...well, she's a puppy, you know? It's tough squeezing everything that needs to be done now into one day. My biggest concern now: when are we going to find time to shop for groceries? Seriously, that cupboard is looking pretty damn bare...