Friday, October 29, 2010

What a dilemma . . .

Torn apart I feel torn.  I have several writing projects I want to work on and there's just not enough time in the day.

First and foremost, I need to be working on the 6th Booktown Mystery, and that's okay because I think this could be the best book in the series (so far).  Still, my progress has not been as fast as I would hope, although I've been writing at a fairly steady pace.  But instead of averaging 1250 words a day, I've only been averaging 1000 words a day ... and not on weekends.  That needs to change if I'm going to hand the book in on time.

I also want to be working on the rewrite of the next Jeff Resnick book.  I figure if I could devote about 20 hours to it, I could upload it to Kindle/Nook/Smashwords.  The problem?  I don't have 20 hours.  And, quite frankly, I don't have the audience to justify taking those 20 hours out of my writing schedule.

Although . . . maybe I should try to justify it.  To do that, I need to sit down and figure out what my sales are for this year on the previous two books and the two short stories.  That's kind of difficult, thanks to the spreadsheet Smashwords gives you.  The books are not listed in any kind of order, and mixed by a bunch of different vendors.  I think just figuring that out would be a day's work.

How can one justify working on a project that doesn't bring in the income one needs to stay afloat?  And yet, working on that series feeds my "artist's soul."

Anybody got a similar dilemma?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I like it COLD!

Back in February, Mr. L and I bought a new fridge.  Actually, I bought it.  For some reason, he wasn't available the day we decided we had to get rid of the old one.  (It was freezing EVERYTHING, especially the milk.)

Badmilk Fast forward into summer and -- gosh darn it, didn't we wish we still had old Mr. Freezer Fridge, because now our milk is constantly going bad.  I don't mean one or two before their sell-by dates, I mean ALL OF IT.

The new fridge has these really big door shelves that will hold a gallon container of milk.  Great.  Except the milk is always warm.  Not great.

So now we've moved the milk from the really convenient place, and put it on one of the shelves, where stuff usually gets shoved in front of it.  Then we have to search to get the milk out for stuff like adding to coffee or recipes.  Not very convenient.

Truth be told, we just don't like this new fridge.  It's too small.  The guy at the appliance store assured me this was THE standard size fridge, but it isn't.  The next time I was in the store I looked a bit harder and saw that there are quite a few taller ones.  (Of course they were all stainless steel and cost about $500 more, but that's beside the point.)

Well, at least the milk isn't going bad anymore.

And what's bugging you today?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just like my Dad . . .

Dad's Birthday 19 I've talked about how much I miss my Dad since he passed away a year ago.  (Boy, it doesn't seem possible it's a year already.)  Besides missing him for his advice and just plain company, I miss him because he could fix anything.  No lying!

In fact, just before he went into the hospital in July 2009, he fixed the cord on my electric kettle.  (It turned out it wasn't just the cord that was broken.)  At first he said (in the words of his instructor at the Portsmouth Dockyard, and in a heavy Manchester accent), "It's nooo good.  Ya might just as well chuck it away."  But then he thought on it for an hour or two and figured out how to make it work again.

We fixed a few things together, too.  When I bought my first house, he gutted most of it and rebuilt it himself, adding French drains, and rewiring it, too.  Um...I was smaller than him, so I got to crawl around in the boiling hot attic which was full of dead wasps.  That was a fun time. (NOT!)

At the end of this summer, my fan died.  One day it worked fine, the next day it was pushing up daisies.  Somehow I didn't have the heart to throw it away.  But, lately I've been in a "if-you-haven't-used-it-in-a year (or longer) it's-time-to-get-rid-of-it" mood, so yesterday it got walked to the curb for the trash men.

Peanut butter cups Off I went grocery shopping.  But all the while I was picking stuff like kitty snacks and Halloween candy from the shelves, I was thinking about how much I loved my blue fan.

Back I came.  And there sat my fan.

I bought it just after I moved into my first house.  (See above for description of the attic--no, not the wasp part, the boiling hot part.)  It was $25 at K-Mart and it worked great.  It worked so great, I went back a month later to get another one and they didn't have the same model, but I bought one anyway.  It has long since gone to fan heaven.

Fan open My Dad would never have tossed out a useful item without trying to fix it first.  So, in view of all my neighbors, I retrieved my fan from the trash and brought it back inside.  As I suspected, it wasn't broken at all.  But it had been living near our forced-air heat run for the last 17 years and it was full of dust.  (Ick--we're breathing in all that crap all winter?  Oy!)

With just the first shot with baby suck (mini shop vac), it started to run again, but then I took the back off and really gave it a good clean with vacuum, compressed air, and a dust cloth.  Now it runs like new.

All the time I was cleaning it I felt like my Dad was standing behind me giving me advice.  And best of all--I got my beloved fan back.  (Just in time to retire it for the winter. Oh well, you can't win them all, eh?)

Do you try to fix broken items?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is the third time a charm?

Unsmiley Last Saturday, I posted on the Cozy Chicks Blog about changing the cover of one of my e stories to try to boost sales.  In seven months, I'd sold only 24 copies of the story.  Paint me unhappy. The story was one of my unsold "confessions."  My first professional sales were writing short romancey-women's fiction stories.  (Darn, and I can't find the print version of the first one I sold--and can't retrieve it off the old 5.25" floppy disk where it still resides, along with a bunch of my other old stories.)  This one was my absolute favorite--a little story that warmed my heart.  In fact, it must've warmed somebody's heart over at True Love Magazine, because they had me rewrite it three times -- and still they didn't buy it.  I rewrote it one last time and uploaded it to Kindle back in April.  At that time, it was called Only Skin Deep (as in "beauty is only skin deep").

As mentioned, it didn't sell well.  So I figured I'd change the title and cover and see if it would sell with a little more pizzaz.  I put it up on Kindle last week and, as mentioned above, asked for comments. My writer friends were in agreement, SEX SELLS. So Not only did I have a "sexier" picture, but I changed the title.  (A take off on Love with A Perfect Stranger.)

My readers felt the cover cheapened the story of the mother and child.

So, back to the drawing board I went.

But, my readers (most of whom have NOT read the story--just the blurb), rated a bunch of pictures that other readers and I put up on Facebook, and we kind of voted.  (Cover by committee.)

Here's the same story description and the new cover.

Unconditional.SM A one-night stand changes Leslie Turner's life forever when she discovers she's pregnant. Keeping the child means losing her business. Even more devastating, the baby is born with a disfiguring birth defect. Her carefully planned life falls apart . . . until years later when she once again meets her baby's father. Can they ever be a family?

So, do you think THIS version will sell the story?

And in case anyone wants to try it, the links are below.

Kindle     Nook      Smashwords

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Project Left Undone

After my Dad passed away last year, I found it very painful to enter his basement workshop.  (And still do.)  You see, it's just as he left it.  The last few months before he entered the hospital/nursing home, his knees gave him such trouble that he couldn't get up and down the stairs anymore.  Therefore, there were a lot of projects left undone.

Twins Back in the 1990s, my Dad was a serious carver.  His specialty was little Santas called Tomtes.  He had a couple of carving buddies and they traded patterns and carving books and they all made the same projects.  My dad would make the blanks on his jig saw.  There's still a huge hunk of bass wood (about three feet tall and 8-9 inches square) in the garage.

One of the projects the buddies did back in 1993 was hunting dogs.  A LOT of them.  My dad gave me one of them, which has been on my shelf for years.  After he passed, I found a whole box of unfinished dogs and one small finished one. I asked my mother why Dad never finished the dogs and she said he got bored with them.  He prefered to carve people--characters.  ( I prefer to write about them!)

Box of dogs

I brought the box home and asked Mr. Lorna (who has a steadier hand and is a painter in his own right), if he'd paint them for me.  He was reluctant to do so.  In fact, they sat on his desk for more than six months gathering dust.

So I decided to finish them myself. (Here are three in various states of completion, which my Dad did.)

Various states of completion

Thank goodness for white paint.  If I mess up, I can cover up and start again.  So far, I've only finished one dog (because he was almost done anyway).  But I've given two others noses and eyes, so at least they aren't blind with no sense of smell anymore.

Unfinished dogs

(The little guy on the left still has his rough edges.  Not sure I want to tackle actually carving him, but we'll see.)

Dad finished dogs

(The above are two my Dad finished.  They're my guide.)

I'm going to take on this project slowly because I don't want to mess them up.

I'm not sure what I'll do with them all when I'm done.  I'm reluctant to give them away to family and friends because I'm not sure anyone would love them as much as I do.

First, I need to finish them.  Then we'll see about (maybe) finding them new homes.

Have you ever taken on a project someone left unfinished?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Try Some New-To-You-Authors via E books!

BEfacebook As promised yesterday . . .

Authors associated with the Backlist Ebooks web site (and Facebook page -- come on over and LIKE us!) have come together to offer our books to readers at a 25% discount.  Think of it as a kind of getting-to-know-you bash.

We're all authors who've been published by traditional publishing houses.  Eventually those books go out of print.  Before the days of e books, not much happened after a book went OOP, but now, thanks to Kindle, Nook, Sony Ereader, iPad, etc. our books are available to whole new audiences of readers.

Mystery, suspense, fantasy, romance, science fiction, true crime . . . there's something for everyone.

Click on the SPECIALS TAB at the Backlist Ebooks Web site:

You'll find something good to read by:

Deb Baker (cozy Mysteries)
L.L. Barlett (that's me! -- psychological suspense)
Pamela Burford (romance)
Marsha Canham (romance)
Jeffrey A. Carver (science fiction)
Diane Chamberlain (women's fiction)
Doranna Durgin (fantasy and romance)
Mary Ellen Hughes (cozy mystery)
Chuck Hustmyre (true crime)
Kelly McClymer (romance)
Julie Ortolon (romance)
P.B. Ryan (historical mystery)
Patricia Ryan (historical romance)
Kathryn Shay (romance)
Laurin Wittig (romance)

Boo! Hurry! The sale only lasts until October 31st!

P.S. If you don't have an ereader, you can download books to other devices, like your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Droid, or Blackberry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The only GOOD snowman . . .

I knew I'd pay for thoughts of cool breezes back in July when I was frying in my little summer cottage office.  It was so hot, the sweat was running down my face.  Oh, to be cool, I thought.

Well, it's cool.  In fact, it's COLD.  And, there's SNOW IN TODAY'S FORECAST!!!

I am not prepared for snow in October.  Yes, I know we've had snow in September before, but that was a LONG time ago.  If I had my way, we'd have a light dusting of the stuff on Christmas Eve that would last through 4 p.m. the following day, and we'd be done for the season.

Sam_snowman I prefer to see snowmen that are either on greeting cards or stickers and maybe made of nylon and inflated.  (Like Sam the Snowman from Rudloph The Rednosed Reindeer.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't have one of those inflatable things in my yard, but I'd make the exception for Sam.   Mr. Lorna doesn't agree so we are Sam the Snomanless.)

I'm going to get whiplash today because every couple of minutes my head whips to the left so I can look out the window to see if it's snowing.
Snow, snow, go away.

I have spoken.

What's the weather like where you are?

P.S.  Tomorrow through Halloween I'm participating in the Backlist Ebooks Halloween/Smashwords sale.  A bunch of the backlist authors will be selling 44 of our backlist books for 25% off via Smashwords.   (If you don't have an ereader, you can download these titles to your computer.)  Most of these books will be $2.39 -- such a deal!)

I'll post later giving more details.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I can almost taste it now . . .

When I was a kid, I figured I'd get married at 18 and I should be prepared.  So, I started collecting recipes.  I figured I'd have to feed the brute who was going to let me be a stay-at-home wife.

Well, things didn't work out that way.  I went off to work and stayed single for a VERY LONG TIME.  And when I finally got married, it was Mr. Lorna who did (and still does) at least 75% of the meal prep.  (Mostly so he can get a decent meal, although I've gotten better at cooking in the past couple of years.)

Gray recipe box I was poking around in the basement a couple of weeks ago and found my little recipe box.  Boy, my handwriting was a LOT neater in those days.  (These days I have to squint and sometimes use a magnifying glass on my edited manuscript pages to figure out what the heck I've written.)  And darned if that little recipe box didn't contain 95% cakes, cookies, quick bread and muffin recipes.  Yup, I've got a sweet tooth, and my baking has always been better than my cooking.

Canned pumpkin I'm ecstatic because I've found the recipe I always used for pumpkin bread. It was one of the first recipes I made all by myself.  I haven't been able to make it for years before I lost the copy I had.  Thank goodness it was a copy--because there's the original bad boy in that little gray file box.  (I'm going to type it up and put it on the computer.)

Yesterday was grocery day and a big can of pumpkin went into the grocery cart.  Got the walnuts, too.  Ain't nothing like toasted pumpkin bread for breakfast.  Ahhhhhh....  I have a feeling that pumpkin bread is going to make it into one of my future books.  Whichever one comes up the fall, first.

What's the first recipe you remember making all by yourself?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An anniversary I wish had never come . . .

Dad's Kodak's Picture2 A year ago today was the last time I saw my Dad alive.

A year ago tomorrow was the last time I saw my Dad.

It's been a terrible year for me.  Many successes, but the most devastating lows of my life, too.  I thought I had experienced grief before, but losing beloved pets and relatives I hardly knew did not prepare me for what real loss felt like.
A year later, there's still a gaping wound on my heart.

Where did the year go?  I made the New York Times bestsellers list twice.  I've traveled to Washington, DC and to New England.  The cottage bathroom had a refit (and a leaky hot water heater).  The seasons came and went.  And still my Dad is gone.

I can't get used to not having him there to ask advice.  I depended on his experience and wisdom. There are so many things I wanted to tell him, and I wanted him to tell me.

Time marches on . . . without my Dad.

Monday, October 18, 2010

See, I didn't miss out on the fun after all!

I mail out a lot of bookmarks and bookplates.  Not just for myself, either.  I'm the official bookmark-mailer-outer for the Cozy Chicks as well.

Boring One day, while getting the envelopes ready to mail, I decided they looked, well . . . BORING!  A sea of white with a couple of black-and-white "stickers."  (Actually, they're return address lables.  One has my return address on it and the other has either my sticker with my latest book and web site, or the Chicks sticker with the blog URL.)


Pansy love stamp Okay, the stamps can dress it up.  Currently I'm using Shelter Pets for the Chicks, and pansy LOVE stamps for my own.  (Hey, I love pansies!  I don't care if these were SUPPOSED to go out on wedding invitations.  I already got married--I'm not supposed to use them?)

So, I hit the craft stores.  Whoa!  Lots of gorgeous stickers.  Most of them seem to be intended for scrapbooking and WOW--the prices!  (Maybe I should've gone in the scrapbook business instead of writing for a living.)  Still, there's lots of cute stickers out there--sadly, most of them are not appropriate for the Chicks for my own stuff.  Do you think I can find a book sticker?
Currently, I'm using bumble bees for the chicks.  Hannah Reed's (also know as Deb Baker) latest book is Buzz Off, and a woman who owns a local natural food store and keeps bees as a sideline.  They're perfect to give Hannah's book a little extra "push."  (I'm on my second set of bee stickers.  These ones sparkle!)

Star happy face Over the summer, I used Popcicle stickers, butterfly stickers, and stars.  (I'm "publishing" my backlist on Kindle as Polaris Press -- and Polaris is the North Star.)
Sticker fun came after I was already grown up, but I'm getting to indulge in it after all.
I love it!

What kind of child-like fun are you experiencing these days?

Friday, October 15, 2010

All those wondeful veggies . . .

Rainy farmer's market Yesterday was farmer's market day and we almost forgot. In fact, it was 1:55 and I said, "Hey, hubby--we forgot to go to the farmer's market!"  Well, on went the coats and hat and out the door we flew.

I'm not sure if they usually pack up at 2 or 3 p.m., or if it was the cold, gloomy rain, but we got there about ten minutes later and most of the market had already packed up and was gone.  There were a few straggler customers like us, though, and we walked up and down the aisle before deciding on what to get.  This week it was a stalk of Brussels sprouts, a small cauliflower, parsnips and a small cabbage.  Cost:  $4.50.  If we had bought these veggies at the supermarket, I estimate it would've been $8-$10.

Roasted sprouts Half the sprouts are already history.  We like them roasted with a little olive oil and freshly ground pepper.  I love parsnips, but don't know if I should just parboil them, then fry after a quick dip in a cornstarch/egg mixture.  (Oooh.  Yummy.)  I like to parboil the cauliflower and then pop it into a dish with shredded cheese and breadcrumbs--baking for about 20-30 minutes.  And for the cabbage -- well, if we can find some corned beef, you know what's going to happen to that little guy.
 (Corned beef is hard to come by around here, except for February and March.)

The market will only be open another two weeks and then it'll be back to the (expensive) grocery store for veggies.


What do you like to get at your farmer's market?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No sale!

I am a sucker for most of the shows on HGTV.  It's a good thing my cable package doesn't include it, because I'd never get anything done.  I mean, I'd sit there 24/7 with toothpicks holding my eyes open.  My mother does get HGTV and darned if it isn't on when I go to visit just about every day.
Sabrina-Soto-updated-bio_al One of the shows I love to watch is GET IT SOLD.  Every episode, home staging expert Sabrina Soto (that's how she introduces herself) strips a home of any personality it has, and makes it as bland as possible so that people can (theoretically) sell their hard-to-move houses and usually does it for a grand or less.

Often, the homes do need to be stripped of all personality.  Garish paint colors, floor to ceiling clutter, crammed full of kid toys, and wall-to-wall religious pictures on the walls--those places need staging help.  But I was particularly offended on an episode yesterday where Sabrina made the homeowner pack up every single book and put them in storage.  I will admit that the bookcase was in the dining room, which is kind of an odd place to put it, but apparently the family liked to read while they ate.

Buyers hate this Some of the changes are quick fixes that make me cringe.  A kitchen had a "dated" border, so they sanded them down (ruining them forever) and painted them black.  This looked pretty good on a TV screen, but I'll bet in person it looked like what it was:  a cheap fix that did more harm than good. The new homeowner is going to have to do something about that, and it won't be a cheap fix to undo.  (I've taken off a tile backsplash before and it destroyed the plasterboard behind it.)

What's worse, in nearly all cases, they check back with the family between two and four weeks after the staging and the house still hasn't sold.  What does that tell me?  Well, this is a tough market, but that most people don't give a hoot what the furniture looks like.

Before we bought our house, we looked at 84 houses.  We'd make the rounds every Sunday week after week, month after month.  We told our agent we wanted a ranch, she showed us everything BUT ranch homes.  In fact, we asked her to take us through the house we bought, and she wouldn't.  "It's only got a bath and a half."  So I waited until they had an open house.  The house was perfect for us.

John Denver Today, it wouldn't have passed muster.  You see, the homeowner's personalities were right on show.  The lady of the house quilted.  The man wasn't a professional photographer, but took portraits as a hobby.  John Denver came to town and darned if he didn't talk him into posing for him.  (There were a couple of other celebrity photographs on the wall, but 17 years later, I've forgotten who they were.)

One thing that really struck me was the blend of antiques and contemporary furniture.  They had a marble topped commode.  For the past 17 years I've pined for something with a marble top (just never found anything I liked enough).  Of course, after 17 years, there's very little of their personalities left in the house.  We've changed the landscaping (back and front), we've totally redone the entryway and the bathroom, and our decorating taste is totally different.  This is our house now.

HGTV So maybe those shows do have it right.  Maybe the buyers need to see a bland backdrop and try to imagine where they'll put their chairs and tables and bookcases (if they have any).  But I'm still not convinced staging sells homes.  Not when every show seems to end with the words, "They have confidence they'll get an offer soon."  Funny.  Those homeowners don't look very confident.

What's your favorite HGTV program?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So pretty--so difficult to make

Ornament My sister-in-law makes THE most gorgeous handmade cards.  They're quite intricate, with cut-outs, fake jewels, rubber-stamped embossing, and goodness knows what else.  I love to receive them on holidays and other occasions, and I've saved every single one of them.  She also makes her own Christmas card tags, which you can see on the left.  (Can you tell I didn't have a picture of one of her cards?)

I knew she had to have a lot of tools to make these little wonders, but I had no idea how many or how expensive they were until I hit the craft store yesterday.

You see, over the summer, I bought a bag of kraft tags at a yard sale.  One hundred and thirty-five of them to be exact.  I thought they'd make cute bookmarks for the goody bags I plan to make for my book-release signing at Barnes & Noble when A Crafty Killing comes out in February.  (Goody bags go over well with readers and with the store--who hopes the readers will buy/order the books represented in the goody bags.  It's very tempting to me as the person who gives them out, too.)

Joanna2 Anyway, I'd asked my friend Joanna Campbell Slan, who not only writes a mystery series about scrapbooking, but has also written several books on how to make scrapbooks, what I should do.  Holy cow!  Her directions took up an entire page, and she assured me what I wanted to accomplish was an "easy" project.  (I'm afraid I don't have Joanna's crafting talent, experience or confidence.  Like my sister-in-law, her projects are true works of art.)

Cardmaking Still, I journeyed to the craft store to see what was what.  I chose a rubber stamp, embossing powder, embossing ink, and a hot gun to make the ink "puff" up.  Holy smoke again!  The total was already over $50.  That would make my project (of 50 goody bags--less the cost of ribbon and the business cards, and the glue) a buck a piece.  I figured by the time I bought everything else, they'd be about $1.50 each.
Hmm.  I put everything back on the shelf and wandered the store.  Maybe I could just put stickers on the craft tags, but I couldn't see any stickers that screamed Artisans Alley (where a good chunk of the story takes place).  Maybe I could just put some glitter on the cards.

Maybe I'll just forget the whole idea and just tie the bags with ribbon like I did with the bags I did for Chapter & Hearse.

Chocolate chip cookies Some people are born with the "crafty" gene and some aren't.  That's why the heroine in A Crafty Killing bakes.  It's something she loves to do and it's something she's good at.

I think I'll just stick to writing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The wonderful world of stock photography

The world of stock photography never interested me very much.  Not until I found out I needed it:  for book covers for my e books/stories, for booktrailers, and for my web site.  Since April, I've spent a decent chunk of change with several stock photography sites and I don't see any end in sight. My first purchase was for the cover of Abused: A Daughter's Story, which is to date the best selling title I have up on Kindle.  We're talking over 800 sales since the end of April.  Why?  I wish I could say it's the writing that's sold it, but I have to believe it's actually the picture of the crying child on the cover.  Doesn't the look on her face just break your heart?  (Too bad Kindle only shows you the B&W version.  I'm hoping the Nook's color screen will sell hundreds more. BTW, Kindle has been selling it for 89 cents -- a 10% discount. There go my profits!)

I bought several other photos for other covers, and then, when I couldn't find pictures for a couple of projects, took them myself with wonderful results.  (We're So Sorry, Uncle Albert was one, and the other was a picture of a gallon of antifreeze for my book trailer.)  Sadly, I haven't got the means (or the proper lighting) to take all my own pictures.  So, back to iStock I went.

DIRsmall I'm waiting for the day when my rights are returned for Dead in Red.  And you know what, I've already bought the rights to not only the red sparkly shoe for the cover, but a better bloody hand, as well.  I don't know if I'll go with the color blend (white to black under the shoe) or the white to read on the type.  Time will tell.  And don't tell me I can't use the same layout idea on my version of the cover--it was me who suggested it to my publisher!

IStock_000005394934XSmall Recently, I've put together the recipe pages for my Lorna Barrett and Lorraine Bartlett sites.  They needed something that said COOKING!  So off to iStock I went.  I wanted to showcase chocolate chip cookies on the Lorraine site, but the last time I made them, I wasn't thinking about other possible uses when I took my own photographs.  (Note to self:  start thinking of such things.)  So I ended up buying this picture.  Doesn't it make you want to haul out the flour and sugar and start baking?

Okay, back to writing.  And thinking about my next iStock purchase.  (Hey, I still have 11 credits left to spend.)