Rain, Rain, Go Away

Relentless rains for days now.

Had big plans for the blog this year and can’t believe the year is nearly half over. I have accomplished little on the blog…but have managed to rewrite the first three chapters of book two of the Naked Eye Series four times and chapter four twice.

Seriously…I wouldn’t call it writer’s block, because I am writing and I have the story in my head. I can’t seem to get it out in the way I want it to be read. Characters start doing their own thing and getting me off task. I tried with an outline, but at the start of the novel, I find it more of a frustration than an asset.

And then there is this blog. I can’t count the number of times I have started a post and not been able to finish it. Might have something to do with the facts that I am babysitting grandchildren frequently now, and I am the Central Florida Valor Team Leader in three different places: Two FB pages and the pokemap Discord group. On our data page, I have been on top of the leaderboard more than not, and currently have 37 gyms. That’s #1 or in the top ten of over 10, 000 total trainers, even counting the bastards who spoof and bot gyms. This is quite a feat, when you consider that there are 1126 gyms in Orlando and most people can’t stay inside one for more than a day…lol But, we built a nice battle team of 185 players and we have trainers who run gyms, boots-on-the-ground, 24/7.

Had to put both my doggies, the pug and the Australian cattle dog, to sleep a couple weeks ago. It broke my heart and I was devastated, even tho I know it was the right thing to do. Captain wasn’t even able to stand up, and Daisy was headed that way. Neither were able to eat, and both were very ill. Captain had cancer and Daisy had end-stage diabetes and was insulin dependent and in kidney failure. They are both on a shelf by my desk now in their pretty cedar boxes.

The same day we put the doggies down, we went to a beautiful ballet recital where my granddaughter performed with her techniques class. We parked the van in the same parking lot downtown at the Dr. Phillip’s Performing Arts Center that we parked at last time. Only this time there was no attendant to take our money. We saw signs posted that said parking was 8 am-6 pm Monday thru Friday for the businesses there. What we didn’t see, in a corner far removed from the entrance, was a tiny little kiosk to pay for parking…so we got towed. To make matters worse, the towing company scratched the side of my new van, and damaged the front bumper…and, of course, they are not responding to our insurance company, so now we have a lawyer.

We had to pull up the tile from the lanai and get it replaced. My handy husband did the hardest part of the work, pulling up 2400 pounds on tiles, hauling it to the dump and grinding the old floor down to remove all the tile-set and old paint that caused our problem in the first place. He is truly amazing. The new tile floor is gorgeous. Now I have to shampoo the rug that belongs out there and put all of the furniture back into place.

I other news, (I was more of it was good news, but this is starting to sound like a “woe is me” post), we are getting a new roof. Right now, overhead, people are pounding my brains out with hammers and such, even through the rain, so I’ll not stay long here. Can’t think with all of this going on.

I really wanted to stop in here and let you all know I haven’t died, or abandoned my writing projects, or forgotten about you. I read through many posts, but don’t often have the time to comment. I can’t even keep up with the Tweets I’m supposed to be doing for RRBC. I’m usually a great team player, but things have been complicated lately.

Also, I want to express a huge hunk of gratitude for everyone who has read and posted reviews for Naked Alliances. You reviews are what spurs me to keep at it most every time I’m feeling like I just can’t anymore.  I click onto Amazon, read your words, and am inspired. Thank you.

FYI: Naked Alliances will go on sale for 99 cents in a couple of weeks, but you are welcome to read now, if you like 🙂

Click in side bar for link.

 

Unknown and Unown

We’re headed to Vegas the first week in April. It’s all research for Book Two in the Naked Eye series. I’m learning more about gambling as an industry than I ever thought I would need to know. I’m hoping this trip will get me out of my stuck place.

I knew how I wanted to start the book, but I’ve rewritten Chapter Two twice and just not happy with either direction it went. I have a plot, a couple of sub plots, characters, motives, some conflicts, but haven’t quite figured out the action scenes to pull it all off. I’ve also revamped my outline twice. Fear of the unknown…my anxieties are off the charts.

Sadly, I thought I would have the first draft finished by April, but unless something really sparks soon that’s not going to happen.

Admittedly, I’m distracted by Pokemon Go and other life activities…grandkids/birthdays. It will be good to get away for a little while. I have two FB groups I started and admin for in Pokemon Go and just got another admin so things should ease up there. We have 350 people in our battle group. There are about 30 hardcore players in my neighborhood and we play together daily in one capacity or another.

I’m failing miserably with RRBC. I thought I could be on the Tweet Team, but Sleuthfest last week and all the other activities of my life this week resulted in me forgetting to do my job there. I must get three or four emails a week from them and I can’t keep up with all the things they want us to participate in. I almost always see the emails long after the event they want me to attend is over. I’ve read a couple of books and still haven’t written the review for the last one. Plan to do that today. I joined some contest and sent in the required materials, but have no real clue what it’s for….lmao. Seriously, I can’t keep up.

When I get excited enough to start new projects and I can’t give them 110%, I fall into a melancholy place. That’s sort of where I am right now.

Sometimes I don’t even get my emails read for days, which explains why I’m often posting comments on your three day old blog posts. I haven’t been able to get around the internet like I used to either.

I’m doing my first countdown deal on Naked Alliances Book One, so it would be a good time to grab it if you missed the earlier promos. I would love to get some reviews on the audio book. Thirty people have bought it so far, but not one review that specifically focuses  on the audio book. 😦 And I thought Steven Barnett did such a fine job, I was certain he would have been praised for that. Actually, I’m stuck at 21 reviews and haven’t had one since Feb 23rd. That is likely affecting me also. I so wanted at least fifty before the next book comes out, hopefully this fall. It might be delayed until after Christmas if I can’t swing into high gear.

But this made my day:

Trophy Pokemon

It’s an exceptionally rare pokemon, more rare than ultra-rare. Me and about fourteen other people chased it down this morning. Unown is an extremely rare Pokémon that lives in its own dimension and rarely ventures outside. There are 28 of them representing the alphabet and the question mark and exclamation mark.

I’ve figured out how to have Brandi playing Pokemon Go in my next book and how that plays into catching the bad guy. I’m hoping I can execute it in a way that is not alienating to people who don’t play the game. It’s interesting to try and find the right words to convey activities taking place in an augmented reality game. My Beam Team helps me out there. They’re mostly in their thirties. I’m the only grandparent on the team. I figure if I stick to the basics and don’t go too deep with game lingo it’ll work out fine.

Do you play any video games? If so, what’s your favorite, and do you play online or multiplayer games?

Also, is anyone having trouble with the WordPress notifications pages? Mine errors me out every time I try to use it.

Social Media Confusion

I have a new trophy from WordPress!

Yes, I now have five followers! And I love each and every one of you. I don’t know what they did with the other 1980 of you, but I pray I haven’t lost you and you are safe.

follows

I’ve been trying to get the hang of Twitter. I have several new followers, mostly from Sisters in Crime. I’m getting to know some folk there and enjoying myself. I honestly don’t know how to use Twitter And rarely use hash tags except from #amwriting and #writerslife.

That’s probably not going to help me find followers.

I’m mostly using what I find to be humorous one-liners. I’ve followed all of the followers of the authors I most admire and of whom I write similar material. Many have followed me back, but I’ve followed 1889 and only 636 have followed me back. Any suggestions would be helpful.

I’ve just begun to retweet funny stuff and blog posts of writer friends.

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and start a mail list. Yes, I know, I should have done this three years ago. I didn’t feel it was all that important, but EVERYBODY says it is. So, I decided to tackle Mailchimp.

If I send out a newsletter, it will likely only be twice a year. I produce books slowly and only plan to use the newsletter to notify of pre-orders and new releases, or introduce new projects.

I’d like to set up lists of author friends who help promote, fans of the different genres I write (and keep them separate), and lists of other writers whose work I promote, book reviewers, and beta readers.

I don’t know yet if there will be any way to differentiate in as much as I have yet to get beyond MailChimp’s home page.

I wanted to use my new domain name for email. My new email is sknicholls@sknicholls.com, but that’s only for promo stuff. My old emails still work.

MailChimp no longer allows gmail, yahoo, or other free email servers in as much as third party servers frequently block their mail. So I had to buy a service provider subscription. First I went with Google Business apps. It was only $5.00 per month. I had to verify ownership of the domain name with Blue Host. That got complicated when I tried to transport codes to Blue Host and set up Outlook and took a couple of hours of customer support.

Then I learned it was necessary to have hosting in order for you to use your domain address as an email address.

Since I bought my domain from Blue Host and plan to have them host my website, I renewed my hosting account with them, which cost more than twice as much as Google business apps.  But hey, I should have a web site for S.K. Nicholls Brave Blue Heron Books soon.

After cancelling Google Business apps, I spent another two hours with Blue Host re-setting the settings.

As soon as I figure out my WIIFM (what’s in it for me) to offer people when they subscribe to my newsletter, and figure out what plugins work on my WP blog, and figure out how to use Mail Chimp, I’ll be adding a subscribe button of some sort to my blog and other social media.

Southern Recipes, book of short stories, Private Investigator joke book (I’ve been trying to write one), any suggestions on what you’d like to have a reward for receiving two more emails a year?

Marketing, self-promoting…writing? Argh!

A Little Progress After a Very Emotional Week

It’s taken a good week to clear my head after the tragic shooting. How close to home it was – I nearly lost my daughter and son-in-law, my grandchildren could have been parent-less – in ways that would have changed my life dramatically. I keep the deceased in mind, but I also keep reminding myself that two-hundred seventy people there that night lived. It has changed my life. I went to the vigil downtown at Lake Eola. I felt surrounded by compassionate people, yet feared the very crowd there to offer support.

Vigil

I already have some social anxieties. I despise small talk with superficial people. Small groups of twenty or thirty don’t bother me, but crowds of hundreds of thousands make my knees weak. There were over 50,000 at the vigil. We were on the far side of the lake, but could still hear the speakers and the music. The music touched me deeply and made me cry. But I wasn’t the only one. I’ve never seen so many people in one place crying so many tears. To hear the talk, it wasn’t simply the forty-nine lost, it’s the direction of the nation that makes people sad. And then, there were the many tears of joy in seeing so much support.

Today, I am back at my computer and working on getting my files resubmitted to CreateSpace. I’ve chosen a template, though it wasn’t ideal, I think it will work. The fonts for the suggested “Mystery/Thriller/Suspense” genre called “Edgy, Bold and Unexpected” were way over-the-top and looked more like sci-fi. I went with one under “Modern, Clean and Contemporary”. I’m not impressed with the scene break fleuron, three small blocks. I won’t have chapter titles, just large numerals placed off to the right side of the chapter pages. Under this package, you’re not allowed to change anything, substitute fonts, fleurons or lay-outs in any way.

CSOption

I liked the lay-out and fleuron best under one of the “Edgy, Bold, and Unexpected”…but the fonts were all wrong. The “Steelfish” font of the option I liked best was just too futuristic.

Steelfish

I guess it’s trade-offs to get it done as simply, affordably, and painlessly as possible.

I’m only allowed one interior image, so I’m using my Book Imprint image on the title page. I won’t have an author photo. I use my initials to publish in order to prevent people from instantly being turned off by a female author. No need to have the author image there. Anybody wants to know, they can go to my author page or see my image on Amazon. My bio is a bit generic, but I do mention my husband.

My husband is also mentioned in my dedication this time. He’s been super supportive.

I have a special acknowledgement, then there are more acknowledgements in the back.

I’m waiting now for a couple of endorsements from other authors who have read the book. Those will go on the back cover, or front cover depending on what the cover designer has to say. He’s eagerly waiting in the wings. Of course, I have to acquire the page count and specs from finishing the interior before he can make the spine to the necessary specs.

I submitted interior files to CreateSpace, but had a blank page with the words “blank page” written on it. They rejected it and told me to correct it. Hmmm…I was like, “You can just delete that and move on?”, but apparently the file owner has to make all the changes with this package. I had some page breaks to add also. Hoping this one goes through.

It’s progress.

The nice thing is that I am finally to a point with this where I feel comfortable starting the next project. I’m torn between two stories as to which to produce next. One involves an ecological issue concerning Reedy Creek (a man-made creek Disney started when draining swamp land) and murder and the other missing persons. Either book will carry over some on-going material from the first book. Though the missing persons story seems like it will be more fun to write, the ecological issue/murder really takes precedence in the story arch.

As things are falling into place with Naked Alliances, I’m feeling a strong sense of relief. It’s been a long haul. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Query Blues

a-writers-greatest-fear1

Was hoping that being super selective about agents to query based on their preferences I might have heard some good news by now. But, nay, six rejections with periodic episodes of cricket chirping.

I had one agent that seemed excited and enthusiastic about the book and that was, of course, instantly infectious. Upon further examination, I saw that she was brand new and had never sold a book. We had a phone chat and many of my questions were answered much more vaguely than I expected. So that’s a pass for me. It would be nice to find an experienced agent with her enthusiasm, though.

I’m about halfway through the alphabet on a large directory that shows AAR member standing. I’ve picked a few who aren’t AAR based on what they enjoy and represent. It’s a daunting task.

This one wants a query and ten pages…that one five pages, this one two chapters, that one fifty pages, this one twenty five pages, that one just a query. Some want attachments, others want ms samples in the body of the email. Others require going directly through their onsite contact app. My desktop in so cluttered I can hardly find a thing. I have a spread sheet going, but it’s a lot to keep up with and stay confident.

I’m not going to deny that I am discouraged. I still have not heard back from my favorite agent that I met at Slethfest two months ago, who asked for the whole ms. I’ve pitched on twitter #PitMad sessions, face-to-face, by email. My rejections that are personalized almost always say the same things, but in different words. They loved the pitch, the premise, the query letter, but did not see in the ms what they were expecting or didn’t feel enthusiastic enough about it to take it on. They all have told me the writing is good. So I’m not quite sure what I need to do differently, if anything.

Everybody who has read it loves the first chapter, we don’t get back to Brandi until chapter five. They are brief chapters and things move quickly, but being the star of the show, it might have been a mistake to have readers wait so long. It was necessary to introduce the P.I. and move the plot forward until that point when she reappears on the scene…but eh…I dunno.

My honey, the RS who reads three crime novels a week, says it’s better than anything he’s read in the past three months. His last comp book was Coconut Cowboy by Dorsey in January, so that’s encouraging. But that’s what he’s there for, support and encouragement, right?

I’m beginning to feel that I should self-publish and with the help of my publicist, Maryglenn McCombs, set up the launch and just go for it. That would give me a marketing boost, and allow me more time to write. I’ve fleshed-out the next book’s outline, but haven’t felt motivated to write and that’s not good.

I thought after our week-long vacation I would come back inspired and ready to get to work, but coming home to rejections, especially the quickie generic form ones, sort of dampened my spirits. And there has been a lot going on with the grandbaby’s party and the daughter has left town to go visit her dying grandmother, so I have the grandkids for three days. Not gonna be much happening in the way of writing around here for a few.

For those who have queried…any advice?

How are you doing with your writing projects?

Anything new on the horizon?

Adapt or Die

I’m going through another learning curve, or two or three.

You know how I feel about the happiness engineers at WordPress. I’m still bitter over the whole blue screen thing and how it’s complicated the manner in which I get in and out of my nice, familiar, professional editor. Well, obviously, they aren’t the only ones who get paid to figure out how to “fix” things.

I updated to Windows 10 a while back and that wasn’t too bad of an adjustment. It scares me a little. My computer has become a bit more animated and interactive. Little windows pop out to distract and let me know what’s going on elsewhere and it’s a little disconcerting that it knows more about what’s going on than I do.

Finding my new pic files has become a chore the way it stores, so I’m fumbling around a lot. (This is so telling…I’m a bit embarrassed to share.) Nothing seems to be where I put it. All of the pretty little boxes on the explorer are wasted on me.

images

not my computer

Yesterday, the RS decided I needed to update Office and Outlook from 10 to 13…he runs 16 and assures me that I’m not ready for that. I was doing okay with it until I opened a pre-existing Word file (my beloved ms) and it wouldn’t let me proceed. It said I had updated the file too many times for the terms and conditions of the Microsoft agreement and needed to re-register. WTF? Never heard of such. Of course I never read that agreement. That took a phone call to resolve…even for the RS.

When I finally got inside the file I was relieved to see that it was okay, but I opened my original edit file from my editor and nearly freaked out. Thank goodness we didn’t perform these changes in the middle of my edit…all the ways Word 13 tracks changes is so very different from the way 10 did it, I would have been lost and fuming. Heaven help me in the future. Maybe there’s just more to tweak, but all the little red lines on the left side confused me…and when I clicked on them, weird things happened, and it just made it seem like a lot more work. Too many clicks needed to get the manuscript looking like it was supposed to. And the comment bubbles are different. I was so confused I just had to close it and say a prayer.

When I was working in Nursing I adapted to change constantly without problem. It went with the job. Every day there were new meds, procedures, skills, people. I thought writing would remain rather stagnant and I could simply relax and write…but no.

And then there are changes to Outlook, so my mail….sheesh, my mail. The blocks were so big I had to scroll through paragraphs, cursing all the while, until the RS decided to come rescue me and change all my settings and tweak everything until we got it looking as close to normal as we could. Thank goodness for knights in shining armor. I have three major email accounts, so he had to process the same changes in all three, and my many folders were safe.

What’s next?

Am I the only one who freaks out whenever forced to adapt or die?

The Hurdles I’m Jumping Along the Way

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Before I get started, I have a confession to make. I went without caffeine eight months, but finally broke down a couple of weeks ago and started back with a cup or two a day—no sugar. I was waking with brain fog that prevailed for two hours and couldn’t get anything accomplished in the early morning.

Happy to say the fog has lifted, and it wasn’t so difficult to learn to drink coffee without it. My blood sugar remains under control.

For the past week, or so, I have been preparing for Sleuth Fest. I have about memorized the first chapter in my book, which I plan to read aloud. It’s on my iPad, and I also have a paper copy, but fumbling with them always slows me down. With the papers, I use all but ten seconds of my ten minute time limit (which includes my brief introduction), but with the iPad, I end with twenty to thirty seconds remaining. This is reading slow and clear enough to be well understood.

I’ve done public reads before, but short stories for my writer’s group, not reading from my book. And I’ve read at my local library. With some of the short story reads, the lighting in the venues was terrible, and that slowed me down. I know our Reader’s Corner at the convention is set by the pool patio outside at night (weather permitting), so I’m thinking having it on the iPad is the best way to go…with a backup on paper for the just-in-case scenario.

The long synopsis and the short synopsis have been completed and proofed. The cover letter has been written and I’m presently engaged in memorizing my pitch.  I memorize words best by writing them down over and over. It’s just something about how my brain files information. So my fingers are numb.

One of my biggest hang-ups comes from the fact that I rewrote my log-line about a hundred times before deciding on the best one. Now I have bits and pieces of the wrong lines stuck in my head and they slip out unexpectedly when I try reciting the correct one.

For anyone trying to write a synopsis, I found a really cool link to how to un-demonize the process by fiction editor Beth Hill here:

http://theeditorsblog.net/2012/07/15/clear-the-dread-from-the-dreaded-synopsis/

And another author, Helen Jones, recommended a helpful book today on her blog:

http://journeytoambeth.com/2016/02/05/the-joy-of-synopses/

Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide,’ by Nicola Morgan

Helen has her log-line down to twenty-six words.

Mine is a dual-plot thriller, and I’ve gotten it down to thirty-two. I’m not going to try to cut it any closer than that, to do so would make it less appealing and less likely to demonstrate its entertainment value.

It’s not a log-line I would use to promote the book, but a great one for an agent pitch.

I’ve been looking over the Sleuth Fest schedule and, of course, there are workshops I’d love to attend that conflict with times other workshops and panels are being held. I’ll have to narrow down choices soon.

A photographer friend is going to be doing a photo shoot in the near future. We’re going out to a park that has cypress knees and tropical foliage in hopes of getting some outdoor shots that might be useful, and he has professional screens that we can get some photos in front of. You will likely see changes in my social media and bio pics once this gets accomplished so don’t be surprised if the thin, bright, young woman with long blonde hair on the side turns into a plump, gray, short- haired old lady. It happened rather suddenly and surprised me. No witch cast any spells on me that I know of, time and good food.

It is truly amazing when I think of all that has transpired over the past five years. I went from working eight to sixteen hours a day in a pediatric extended care ward and a psych hospital to sitting in front of a keyboard for sixteen plus hours a day. I’ve published one book and written three. My free time is spent reading and researching, learning about the business, marketing, writing and trying out new ideas.

Being a nudist and a nurse with a most extroverted personality who used to teach and speak before large groups, as well as work with people most intimately, I’ve gone through some changes on a personal level.  In crowds and public groups, I suffer social anxiety and despise small talk. I’ve gotten deep inside my head. I need this Sleuth Fest, not only to learn and promote my work, but to get outside myself. I’ve become an introvert. Not that being one is a bad thing. I honestly believe it helps with regards to creative productivity in writing.

I’ll end here by asking for a small prayer, if you pray, and positive vibes of energy and good luck.