Sunday, June 26, 2011

Five Favorite Lines

I've been asked to participate in a blog fest where we put down five favorite lines from a work in progress. Here are five lines from Cold River, my new book that's coming out this fall.

Sherry closed her eyes and let the music flow through her fingers, not from the memory of a printed page, but from somewhere deep inside. She played night sounds and loneliness, leaden skies and dark-haired strangers; she played far-away, starry, desert nights and someone whispering Cheri in her ear.

As she played, just after the bridge, something under the muted rhythm began to swell, and she was swept along in a cascade of tones that became an elegant, soaring counterpoint. She glanced for the first time at Rael. He sat in the dim corner with Jake's guitar in his lap, and as the melody sprang from his fingers, all moody passion and smoldering intensity, it ripped the scab off her heart. Tears beaded up on Sherry's lashes as they played through another chorus, and she felt inexplicably tied to this surprising man because she could hear through his music that love was a raggedly painful subject for him, too.

If you want to read other 5-line selections, go to Jolene's blog at

And, I'd love to have you follow my blog. I'm still promising to let you in on my slick and easy way to cook a healthy fried(ish) egg. And I'll soon be posting my new book cover, so click on that little 'follow' button!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pieces of Paris by G.G. Vandagriff

I promised Whitney Award winner G.G. Vandagriff way last fall that I'd read and review her book, Pieces of Paris. That promise, along with others, got chewed up in the non-blogging reasons I bored you with a couple of posts ago.

I'm now ready to redeem myself, even though G.G. has a new book out. My feeling is it doesn't hurt to have stuff about previous books bouncing around in the blogosphere. At least it sounds good to say that since I'm six months late.

But, on to GG's book.

The cover of Pieces of Paris hints at thing that are not first evident as the reader begins the book. What's Paris got to do with a backwater southern town or with a young lawyer and his wife scraping along, trying to build up a practice and a little farm and bumping up against powerful local forces as they try to do good in the community?

The answer to that question is an interesting one, and G.G. Vandagriff lets us in on it through points of view of both Dennis Childs and his wife, Annalisse. Annalisse carries the secret of Paris within her, but the shadow it casts is so long that it darkens both their lives.

There's a parallel secret in the town of Blue Creek, one that is as toxic for the residents as Annalisse's is for her family. Both secrets are finally brought to light but not without pain and loss.

G.G. writes from personal knowledge of how past tragedies can blight the future. Pieces of Paris seems to be her testament that healing is possible and that love is the key.

G.G.'s new book is Foggy with a Chance of Murder. I haven't read it yet, but I love the title.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wowee! We've got a Landscape Agate.

If you read my posting in September of 2011, you know that Derrill and I have become rockhounds. Well, that's not exactly right. He's become a rock hound, and I'm his sidekick. We've done a couple of field trips, but mostly we go to rock shows and buy from people more able to climb around on hot, dusty rock piles.

As with all our new passions, we accumulated stack of books about different kinds of rocks. I particularly love our agate book. It has lots of spectacular pictures, including a couple of fabulous landscape agates.

Landscape agates are just what they sound like--agates that are colored like a picture. There's no way of knowing before you cut into it what an agate's going to be like on the inside.

So, we got this Brazilian Agate at a rock show silent auction. We probably paid $2.50 for it. About the size of a small grapefruit, the outside was scabby and brown. When we got home, Derrill stared at it for several days before he started cutting.

He brought the first cut into the house as soon as it came off the saw. We marveled at it and thought we were lucky to have such wonderful banding, and we loved the little circle that looked like a sun, hovering in a blue sky.

This was the second cut. I called it 'Crystal Mountain' and thought it was spectacular.

When he brought the third cut in, I couldn't believe it. It looked to me like a seascape, perhaps with the cliffs of Dover in the distance.

The sun in the blue sky was back and stayed for the rest of the cuts.

The fourth cut looked to me like Grand Canyon in the evening, when the colors go all blue and purple, and the clouds are tinged with the pink of a dying sunset.


The Fifth cut, mostly white, reminded me of a snow avalanche I saw roaring down the mountain at Juneau, Alaska. It plunged across the road and into the sea.

The sixth cut reminded me of a cubist's painting of a seascape with a steamship steaming along.

< There was one more that was like an abstract painting, but I managed to delete it, so can't hang it here.

But, you get the idea. I smile every time I see it and wonder at the beauties of the earth hidden beneath an ugly, scabby exterior. I never thought I'd see a landscape agate, much less have one sitting in my living room. I feel truly blessed.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Preaching the Gospel of Neo

Gospel means 'Good News,' and the Neo is good news for busy writers.

The Neo is put out by Alphasmart. It's a word processor that has a regular-sized keyboard and a monochromatic screen that will hold four lines of text. It weighs less than 2 pounds and is extremely rugged. As soon as I got mine, I bought a purse it will fit in so I can carry it with me. I've used it on car trips, in doctor's offices, at jazz festivals, sitting in the car outside of Hardware Sales (a marvelous hardware store in Bellingham, WA that my husband loves to frequent), at the beach, and while babysitting.

To me, the Alphasmart has 4 strong points.

First is battery life. Alphasmart says you can get 700 (that's 2 zeroes) hours on 3 double A batteries. I've had my Neo for about 3 years, and I'm still running on the original batteries I put in. A battery indicator comes up when I turn it on, and it shows I've used about 1/20 of the battery life.

Second is carefree-ness. I don't have to worry about cords or a case or dropping it or anything I might worry about if I had my laptop. I don't even have to worry about whether I use it or not. It's light enough that if I take it and don't use it, I haven't wasted a lot of effort for nothing. However, if I have a thought hit and I've got my Neo with me, I can easily grab it and get the thought down. The older I get, the more valuable that becomes, because thoughts don't stay too long any more.

Third is that my Neo interfaces with my computer. If I write a blog post on my Neo, I simply open a new document on my blog, connect the cable, hit 'send,' and what I've written scrolls out on my computer. Same with a word document or an email.

Fourth is that it doesn't hook up to the internet. Some may see that as a minus, but for me, it's great not to have the temptation to check my email.

I don't do much editing on the Neo. That's better done on my computer. But for composing, it's great.

The Neo has 8 files, each with its own button. Hit the button for File 1 and File 1 comes up. Hit File 2 and File 1 closes and File 2 appears. You can't get much simpler than that. Clearing the file is just as simple. Hit 'clear file' and then answer yes when it asks you if you really want to do this. The text disappears.

Each of the files holds 25 pages of text, so you have the capability of writing 200 pages of text before you have to transfer to your computer.

The Neo won't replace a computer, but it's a great, modest-priced add-on, allowing a writer greater flexibility about where and when she can write.

If you want to find out more about the Neo, go to . Renaissance Learning donated a Neo as a door prize for the Storymakers Conference (see previous post). Looking around the room, I could tell the Neo owners among the writers present. They were excited for the prospect of someone winning this marvelous tool.

The winner was Peggy Grimes. Lucky gal.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Excuse #2 For Being Such a Blogging Slug

The second reason I neglected my blog for so long was because of the writers conference hosted by LDStorymakers in Salt Lake City on May 5-7 at the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was up to my ears in conference prep, as I not only was on the planning/production committee, but I helped with the First Chapter contest, guided a table at the 6-hour-long Boot Camp on Thursday, and was in charge of sponsors and door prizes. Oh, and I taught two workshop sessions.

Storymakers were very generous with donations of books for doorprizes. They were so generous that I had to limit them to one copy per title and three titles per author. I had a tight time budget to get the books out, but I wanted to make sure that each author received good exposure. To do that, I made a PowerPoint slide for each book so that, as the emcee read the blurb, conference attendees could see the name of the author and the cover image.

One attendee suggested that we have a list of the books in the order they'd be given out in the syllabus so people could circle ones that they would be interested in buying. If they trust me to do door prizes again next year, I'm going to do that.

I called on nine minions to help me in the presentation process. What a great bunch of ladies! They not only wore the hats that designated which presentation team they were on with good grace, but they streamlined the process and problem solved as we went along.

Above are Laurie Lewis, Joan Sowards and Ronda Hinrichsen. Other team members were JoAnn Arnold, Rebecca Talley, Tanya Mills, Wendy Swore, Janette Rallison and Debbie Davis.

Kim Grant won a copy of Janette Rallison's My Double Life. Here's a picture of Kim with Janette after the presentation.

JoAnn Arnold, author of Prince Etcheon, stands with Christine Bryant, winner of a copy of JoAnn's book.

Dennis Gaunt, winner of The Stone Traveler, is pictured here with the book's author, Kathi Oram Peterson.

Bethany Kitchen (on the right) won Tanya Mills' book The Reckoning. Here she is with the author.

My book, Counting the Cost, was won by Marta Smith.

There were about 500 people in attendance at this conference. Countless hours were volunteered as members of the writers' guild, LDStorymakers, put this conference together. There were 9 breakout sessions, each with 8 or 9 workshops covering craft basics, advanced craft, genre, and marketing/career development.

There were also national market agents and editors there, and if you want to find out about the classes or the agents and editors that were there, go to , click on Conference and then click on 2011 highlights.

But this blog isn't about that. It's about the hours I--and lots of others like me--put in to make this conference a success.

I think we did all right.

But, on my to-do list next year is to have some blog posts written and ready to go before I get up to my eyeballs in conference prep.