Friday, October 31, 2014

Letters to Plums

Hello, Plums!
I have finally got nearly everything straightened out with the Anon, Sir, Anon kerfuffle on Createspace. The second proof looked gorgeously out-of-line and I had to call the company up and discover whether it was an error in printing or my file--a little of both, it seems. The book should very shortly be available (Remember, remember the fifth of November!) and will be available for pre-order on Kindle even sooner! For anyone who is nervous about issues coming up if you decide to indie-publish, it helps to have someone like my St. Rachel on hand who has a door on which you can bang rabidly till they pop out to answer your frantic questions. Also, Createspace was amazing over the phone. They make the problems, so I suppose it doesn't much matter how good their customer-service staff may be, but I was helped by a very nice German woman who remembered my name at the end of the conversation and gave me terribly sensible advice as for how to proceed. The entire call took three and a half minutes and my issue was resolved by the end of the day via email. So don't fear: if you a get a problem, tech support is there for you. I was polite and waited to call after 9 AM...turns out their customer service is available 24-7. Well then. Anon, Sir, Anon is coming.
I haven't written anything more in Scotch'd the Snakes. I gave myself a break, realizing that I needed to focus on actually releasing this mystery and getting my brother's wedding over with, and all that sort of thing. Anyway, how soon can anyone possibly want another of my books? There have been three this year: buy one for yourself, request another for Christmas and another for your birthday. When you've used up a year's occasions, let's talk. But while I've been shirking the mystery, I have been pegging away at a Christmas novella--since I'm not entering this year's Rooglewood collection contest, I have time to take up my old habit of producing a Christmas story. This one is Ring the Belles and is semi-autobiographical in tone. In my other spare moments which really aren't so spare, I've been making new friends. Doesn't that sound childish? And yet, I have. And something I've learned is that as a writer and reader and a very verbose person, my speech is considered quaint by them. I never realized how many things I say that very few other people say until I was with this group. Following is a list of some things that have been remarked upon and laughed over:

"Your laugh is so adorable. It sounds exactly like a screen door squeaking."
"Oh crumbs."
"Great Jehoshaphat."
"Draw five? Last I checked the penalty was one card! This is steep."
"I have no idea what color that was supposed to be." (having stirred food dye into icing) "It looks like a piece of bubblegum that was chewed while drinking Coca-Cola and then spit out."
"Dash it all, you meanie!"
"Haven't the foggiest." 
"Silly goose."

Apparently, this set of friends has a long way to come before they are accustomed to "Rachel-isms" as these expressions have been dubbed. I can't remember where I picked up my manner of speech...probably a combined effort of books, whimsy, imagination, and the BBC. It sometimes reminds me that I live in a world where most people are not writers. It can be easy to sit here in the blog-world and think I know a lot of writers. But the reality is that I know of not a single novelist I've ever met in person. Except for myself, of course, and I suppose that can't really count. We're not spread so thickly as we think and it's funny to me that my way of looking at the world could be so highly unusual to someone. New friends make you do a double-take. It's hilarious, actually.
The other thing I've been appreciating of late is the way that letters can connect people. You know how much I love sending and receiving mail--the thought of no Post Office makes my heart sink. Three and a half years ago, a Kiwi girl named Felicity Deverell won a contest on The Inkpen Authoress. When I sent her prize of a watercolor illustration of her winning poem, I included a letter. What makes me laugh is that Felicity is the artist and I'm the writer...but in that moment, we switched positions. Since then, letters of twelve to sixteen pages have flown across the seven seas between us and cemented a wonderful friendship. I have saved every letter tied up with a sheer pink ribbon. It's quite a stack and I love that stack. Because here's something unusual in this day and age: everything I know from Felicity except one Skype chat is contained within that bundle of paper and words. Everything. Anyone could know Felicity as well as I do by sitting for a day with that brick-sized packet and getting to know her. If our relationship had been conducted through nothing but blogs, Facebook chats, emails, and phone conversations, there would be no such record, but there is...and I am incredibly thankful. Not to mention the fact that Felicity has become a stunning artist, as you can see from this photo of her most recent painting, below.


Well this post was full of randomness. We've covered releases, letters, art, friends, linguistics, and new projects. What have you been up to?

Monday, October 27, 2014

An Ideal Picnic

Colonial Williamsburg.My heart-town.There are places in life that you have lived, and places your heart has lived. My heart has lived (so far) in the Lake District, in Romania, in London, in Scotland, in Prince Edward Island, and in Williamsburg. When I hear of other people traveling to these places, my heart does a little disagreeable flip-floppy thing that feels an awful lot like jealousy. I have yet to make it any of my heart-homes except Romania and Williamsburg, so when I make it to one of these places, and I feel doubly at peace. And I like nothing better than to tour a friend around the vicinity and make them love it as achingly as I do. This weekend, after throwing a fabulous party ("Company, company, where would we be without company?"), I betook myself and Charity Klicka to the ferry, and across to Williamsburg.


Since we had connected first over a mutual love for ships and The Wind in The Willows, I was overjoyed to hear that not only did Charity want to interview me for her blog in person, she also hadn't been to Williamsburg in too long. The two things combined admirably into the proposal of a picnic on the grounds of a quiet corner of Williamsburg. I purchased a pomegranate and two colors of pears near home, and packed up my little picnic basket. It is a very well-appointed basket.

Once in Williamsburg, we headed for the Fat Canary and purchased the ideal "long, crusty loaf" and some cheese. I am not certain where the term "long, crusty loaf" came from. I had thought it was from the picnic scene in Willows, but I could never find it, so I'm not sure? Oh, here it is, or the idea of it.
“There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.
About the stranger, not Moly. There we go. At the Fat Canary, I bought a bit of Gouda, a bit of Fontina, a bit of Cotswold Double Gloucester, not to mention a sausage called Landjaeger, which was divine. Isn't "Cotswold Double Gloucester" just a perfect name. And then, because the day was hot and the bottles refreshing looking, we went back round and purchased two bottles of ginger-ale. We then lugged our picnic basket around Williamsburg and looked at absolutely everything of interest to two people who didn't much care whither they went, so long as it was leisurely and historic. Two things I learned from lugging picnics about:
1.) Man-servants are helpful for such things. We lacked one
2.) No one brings legitimate picnic baskets anywhere these days. The looks I received.
One of my favorite "emancipated" things to do as a Williamsburg-familiar is to enter any yard and garden where the gates are not locked and make myself at home. Do you realize that one is permitted to wander at at will if the gate is free? I think many people do not know and that is what makes it so pleasant. Charity and I found a place with a stream, and as running water makes everything better, we determined to swing round again and picnic there when we had got hot and dusty and thirsty enough. Having reached this point after probably another half hour of rummaging about, we wandered back and found that our proposed spot had got a lot of little kids playing with bats and rakes in it. I suppose they lived there--people do live in the houses, you know--so we fastened on another yard quite nearby that possessed neat walkways, a bit of grass, and a stream-bank. This turned out to be an even finer spot, being cozier and more Willows-esque.We had a picket fence to our backs, oaks above, a stream to the left, and the road uphill ahead.

This arrangement insured that passersby could observe us at will--and they did. We laughed to see the expressions of the bold starers. I think there were two principle reactions: confusion and jealousy. There were truly jealous expressions bent upon us, and one nice old man who commented on the perfection of the day for the picnic, and the perfection of the spot we had chosen. I rather like that old man. Charity is an over-worked college student and I am an over-wedding'd nanny and writer, so we both thoroughly enjoyed ripping a loaf of bread with our hands, eating pears and cheeses and sausage, drinking ginger-ale (a bug got in mine and I made quite a nice fountain for a moment as I expectorated it), and lazing about in an ideal day. The temperature was perfect, the shade delightful, the grass soft, the stream purling, the afternoon sleepy. We could have napped, only we didn't want to sleep and lose sight of how wonderful it all was. Have you ever had moments of nearly perfect happiness? This was such a one. I couldn't have written a finer occasion, and that is saying something.

Too soon, we were full as full could be, had finished our ginger-ale, and were ready to proceed to the Scottish store, which is a must for anyone who loves Scotland. Charity is learning Scottish-Gaelic, you know. We had been joking at how perfectly our picnic was like that in The Wind in The Willows, but beyond the menu, I was truly not trying to imitate it. That would have been tacky. But does anyone remember the quote about Mole packing back up the picnic and finding he'd left things out every time? I had just got the basket closed to my satisfaction when Charity began to laugh and pointed out that it was all very well but I'd forgot to pack away the table cloth. Le sigh. Round two of basket-packing was successful, and we made a jolly party of it back to the car to deposit our stuffs. On the way back, we stopped at the garden area and I bought a big old narcissus bulb to plant somewhere--I'm a sucker for the beauties, and for anything that can grow in my world that once grew in Williamsburg. We took a detour to a forgotten grave--the Maupin graves--that Charity's ancestors are buried in. It was quite interesting and exciting to look for a grave everyone else had forgotten and know to whom it belonged.We found the graves, bought some lavender (it smells like dusty sunshine) and pursued our course up Duke of Gloucester street. On the way home we missed the ferry so Charity interviewed me as we sat on the pier sticking out into the James River. It was quite a lot of fun, you know.

Charity is such a lovely person. I didn't know her well before this trip, and I know there's a lot more to learn about and from her, but adventures have a way of making kindred spirits out of strangers. After all, Ratty and Mole weren't even friends before Mole got into Ratty's boat and ended up picnicking with him and moving to the River Bank. Never despise picnics and places. It's a grand old life, this friendship thing. I will long cherish the memory of that golden Sunday and the quiet little picnic in a perfect little place. Go out, eat bread and cheese and fruit, and take people up on their offers to give you an adventure. They can be marvelous.

“In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard-trees—crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.”
-Kenneth Grahame The Wind in The Willows

Thursday, October 23, 2014

5 Ways To Become Your Author's Favorite Reader

Ever read a book and enjoyed it so much that begin to wish you knew the author in real life? Ever become a little bit of a fan-girl and wondered if there was more than stalking their Facebook account and blog back-pages that you could do to support their career? Ever wanted to be more than "that one guy who always comments" in your favorite author's mind?

Good news: I have a list for you. 
Of course this list doesn't help you a bit if your favorite authors are dead, but we are supposing you have a modern author you admire. This, then, is the skinny:

#1: Buy their books. Look, we are flattered when you borrow one of our books from a friend and love it, but it does very little for sales. What really helps is you buying our books for yourself, putting them on your birthday and Christmas lists, and buying them for friends who are having birthdays or Christmases. Buy. Our. Books. It's super helpful. It makes them go up in the ranking on Amazon. It gets them on the New York Times Best-Seller list. It's helpful.
#2: Review their books intelligently. When someone is waffling about Position No. One, they might click on the reviews tab for that book on Amazon, or look it up on Goodreads. I know I do. And when I look up a review, I don't want to see all caps-lock, "OH MY GOSH IT WAS THEBESTTHINGEVERRRRRRR." I am looking for someone who actually seemed to have their wits about them while they were reading, who can tell me something (but no spoilers) about the plot, the quality of the writing, and what I liked best. I love hearing what other people liked best...and if it happens to be something I'm inclined to like best, I'll probably end up buying the book.
#3: Start a blaze. Carefully. No, please don't burn our books. But if you tell your friends enough about the book (and buy a copy for them, maybe) then they'll read the book, and if they read the book and enjoy it, they'll tell their friends, and pretty soon you'll have started a wildfire which is extremely helpful for your favorite authors who are, in this way, fans of pyromaniacs.
#4: Give them a hand on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. I can't tell you how much I love a few of my followers on Twitter who, no matter what sorts of links I share, will share them from me. And not just retweets, but an actual, "I went to the site and tweeted it myself" sort of thing, while still mentioning my name. Those people are valuable because they care enough about what you said today in a blog post, or what you recommend they read next, or whatever it is. They care enough about it to share it in their own words and ways. It's precious. (Also, liking a post on Facebook brings it up in other peoples' feed. That's actually how I've found several of my favorite pages to follow. It works on authors' feeds too! ;)
#5: Surprise them. Several times since my debut novel, readers have surprised me with an email in my inbox, writing about what they enjoyed in my book, or how they came to read it, or something else interesting. One reader emailed me an amazing drawing she'd done of the main character (I happen to already be a fan of this girl's art. It was good). Sometimes a reader will post on the page, or message you via Facebook or Twitter, or something else. It's uplifting to the author to get a message like that and not expect it. We don't need the reader to gush, but it is heartening to hear that, independent of your reach, a new reader got hold of your book and enjoyed it. We thrive on approval ratings.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Anon, Sir, Anon and Williamsburg!

I trust you are all still alive, still kicking, still waiting for Plenilune to come out in paperback form. I was feeling quite anxious for that event till I realized it couldn't hurt matters to wait till next paycheck, so that's my goal. I get paid weekly. Hopefully by the time I get this week's check deposited, I'll be able to trot straight 'round to Amazon and get my copy. Did you see that Jenny got her proof copy of Plenilune? Looks like I'm going to have to move more books around on the shelf to fit it in. That baby is nearly two inches thick. Such a looker.

After finding a great number of extra spaces around ellipses (for heaven's sake, people, NEVER MAKE THAT MISTAKE) and panicking to St. Rachel, all formats of Anon, Sir, Anon are fixed, edited, and approved by Createspace. Just to be sure, I've ordered a second tangible proof-copy and am going to be receiving that before terribly long. Tonight I am sending out the guest posts, interviews, and announcement information for the release. And guys, The Giveaway is called "Cozy Quagmire Party Pack." I will leave you to guess what it contains, but I will say that it is pretty wonderful and I wish I could win it myself.

Have you ever had the opportunity to do something terribly bookish in real life? I have had a few experiences with that sort of thing, the most recent being my "Box Hill" expedition to Williamsburg two summers ago. Well. After hosting a couples' shower for my brother and his fiancee this weekend, I am heading to Williamsburg again, this time with the inimitable Charity Klicka. I don't know Charity terribly well--we've been more like ships passing each other in the night when we've met in person--but love of ships, The Wind in The Willows, love of quotes, and general kindred-spiritness has given us a budding friendship. I could not be happier at the prospect of escorting her to my heart-town on her very first trip there. We have lots of plummy larks planned. Pray for good weather. <3 I will take pictures and be sure to post them when we've finished. I cannot wait.

Well, cheers and all that, darlings! I'm off to catch The Voice and eat ice-cream. I know. Terribly authorish.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Libraries, Antique Books, and Salt Spray

"Has it ever fallen your way to notice the quality of greetings that belong to certain occupations?...How salty and stimulating, for example, is the sailorman's hail of 'Ship ahoy!' It is like a breeze laden with briny odours and a pleasant dash of spray."
-Henry van Dyke
Until yesterday, I had forgotten the joys of a public library. As a young lady of fifteen, I moved from city life to the a rural county in the South-Eastern half of Virginia. There were many lovely things about this new life: a large house, fresh air, scenic routes home, unimpeded views of sunrise, sunset, moonlight, and the Milky Way. The one drawback, however, has been the fact that the public library system out here is sorry at best. I have tried to use the online system but every author and book I look up is simply...not in the system. It is, therefore a bit hard to get anything done. Not to mention the fact that my card got blocked because of fines (some idiotic lost book about William Wallace) and finally expired. We share a hope that the fines died with it.
Yesterday, I found myself in Virginia Beach, a city about an hour away. This was the city in which I spent most of my childhood, and I have found myself with business in said city at least once a week. Sometimes I have a spare hour on either end and I can either pretend I want to be at the mall, or do something useful. Yesterday, I chose to go to "Central Library." Yes, I will persist in calling it that, though some well-meaning committee renamed it after a faithful mayor. I walked into this library of my childhood and immediately noticed they had got a coffee shop attached to the outside. Major win, library. Major win. I did not, however, avail myself of the delights of java. Instead, I went inside and stood at the desk, intending to apply for a library card, my card from this city having expired probably ten years ago. Finally a spot opened up and I was informed that though I was a Virginia resident, if I wasn't a resident of the city, I had to purchase a library card at $10 for one three-month period, or $35 for the year. Well excuse me. I haltingly asked if it was permissible to enjoy the library uncarded, and the lady told me yes.
Good. My hope of being able to spend a quiet hour and a half in research for Scotch'd The Snakes would not be squashed. I wanted information on two specific English counties, particularly during the 1930's so I wandered through the English history section before realizing I didn't need a volume on Winston Churchill--what I really wanted was an atlas. I felt as certain plummy satisfaction in finally knowing what the do with an Atlas. I mean, what are they? I had grown up thinking they were map-books, but I found that they are really eye-witness descriptions of an area. I found two particularly interesting volumes and took them away to a table. I had intended to check the books out, but I am somewhat of a tight-wad when it comes to spending money on what should be free. Last night was a rare occasion--I had no paper on me. Instead, I fished around in my purse for a pen and a grocery receipt and scrawled my notes. I'm sorry if the man grading papers across the room from me had to hear me laughing aloud when I read certain passages, but Wiltshire has a hilarious and colorful past. I am pleased to know it.
One of the funniest things was that as I sat in this library I had known so well as a child, I began to notice a smell...and that smell triggered memories I had entirely forgotten: it was the smell of a Taco Bell bean burrito...but the kind you get in a mall. And for as long as I can remember, this library has periodically smelled of tacos. Perhaps it is the staff lounge? I have no clue. But I almost busted up laughing in the quiet library at the sheer continuity of it all.
The other interesting thing about Central Library is the fact that it has a permanent Library Store. You know how some libraries have book sales? This is a real little niche in the library (it's a very large library) wherein are discarded titles you are free to browse and pay relatively little for. I came home with a hard-cover, slim little volume called The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico (first published 1940) and a book of essays on humanity and nature by Henry van Dyke titled Fisherman's Luck. That book cost me $7. I did notice the irony of the fact that I refused to pay $10 for a three-month library subscription and yet did not hesitate to purchase this unknown book, but you have not seen the book. Here is is:

Please don't mention the remains of a pink gel-pen elephant on my palm. Ahem. This gorgeous copy of Fisherman's Luck is made of blue leather, stamped with all that gorgeous gilt, and is in amazing condition. The pages aren't wobbly or thin at all, it comes with beautiful illustrations, and it is 104 years old.
"Milton and Edith
Aunt Mary Hartwell
Christmas 1914," it says on the inside cover.

I have always found interest in books that have been written in. Who were these people? Did Milton and Edith not read this book? Who is Aunt Mary Hartwell, for that matter? Were Milton and Edith a brother and sister, in which case this aunt seems stingy for making them share one book, or were they a newly-wed couple, in which case Mary Hartwell's referring to herself as "aunt" bodes well for the family relationships? I don't suppose I'll ever know, but I have their book. Almost exactly a century ago, Mary Hartwell penned that inscription and handed the book to two souls who are probably long-dead. It's intriguing, isn't it?
The final thing that clenched the purchase for me was the books dedication:

is the basket:
I bring it home to you.
There are no great fish in it.
But perhaps there may be one or two little ones which will be to your taste. And there are a few shining pebbles from the bed of the brook, and ferns from the cool, green woods, and wild flowers from the places that you remember. I would fain console you, if I could, for the hardship of having married an angler: a man who relapses into his mania with the return of every spring, and never sees a little river without wishing to fish in it. But after all, we have had good times together as we have followed the stream of life towards the sea. And we have passed through the dark days without losing heart, because we were comrades. So let this book tell you one thing that is certain.
In all the life of your fisherman
the best piece of luck
is just
The man humor. It must be a good book. And so I bought it, and I pocketed my scrawled-on receipt and I trotted on to my next errand, full of English counties and old books and the idea that I had outwitted the library-card ordeal by copying out all the facts I wanted.

Never despise libraries. Find a good one. An hour's research in a real book unearths so much finer material than three hours' of Google searches. Truly. I feel quite inspired.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October's Chatterbox (Finally)

Contrary to what some of you might think, when the calender flips to a new month and we've moved from September to October (which is such a lovely thing. October is my heart-month), Chatterbox is not the first thing of which I speak. To be very honest with you, I forgot all about it till last night. Usually someone reminds me, but I think you have given up, it being the sixteenth and all that jazz. Despite this failing on my part, we will be having a Chatterbox. In fact, it begins today. Those of you who don't know what Chatterbox is, I will direct you to the tag at the bottom of this post that says, "Chatterbox." Click on it--it shall take you to the realm of the never-never, which means Old Posts. Read them, love them, participate this time. So, you'll be wanting to know the topic:


Of course I can't just let you off easy and say "fall leaves," because not only is that lame, it is also not terribly specific, and I find specifics more inspiring. I want you to write about maples. Of all the autumn trees, few can stop the show like a blood-red maple tree. I love all the fall colors, but there's something giddy about a maple rearing red against the pines (we have mostly pines, so colors show up smartly). I will be kind and let you write about maples in whatever stage. You can even bend the rules and write about maple derivatives (syrup, flavoring, etc.), but whatever you do, remember that Chatterbox is an exercise in dialog as well as description, so have fun and get the old brain cranking! You may put your links in the thingamajig below. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 Friends Every Writer Should Have

Do you read a variety of blogs besides those in the world of writing blogs? I do. I don't read many blogs, but those I read cover everything from being a foodie, recreating vintage fashions, fashion in general, the life of a stage actress, and the blog of my favorite two photographers who happen to be married. And, of course, The Art of Manliness. People sometimes look sideways at me when I mention this blog, but let's just say that there is more common-sense for everybody contained within the archives than in many other blogs I could read that are directed toward women. I appreciate the guy's sense of humor, the helpful topics, and the fact that I can then tip off all the guys in my life to a variety of really awesome posts. Recently, The Art of Manliness featured a post about the Five Types of Friends Every Man Should Have. It was an interesting post--I'm not sure I agreed everyone must have those sorts of friends, but it was a fun read and got me to thinking about the Archetypes of the Writing Friends. So here, chillens, is my post of the Five Type of Friends Every Writer Should Have:

#1: The Demi-God
This friend is generally more advanced along the path of wordcrafting than you are. They write things that frequently stump you while giving you this great craving to achieve the same. Your writing never compares because the Inspirer is usually accomplished in a completely different style and voice than your own. This friend is an invaluable asset because they keep you on your toes. You want to become like The Demi-God? You'll have to work hard, write tough, and keep at it past the point of no return. Also, you'll have to figure out how to be a little mysterious, because The Demi-God is inscrutable. In my world, the colleague who wins the title of The Demi-God, is Jennifer Freitag.

#2: The Scarlet Pimpernel
This friend is the one who writes like a fool--usually humor, light-handed raillery, nonsense, and a goodly serving of wit. They might seem that they are incapable of gravity, or of handling intense subjects, or of doing anything besides pulling a face, but this writer has guts. As Mary Ann Shaffer has it, "I did make fun of many war-time situations; the Spectator felt a light approach to the bad news would serve as an antidote and that humour would help raise London's low morale. I am very glad Izzy served that purpose, but the need to be humorous against the odds is--thank goodness--over." This friend will seldom, if ever, show their deeper side on the page, but they are capable of understanding and responding to philosophy, logic, and rich emotion. In my circle, I take the title of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

#3: The Simon Cowell
This is the person who is a terrible bee in your bonnet. Sometimes they are actually in your circle of friends, sometimes they are a blog reader or a book reader or a critic whose affections are stupidly hard to win. This is the colleague who consistently gives you a low rating, and when your new book comes out you are hard-pressed to think of anything else but whether you'll have gained a star this time around. While this friend is hard to please, their criticism is worthwhile and is never rude. They have considerable talent themselves and their opinions--while hard to swallow--are often just and at least well thought-out. This friend will do even more than The Inspirer to grow your career because you aren't star-struck by their prowess. This friend brings out a determination to prove them wrong. And I'll have to give this to them: they usually don't grudge you success once you've attained it. They're tough as hobnailed boots to win, but they give warm approval when you've conquered. In my circle, the award for Simon Cowell goes to my grandmother, various readers, and Daphne Edmonston

#4: The Watson
Every writer needs a Watson in their lives. It's exhausting being interesting and brilliant and accomplished all the time, and we want someone to stroke our heads and tell us we're wonderful. But we want that someone to be versed in our arts and able to batter around ideas with us while still being complimentary and amenable to most anything we say. This person is priceless. They cheer you through the rough parts, can talk you back around to thinking you've got this novel-writing thing down, and know what to say when you exhibit a line, a paragraph, or even a bally first chapter for their approval. If you've found a Watson, keep the Watson. And Watsonize for them when the occasion arises. My Watson Award goes to Meghan Gorecki.

#5: The Exotic Traveler
This writer is the one who reads everything you have not read. This person references reams of books and authors and articles in their blog posts, most of which you have never even heard. Just when you think you can't possibly stomach another hackneyed quote by C.S. Lewis on the joys of reading or writing or so forth, up this excellent man (or woman) comes with some spit-fire line from some obscure person like Habernish Grackleforth Bandergram IV that makes you laugh and realize the literary world is so very much broader than you took it for. The Exotic Traveler will revamp your bookshelf, spice up your life, and bring trade-winds to your corner of the world. Other side-effects of knowing The Exotic Traveler includes introduction to new genres, the benefit of taste and opinions cultivated in foreign soil, and a new perspective on the width, breadth, and height of the written word. My prized and exotic travelers are: Elisabeth G. Foley and Suzannah Rowntree.

So what about you? Which role do you fit? Which role fits your colleagues, compatriots, and co-conspirators? Have I left out any absolutely vital archetypes? Let's chat in the comments--you know I love to start a good row.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mad-Hatters, Ebola, and Indie Publishing

Hello, Lords of the Earth, their luxury and ease.
(Name the references and I'll love you forever and a day.)

I am generally hectically, marvelously, horrendously, good-griefishly busy with putting together the Anon, Sir, Anon release party. Thank heavens I only have three interviews and four guest posts left to write. I am in a rush solely because wedding preparations are buffetting the family and I need all publicity work for the Fifth of November utterly finished by next week....including finishing up editing my proof and applying the edits and uploading the new file and... indie-pubbing isn't for the faint of heart. But it's a load of fun, too. It's like self-inflicted torture that you really don't mind, deep deep down.
In my spare moments, I have been taking a creative break in Inktober. Essentially, you draw something with an ink pen in every day in the month of October. I joined late but I've been enjoying it. Technically, you are allowed to draw in pencil first and trace over it in ink, but I have sworn all the way and go with it if it isn't horribly muddled. Thus, the outcome isn't my finest work...but it's less than shabby. I think it is a wonderful creative exercise to have to fly with something--no editing allowed. In the spare moments leftover from the spare moments, I have dabbled a bit with Scotch'd the Snakes and managed to finish reading Have His Carcase. Now let's see if I can finish The Book Thief, which should be retitled: The Book That Never Ends Part Two (Les Miserables being the first volume.) It's not that it isn't good--it's fabulously well-written if a little rich, but it's just so stinkin' long. My fault, I believe, is that I watched the movie first so I feel rather like a balloon whose air was let go. Rather flabby and let-down. There is no suspense in it for me.

And in the spare ends of the spare ends of moments, I sometimes panic about pandemics.
"I'm not saying you have Ebola, but one of us has Ebola and it's not me."
Germ-X, plez. And I'm afraid I'm not terribly compassionate because you know what I feel like doing with the continent of Africa right now? Locking it in a room and going all Mad Hatter on it:

Yeah. Apparently stress, busy schedules, and book releases reduce me to this. So sorry. Looks like I'm not exactly going to win a Nobel Peace Prize anytime soon.

Cheers, darlings!
    May the germless winds always be in your favor.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rummage-y Bits: Eccentric Places to Find Vivid Research Details

When I set out to write or read historical fiction, I am not content with merely hoping the plot (set in a certain era) will show well against the era. I want the era to be smashed into the plot like bananas into the peanut butter of a peanut-butter-banana sandwich. I don't actually know if I like peanut-butter-banana-sandwiches, but the image of smashing historic detail into your characters and scenes as you'd smash a banana into peanut butter (with a fork) was a little too tempting to deny. When have you ever known me to care about conventional associations? But sometimes it can be hard to actually find those historical tid-bits that will mix vividly with your setting. Obviously, one could cruise the back-pages of Google (frightening thought, that) for months and perhaps would finally settle on the Fountain of Youth of historical detail. On the other hand, many of us don't have months to cruise the back-pages of Google. I know I feel let down by modernity when I have to travel to Google's second page. It's abyss. But we are good authors and we know when our details flop. The committed among us refuse to let our work accordion-fold with the half-baked historic flavor. So what's a well-meaning Peanut-Butter-Banana-Sandwich-Seeking author to do? Here are some of my favorite ways to find the Rummage-y Bits that make a setting pop:

1.) Check lyrical music of the era: when I want to know about 1930's pop-culture, what better place could I look for it than in a Broadway show like Anything Goes with lyrics by Cole Porter and, yes, P.G. Wodehouse? This musical happens to have been a contemporary show when it was written (1934), and has a song called "You're the Top" that basically swims with pop-culture references which makes it invaluable for knowing what sorts of things were being talked about in that raggedy, glamazon era:
"You're the top!
You're the Coliseum,
You're the top,
You're the Louvre Museum,
You're a melody
from a symphony by Strauss,
You're a Bendel bonnet,
a Shakespeare's sonnet
You're Mickey Mouse!
You're the Nile,
You're the tower of Pisa,
You're the smile
On the Mona Lisa,
I'm a worthless check,
a total wreck, a flop
but if Baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

2.) Read memoirs: Not particularly memoirs by overly-famous people. I have found some of my favorite details for Anon, Sir, Anon through a a site for Northants who want to post memories of growing up in the 1930's in Northamptonshire. In fact, one of these memoirs is where the incredibly thick Northant fogs came up and gave me a cloaking-spell for the murder scene! Memoirs are different from biographies in that they are more than likely written by normal people of the era, and normal people remember normal things...normal for that time period, that is. And these normalcies can be the key to blowing readers' minds with a bit of historical writing.

3.) Pay attention to fashion: what were people wearing in that day and age? No one likes long, drawn-out descriptions of clothing, but it is true that people in the "old days" didn't dress like us, and a casual mention of a pair of gloves, the train of bustled skirt getting in someone's way, a hat being left on a train seat, or a certain perfume only enhances the reading experience.

4.) Check out newspaper ads: what were people selling? What were they buying? What advertisement jingles were thrusted into the consciousness of your characters? Say, "And what are you wearing, 'Jake from State Farm'?" today and most people will get the reference. Why not search for something in that vein that you could throw into your story-world?

5.) Look at artifacts from the period at a museum, if possible: find an artifact that captures your interest and make it a part of your plot. Perhaps it's a certain pipe on display at a WWII exhibit in one of the DC Smithsonians. Can you make that pipe belong to your MC's father? And if you want to be masochistic about it, can you have someone crush that pipe (on purpose) in your MC's presence later, further rubbing in the fact that his father was a Jew and killed on Kristallnacht? Or maybe you find a striking photo of an artifact buried on the ruins of Pompeii that wants to make its way into your Roman-seasoned fantasy novel. Swing it however you want, but use a tangible object to churn your inspiration. Your descriptions will ring true because they will be true. Some of the easiest writing I ever did was in The Windy Side of Care. Why? Because I had a tangible person on whom I based the character of Alisandra. Her personality was one thing I didn't have to fabricate.

6.) Substitute pop-culture for generalities: when I wrote certain lines in Anon, Sir, Anon, I often stopped a moment and chose a crimson reality as a replacement for the beige generality of which I had originally thought. Example? I mentioned something about Vivi's emotion-choked nerves rivalling a soprano's in pitch (or something. I forget exactly). Instead of leaving it as "a soprano," I did a quick Google search for the top ten famous sopranos in the 1930's and chose one on the list. Thus, "her nerves sang a higher pitch than a soprano," became something like, "her nerves sang a higher pitch than Lotte Schone," and what had been a graham-cracker sentence  tottering against a cardboard house suddenly had the banana smashed in.

However you find your details, commit to finding them. The readership does appreciate it. And if you have any "eccentric" ideas of your own for finding the Rummage-y Bits, please share them in a comment below! I'm always looking for new ways to bring my settings to life.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Descending From Beyond Our World...

Is Plenilune's cover! You know how excited I am to own this novel...and now you will be too. Who wouldn't want this smokin'-looking cover on their shelves? I was given the privilege of seeing the cover months ago and have been anxious for the general public to see it ever since. You know my feelings on indie-covers. This cover is the best I think I've ever seen in the world of indie publishing. But business first:

The fate of Plenilune hangs on the election of the Overlord, for which Rupert de la Mare and his brother are the only contenders, but when Rupert’s unwilling bride-to-be uncovers his plot to murder his brother, the conflict explodes into civil war.

To assure the minds of the lord-electors of Plenilune that he has some capacity for humanity, Rupert de la Mare has been asked to woo and win a lady before he can become the Overlord, and he will do it—even if he has to kidnap her.

En route to Naples to catch a suitor, Margaret Coventry was not expecting a suitor to catch her.

See the book for yourself on Goodreads, check out the author's (magnificent) blog at The Penslayer, and learn what on earth Jennifer Freitag means by the term "planetary fantasy", a genre whose name might confuse some would-be readers.

JENNIFER FREITAG lives with her husband in a house they call Clickitting, with their two cats Minnow and Aquila, and their own fox kit due to be born in early December.  Jennifer writes in no particular genre because she never learned how, she is made of sparks like Boys of Blur, and if she could grasp the elements, she would bend them like lightning.  Until then, she sets words on fire.
Living with her must be excruciating.

And now, my under-lords and ladies, the face of Plenilune:

Mark your calenders for October 20th. A planet is descending.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Independent Authors? Not Really

"What have you written, madam?"
"A...a book. I call it a novel."
"And for whom do you write?"
"Literate Society."
(brain fragments)

I've been arranging my blog tour for Anon, Sir, Anon. The "birthday party" will extend from the release date (November 5th) through the course of a week (November 11th). There will also be a super fun giveaway, so please keep your eyes out for this. Also, I got the proof of Anon, Sir, Anon in the mail. I am now reading through it and seeing what needs tweaking before sanctioning the thing entire.  Yesterday, I crept into a real-live library with my proof copy and wandered among the stacks feeling terribly clandestine. I also made the "mistake"  of picking up Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye and flipping to the first page. I have this thing about the beginning of novels. I like to see how great writers achieve what they achieve. Gosh, he's good:
"There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Roll's Royce look like just another automobile. It didn't quite. Nothing can."
Stephen King talks about good description making a reader "prickle with recognition." That description up there made me prickle. I love being in awe of certain lines. Of course, Anon, Sir, Anon doesn't measure up to Raymond Chandler--I don't pretend it does--but I was still proud to carry it into that library and leave with it in my hands and think quietly to myself, "November fifth is not so far off."
Feeling awkward while posing in a parking lot after a long workday. Hence, my scarf is awry.

There is a common failing among young authors who are striving to find a balance between humility and pride in their work, and this failing could be labeled as "comparison". The prideful crowd always overestimates the value of their literary contribution and seems to think that they've written something award-winning (it happens, but rarely). The humble crowd lets comparison become the thief of joy and can barely lift their heads to realize that they've gifted the world with something better than Captain Underpants, and there's something in that. My natural bent is to fall in the latter category, but as I've grown in my craft and as a person (the two often entwined) I have come to realize that you have to have a bit of both. And it can be hard. I am easily swayed into thinking little of my writing when I read something like old fancy-pants Chandler's Roll's Royce line, but the thing that really gets my goat is when I read something fabulous by one of my "colleagues." It's easy for anyone to admit that Raymond Chandler is a better writer than most. I mean, really now, how many people have reached that level of legend? But when you get "pen-slain" by a someone in your genre, your age-group, or in your pool of writing friends, it can be debilitating. I know I am never more vulnerable than when comparing my work to the work of someone in my world. It's really a hard-scrabble thing. We're both young hopefuls who have poured a considerable amount of time, effort, creativity, (and money) into the product we present to the public...and we are, after a fashion, competitors. I don't have a fighting spirit about most things. I take simple pleasure in lines of my own that I think are especially good and I am just as quick to applaud someone else. I've never understood the shrinking-pie mentality of some people that make them reluctant to interrupt their blogging schedule to announce a colleague's release, or refuse to mention a contemporary's book they've read and enjoyed for fear of distracting the readership down other avenues than their own novel.

We call ourselves independent authors but we're really terribly dependent on just about everything except a publisher. We depend on readers to buy our books, we depend on readers to review our books, we depend on readers to recommend our books. We depend on bloggers to blog about our releases, giveaways, or sales, we depend on fellow writers to let us peek into their pool and share a little of their untapped resources. The prideful among us keep these resources to themselves and do well for a while--I am reminded of Dickens's description of Blandois in Little Dorrit:
"He had a certain air of being a handsome man--which he was not; and a certain air of being a well-bred man--which he was not. It was mere swagger and challenge; but in this particular, as in many others, blustering assertion goes for proof, half over the world."

By putting themselves out as as the best thing since squeezed lemons, the prideful crowd gains a following. That following, however, grows very slowly. The prideful crowd wants homage paid, but refuses to pay for homage. They are never against being featured on a writing blog (provided it has at least five-hundred followers), but as to featuring someone on their blog, well they really couldn't possibly fit it in anytime in the next three months. The humble crowd, on the other hand, is easily immobilized. They forget all about networking, being involved in a community, and publicity of any sort because, really, who would want to bother with their book when there are so many others--much finer--in the world? 

Surely there is a peaceful shore between the two. I am constantly striving to think enough of my work while still admitting the extent of my talents and abilities, and I have so much enjoyed becoming a more active part of my indie-author community. We do depend on each other and none of us are so fabulous as to be able to succeed without a boost from our companions. That being said, The Inkpen Authoress is available to help those of you who need that hand. I want to lend my blog space, my readers, my friends, my community to support up-and-coming authors. I couldn't succeed in my indie-publishing journey without you. You can't succeed without others either. Let's stop comparing and continue working together.

Much Love,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Snippets of the New Vivi & Farnham!

"Novelists who have struck a snag in the working-out of the plot are rather given to handing the problem over in this way to the clarifying action of the sub-conscious. Harriet's sub-conscious had other coffee to clear and refused quite definitely to deal with the matter..."
-Dorothy L. Sayers Have His Carcase

Most writers have periods where ill health or injury keeps them from much productivity. Most, however, don't gain said injuries from slamming the pad of their pointer finger in a metal post-office door. I have my finger bandaged up and finding that I actually can type because my pointer finger-nail is sufficiently strong and long to allow me to press the keys gingerly without intrenching on the split-open territory. I have officially begun Scotch'd The Snakes: the second Vivi & Farnham mystery. When I began Anon, Sir, Anon, I started by writing the finding-the-body sequence. This time around, I began with a letter. A letter documenting a plague of flies. It might not sound like an auspicious beginning, but it does work well, given the circumstances. I am still feeling my way into this story and haven't entirely tacked down the workings of the plot so I'm afraid you'll have to satisfy yourself with knowing that:
A.) This time it's a case of definitely-attempted-but-not-successful-murder
B.) Someone you'll love after reading Anon, Sir, Anon is a key suspect
C.) It has much to do with Scotland...after a fashion.
I've written only bits of things--none of which really have much at all to do with the actual mystery, but characters are vital so instead of actually telling you anything more about it, I've picked out some snippets of story I managed in September and I'm giving them to you today as a gift for this fine first day of October:

Dear Walter,
    The flies are horrible this time of year.
-Scotch'd The Snakes

Dear old uncle has a new play on. In times of yore, I would have thought that the same sort of thing as what Uncle Hugh meant when he said he had a new deal on. It’s not. It’s rather...well, it’s rather in the vein of feeling the approach of a sneeze and knowing a summer cold will soon follow.
-Scotch'd The Snakes

When childhood diseases came sweeping down London-town each year, Walter had always been one of the lucky few to escape the customary fortnight of bedrest. How well she remembered his impossibly healthy grin as he rode his bicycle round and round and round the garden in circles below the nursery window, and not from motives of entertaining his sick brother and girl-cousins who had all been tossed together in the sickroom like so many mismatched shoes in a car boot. No, the grin was triumphant and Walter Topham seemed to the captives a perfect bicycle-riding Alexander.
-Scotch'd The Snakes

“Considering who you are, Genevieve, you’re probably the last person I’d hit up for advice on wedded bliss.”
If he’d brought his fist into her teeth, it would have shocked her less. “That was low, Walter.” Her voice bent at the end like a twig snapped in two. “That was very low.”
Silence spread heavy wings and flapped a time or two, stirring the dim air of the chamber. Vivi dipped the cloth back into the basin and swished it in the herbed water. The tightness of being scorned knotted her breath, but quietly, deftly, Vivi wrung away the bitterness with the water and folded the cloth on the basin’s edge.
“You have been ill.” False cheer rattled the soul like bad news. “You are not yourself or you would not have said that.”
-Scotch'd The Snakes

A young woman, sturdy, free, and brazen-looking, continued her progress up the row. It did not seem to concern her that she found a stranger in her path.
It seemed the girl might pass without speaking, but Vivi smiled and addressed her: “How d’you do?”
Nipping off her pace, the young woman stopped. She bit free her glove and tucked a riding crop beneath her left arm. “Warmish day, isn’t it?” Her blue eyes seemed unafraid of raw manners as she poured curiosity over Vivi. “Sultana’s Rhombus nearly pitched me at Norton Bavant but I threw the balance forward and it ended nicely. Quite nicely. Wish there’d been an audience.”
-Scotch'd The Snakes

Could one feel a color? If so, Vivi felt quite sure she had turned a spirited shade of beet. “I’m his...cousin. Genevieve Langley.”
Delaney tossed her head in a confident laugh. “You really mustn’t mind me, darling. Walter used to dabble so, but that’s only because them other girls didn’t know how to bridle him. I do. Heaven’s gates, I do. And scarce a day goes by I don’t remind him of it. Bally men.” She took the crop from under her arm and touched the leather tassles to Vivi’s shoulder. The accompanying wink struck Vivi as friendly, which startled her. She had not thought Delaney Graham’s opinion of her very chummy. “Walk with me.”
-Scotch'd The Snakes