It’s About Time!

After keeping the same site format for almost seven (7) years, I’ve finally updated my blog! I like the simple format and the clean look. I may tweak it here and there yet–for instance, I’d like to find a good photo to set up as the featured image, if this template will allow me to do that. But because I haven’t posted anything since March, I’m letting it go out into the world despite its immature state.

As you might notice, I’ve made small revisions to my “About” page as well as the tab for the Gateway to Gannah series. And I’ve added three new tabs:

  • One for my upcoming speculative fiction series, The Four Lives of Jemma Freeman;
  • Another for the tiny house novella series;
  • And a third for the new publishing company I’ve recently created, Gannah’s Gate.

Check them out! What do you think?

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Why I Don’t Blog

blog backgroundWhen I started Y’s Words back in 2010, it was for the purpose of establishing a writing platform–or at least an online presence as a writer. What I’d hoped would be a platform, however, turned out to be an infinitesimal, near-imaginary toehold despite my attempts to do everything pretty much as was recommended at the time.

Back in the day when I posted three times a week, I learned a few things: 1) the effort did not generate significant book sales; 2) as I’m a slow writer, doing three posts a week imposed a fairly small but constant strain and required me to devote the equivalent of one whole workday per week; and, 3) the posts that got the best response from readers were about my personal life, not writing. (Or, about nothing in particular. For instance, a post in which I shared an old, not-so-funny joke is the one that’s gotten the biggest number of hits. Go figure.)

It’s been several months since my last post, though, so it’s time to do an update. That much is obvious. What I’m less certain of is what I should write about.

2015-07-24 12.30.28No point talking about the weather. Whether or not you like the current weather conditions or look forward to the coming winter or summer (depending on your hemisphere of habitation), there’s no point in my writing about it.

I’ve talked enough about snow, spring flowers, gardening, and that sort of thing in the past. To do so again—especially with nothing new to contribute—would be redundant.

There’s nothing going on in our lives at present worth reporting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for same-old/same-old can be a comfort. But it doesn’t make for interesting blog posts.

How about writing? I don’t know about you, but I’m bored nearly to tears with writers’ blogs by now. Everything worth saying has already been said a myriad of ways and will be repeated many times in the future. A newcomer to the writing life who wants to learn more about it already has plenty of resources, and I see no reason to add my weak voice to the clamor.

file8431289655927There’s another reason I haven’t been blogging, and I touched on it lightly above: the time factor. No, I’m not the busiest person around, but neither am I looking for things to do; and I have neither time nor energy in inexhaustible supply. As a writer, then—and, as I noted earlier, I’m a slow one—I must choose between writing blog posts and working on my next book. I can’t do both on a regular basis.

To summarize: I don’t blog anymore because 1) I have nothing to say; and 2) it doesn’t seem to be the best use of my time.

But, while I have your attention, let me tell you about my current WIP. (For those writing-newbies, WIP stands for Work in Progress.)

I’m about 82,000 words into my latest novel. It took me a while to get rolling, but now that I’m fully immersed in it, I’m loving it. Love the story, love the world I created for its stage, and love the characters galloping about on it. But I have a problem: it’s getting too long. I’ve already written a novel’s worth, but I still have at least as much to go before the conclusion I envision.

Sometimes my fellow writers will say things like, “My novels are usually only about 50,000 words, but my publisher wants at least 75,000.” Or, “I’m done with my first draft, but I’m 15,000 words short. How can I bulk up the story?” Ha! I never have that problem!

IMG_2017For now—that is, while I’m in the first draft stage—I won’t worry about it. I’ll continue to tell the story as it demands to be told until it’s all put into words. Then I’ll decide whether to make sweeping cuts, or add a little more (if necessary) and turn it into a series.

I can think of good reasons for doing the latter, and, though I’d originally planned for this to be a stand-alone, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing. Here are my thoughts on that, in case you care:

  1. Because I intend to self-publish it, there’s no need to consider a publisher’s requirements. That is, I can do whatever I want.
  2. Especially with titles by little-known authors (that is, me), readers are more apt to pick up a short book than a massive tome. Cost is a big factor here: fat books take more paper and ink and consequently cost more to produce, and the price must reflect that. Time is another consideration. Would I prefer to buy a book, even an inexpensive ebook, that’s going to take me forever to read, or one that’s short and sweet? Unless it’s by an author I already love, I’d opt for a short one.
  3. A short book that’s first in a series can whet a reader’s appetite for more. That way, instead of trying to introduce myself to a reader by selling her one heavy-weight volume, I can tempt her to try a short sweet one; and if she likes it, I have a good chance of selling her the whole series. (In other words, it’s better to sell three books than one.)
  4. If I write the whole story and divide it into three volumes, after publishing the first, I can then release the subsequent titles quickly before reader interest in the first one wanes.

And I’ll bet you’re already bored. See what I mean? I have nothing to say that’s worth blogging about.

00097However, I’m giving some thought to posting the opening of my current WIP—just a little bit—to test the waters and/or generate a little interest, so maybe once I finally publish it, I’ll have three or four people already prepared to hand me their money.

What do you think? Would you like to see the beginning of my current project? Or have you already quit reading this post because honestly, you don’t give a fig?

 

 

 

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Saturday Situation Report

file0001354955594What’s the situation? Well…

I am making tomato soup even as we speak, with the intention of canning a few jars. I’ve never canned tomato soup before, but we have tomatoes ripe in the garden and have no need for any more canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I like Campbell’s cream of tomato soup (made with milk instead of water). I think it’s the only canned soup I like. Making it from fresh tomatoes is a lot of work just for a bowl of soup, so I don’t do it very often. But I need to do something with all these tomatoes, so I decided to experiment. I’m not comfortable canning something with cream in it, though, so I’ll leave out the cream. I can always add it later, when I open a jar.

2015-08-22 11.37.42Yes, we have tomatoes in our garden despite the determined efforts of the neighborhood groundhog. The tomatoes in the photo at left are high enough off the ground that the The Beast can’t reach them. The one shown below is in a less fortunate location. I wouldn’t say we’ve lost half our tomatoes to groundhog predation (if herbivores can be said to prey on vegetables), but the critter is making a significant dent in the crop. No pun intended…

2015-08-22 11.37.28Fortunately, we planted more than we needed, so we still have plenty.

I needed more tomato puree, so I planted some San Marzano “paste” tomatoes in addition to the round “eating” tomatoes 2015-08-22 11.39.11shown above. The plants are starting to die off, partly because of being grazed upon by The Beast and partly because it’s not uncommon for them to do that in late summer. The round tomatoes are still going strong, so The Beast should have plenty of good grazing for a few weeks yet.

We haven’t seen as many groundhogs here in Maryland as we did in Ohio. But where gardens are concerned, it only takes one! And here’s the problem: we live in town. In a neighborhood surrounded by houses and people. Which means we can’t handle the problem the way we did in Ohio. There, we had some occasional damage from groundhogs, but let’s just say that the same hog never visited us twice, if you get my drift.

These are suppose to be green bean plants. The Beasts calls them "lunch."
These are suppose to be green bean plants. The Beast calls them “lunch.”

We could legally trap this critter in a live trap, but what well-fed beast, for whom the whole world is a salad bar, would go into a box to get food? We borrowed a live trap for a while, but the only thing we caught was a possum. Don’t care about possums. And I’m pretty sure I heard the groundhog laugh as it passed the trap on its way to eat all my green beans.

Excuse me while I go stir my soup… Okay, I’m back. One more thing about that, and then I’ll move on: I like this tomato soup because, besides being yummy, it allows me to use tomatoes and carrots from my garden, basil from my herb garden, and chicken broth I made this spring and put in the freezer. It irks me that I had to buy onions, considering the fact that I used to grow marvelous onions in Ohio. But it’s still satisfying to make something yummy from things I have on hand, and to be able to preserve the result for use in the cold months to come. I can anticipate only one down side: I’ll probably never want Campbell’s tomato soup again.

This gives a glimpse of the lovely venue, the Tea Room at Gambrill State Park
This gives a glimpse of the lovely venue, the Tea Room at Gambrill State Park

Now, let’s talk about writing. I had the opportunity last weekend to go to a one-day “Writing to Inspire” workshop near Frederick, Maryland. Despite being a bit dragged down by a stomach bug that almost-but-not-quite kept me home, I had a good time. (Would have been a great time if I’d been feeling better!) Met some people I’m very happy to know. And hope to be able to go back next year if and when they do it again. This was the first year for it, and it seemed to be well received by all who participated, so I hope it will be the first get-together in a long tradition of them.

11781694_10204935433811036_3742185297715992323_nIn the pic above, you can see a back view of me along the left edge.  The picture at right was taken from the back porch/patio of the tea room. That white disk at the lower right corner is a table, in case you couldn’t tell. The view was lovely, but it was a hot, sunny day and only a crazy person would have sat out there.

Umm… okay, I guess I did sit out there for lunch. So I’m a crazy person, okay?

11898546_10204935414450552_8672716623010485690_n
Find me in this pic. I dare ya. (This is not a trick; I really am there.)

Anyway, here’s the thing about writer get-togethers. It wasn’t a place where everybody tried to sell their books. Actually, I did sell two of mine, but that’s not the reason I went. My purpose was to find a little inspiration/encouragement, and to encourage others. And I think both those goals were accomplished.

Nobody understands a writer except another writer. Being a Christian writer adds another dimension. If you’re a writer and a Christian, you’re a Christian writer, no matter what you write. A Christian has a higher standard and a greater purpose for whatever he or she does, and that applies to writing. So it’s helpful for those of us who are flopping around in this confusing land of Christian Writerdom to have a little company along the way.

So, speaking of “along the way,” what’s along my way in the way of writing? Well, now that I’m feeling myself again after the aforementioned stomach ailment (so wonderful to finally emerge from the fog!), I’m eager to move forward on three fronts:

c1b3b9b01) My friend whom I’ve been helping with her project, Dancing on Stones: A Quest for Joy, is at the point where it’s time to actively pursue publication of this thing. This is huge– exciting–and a long story. But I won’t get into it all now. I’ll just say I’m actually looking forward to promoting this book when it’s available. (Did I really say that? Yes. I’m looking forward to helping her promote it, because it’s a book I’m wildly enthusiastic about.)

2) I’m negotiating with another individual concerning my helping him with a memoir. This is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s always good to expand our horizons and learn new things. Besides that, I think the guy will be fun to work with.

This has nothing to do with this blog post. It's just pretty.
This has nothing to do with this blog post. It’s just pretty.

3) My friend Susan and I have agreed to hammer out new novels together next month — kind of like NaNoWriMo except less formally organized, and in September. Less pressure, too. We’ve just decided that it’s time we got cracking on these things, and a little determination, as well as accountability to someone one else, might help. I’ve actually already started this new novel — yes, I have written five sentences. So I’m well on my way, ha ha.

My soup is in jars and in the pressure canner now. (The acid in the tomatoes might make it okay to can in a hot water bath canner, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.) The kitchen is cleaned up, and I have some laundry going as well. Once I publish this post, I’ll be able to check off all the items on today’s must-do list. What a nice feeling!

2015-07-24 12.30.28And speaking of nice, I’ll share another photo I took a few weeks ago of the Rose of Sharons beside the driveway. This is a very popular shrub in these parts (they’re like belly buttons: everyone has one), and I’m glad, because I like them. They’re not only beautiful, but they also give me warm fuzzies, because my mom had one when I was growing up. But her one Rose of Sharon was nothing to compare to the ones planted along our property on two sides. When at their peak they’re just short of spectacular.

So there you go: a report of my situation this Saturday.

 

 

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Feeling Domestic

Have you ever seen this bumper sticker?

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 4.34.22 PMIt makes me chuckle. I’m not sure why, because it doesn’t really apply to me. But it amuses me anyway.

In recent years, with no children, pets, or elderly people in my house to clean up after, I haven’t had to spend as much time with housekeeping as I once did. I clean what needs to be cleaned but don’t worry about the general appearance of the place. These days, free time is usually Writing Time, not the formerly coveted Time to Get Things Done Around The House I’ve Been Neglecting.

Yesterday and today, I had two nice blocks of Free Time. Woo hoo! You’d think I might get some serious writing done, wouldn’t you? Nope. On this occasion, I made curtains.

(Note: as you’ll see from the photos [aren’t you proud of me for taking pics?], no one will EVER come to me for decorating advice!)

2015-04-25 14.25.39We replaced the basement windows last year. Because the old windows went below ground level, we put in smaller ones to prevent rainwater leaking in. The installer filled in the space beneath the new window with concrete block. Which isn’t real attractive, as you can see.

As you may know, I don’t like curtains. I like to let the light in and to see outside. Curtains and drapes are annoying to work with, expensive, and overall a pain in the neck. On the other hand, though, they’re good for keeping people outside from seeing in, and they also block cold in the winter as well as heat in the summer. So I grudgingly use them.

Except, ordinarily, in the basement. But because these funky new windows are ugly, it makes sense to cover them. (The little insert of paneling above the windows, as you can see in the picture above, fits the “funky and ugly” description too. But I’m not sure what to do about that.)

2015-04-25 14.26.32So, yesterday, I measured the window openings and figured how much fabric I’d need. Then I went to Surplus City and bought some inexpensive but kind of cute almost-eyelet (I say “almost” because the holes are embroidered but not actually cut out). It’s actually a nice bright white, but you can’t tell that from the photo. I thought it would be a cheery way to cover the weird window openings.

2015-04-25 14.26.13And it is, I guess. But at the store, I neglected to take into account that the fabric  was single layer on a roll rather than the usual double layer on a bolt. And so — oops! — I only bought half the amount I needed. Which meant I had to go back today and buy some more. No problem, as Surplus City is only about a mile away.

The project is done now, and I made curtains for five windows — the tally includes a valance for the window on the basement door — for $30. And they turned out okay! Though not a great seamstress, I’m better at sewing than I am at photography. I’m sure there’s a way to take pictures of bright windows in a dark basement, but it didn’t seem important enough to mess around with it.

2015-04-25 14.24.09-1My other project today involved a domestic activity I practice more frequently than sewing: cooking. Or, in this case, bread-baking. Remember my post last month about the Italian flour? (If not, go read it!) Well, we’re having a cook-out at the church tomorrow, and I thought it might be fun to make Craig some hamburger and hot dog buns. So I alternated my time between the bread dough in the kitchen and the sewing machine at the dining room table.

I used a recipe for dinner rolls but reduced the amount of sugar slightly, as the rolls seem a little on the sweet side. I looked online for recipes to give me some guidance (how long do you make a hot dog bun? do you cut out hamburger buns with a round cutter, or do you just shape them with your hands?), and gave it a whirl. The instructions I found said to make the hot dog buns 4.5 inches long, but I think next time (if there is a next time) I’ll make them longer, because they don’t seem big enough. I tried using a biscuit cutter on some of the hamburger buns and shaping others. The ones I cut turned out nicer.

Rolls on the Rise
Rolls on the Rise

One recipe had you brush melted butter on top before baking; another recommended beaten egg; and one said to sprinkle the tops with poppy seeds, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. So I brushed the tops with butter and coated some of the buns with the seasonings. They don’t look too bad now that they’re baked (I didn’t take of picture of the finished product, sorry), they smell heavenly, and I’m looking forward to trying them tomorrow.

But next time I have a few hours to myself, maybe I’ll actually do some writing!

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Saturday Situation Report: Snowy With a Chance of Snow

Our backyard Thursday morning
Our backyard Thursday morning

My recent blog posts have not been cancelled because of the weather. The reason I haven’t been posting is because I’m bone lazy. However, the weather lately has been so noteworthy, I thought I’d make the effort to note it.

I took this pic (to the left) through my kitchen window Thursday morning. By the time the snow finished falling, we had about 10 inches of fresh fluffy stuff on top of what remained from previous snows. In case you’re wondering, that round thing in the foreground is a little patio table.

2014-02-15 11.14.14
View from the front door.

It warmed up a bit yesterday, and the snow started to melt, making the beginnings of a slushy, puddly mess. The sloppies didn’t progress very far, though, because it snowed again last night and this morning. It hasn’t quite buried our mailbox yet, but it’s working on it. (See it sticking up from the snowbank in the lower right quadrant of the shot to the right?)

About all that shrubbery to the left of the driveway, as well as the little stack of firewood in the first shot: we had some trees cut down this fall. Craig cut and stacked the trunks and large branches and plans to sell the firewood after it’s cured for a year, as we no longer have a wood burner.

We do have a gas fireplace, and we’ve used it a couple of times. But being in the living room, it makes the front of the house too warm while the rest of the house gets too cold. The ideal place for a wood burner would be the basement, so the heat could radiate up and warm the whole house.

Craig and our son Art (whom Craig put to work the last time Art and Jennie visited) dragged the remainder of the tree rubble from the backyard and piled it in the front, awaiting the man with the chipper. But then it got cold and snowed, got colder and snowed more, dumped some freezing rain on top of that, and then snowed a few more times, and… As you can see, even if the man with the chipper were to come now, he wouldn’t be able to do anything because the branches are all frozen to the ground. Which means that mess will have to remain in the front yard until spring.

I took this shot in 1995 (96?) in New Philadelphia, Ohio, when it got down to almost 30 below zero F, so I could prove in the future that I didn't make it up.
1995, New Philadelphia, Ohio, with the temperature almost -30 F. I took the photo so I could prove it in later years. The thermometer is a little hard to read, but if you can enlarge the photo you might be able to see it better. And yes, that old back door was badly in need of paint. Our house back then was pretty much of a wreck everywhere.

Funny thing about pictures of snow: everybody takes them but nobody cares to see them. Do you know how many photos of snow I threw out when sorting through my parents’ old pics? Photos of snow, and of flowers, autumn trees, and all sorts of things that are beautiful to see but can’t be satisfactorily captured in a photo? I don’t know how many, but it was a lot. I don’t usually take pics like that, but I did this time to illustrate this post. Nobody cares about the snow, but people do like images in blog posts.

One thing Craig has always liked best about winter is ice fishing. In Ohio, there were several winters when he wasn’t able to fish because it wasn’t cold enough for long enough at a stretch. (As you can see from the photo above left, the winter of 1995-96 was an exception.)

This A few fish year the weather’s been perfect for fishing, but what with the work we’ve been doing in the house as well as having to learn the places to fish around here, he only went out for the first time this past Wednesday.

In Maryland, there’s a limit of 15 on the number of bluegills you can catch in a day. This came as a surprise, because in Ohio, you could catch them by the bucketful. Which is what Craig used to do. I took these pictures of him fishing on our pond in Jefferson, Ohio, along with a portion of his catch.Fishing thru the ice I’m not sure of the exact year, but it was  somewhere between 1979 and 1983. Fun fact: he still wears that same pair of felt-lined boots when he goes ice fishing.

Wednesday afternoon, he fished on Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park and caught his limit fairly quickly. We ate some for supper on Thursday and I froze the rest for another meal. Yum! He’s hoping winter holds on long enough that he can fill the freezer.

Just about everyone else is longing for that mythical event called spring. Though we’re not seeing any signs of it yet beyond the days increasing in length and ticking by on the calendar, Craig andOnce upon a garden I are thinking about gardening. We have enough backyard under all that snow that there’s space to put in a small garden. But the soil in these parts is very rocky, and we expect it will be difficult to prepare the ground. Raised beds would be a good solution, but expensive. We’re not sure how we’ll deal with the situation, but we do know we won’t be gardening on the scale we did in Ohio.

As a reminder that spring is, in fact, on the way, I’ve added another flash-from-the-past photo, probably taken sometime in the late 1990s. That’s our youngest daughter, Rustie, in the background, not a scarecrow.

Next time I post, I plan to talk about writing, since this was originally supposed to be a writing blog. I hope it’s not spring by the time I get around to it.

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Cuts and Rewrites Are No Joke

Johann_Sebastian_BachI heard this joke when I was a kid:

Back in the 1800s, an American college student goes to Germany to study, and while he’s there, he visits the city of Leipzig. He hears a rumor that the remains of his hero, Johann Sebastian Bach, are at Old St. John’s Cemetery in an unmarked grave. But the person who told him this also told him how to identify it. Wow. He’d love to find it, but his schedule is busy and he’s not able to get there until his last night in the city — and by then cemetery is closed. Man, he says, I can’t stand the thought that I was at Leipzig but never took the time to see Bach’s tomb. The more he thinks about it the more it bothers him, so he finally decide he has no choice: he has to break in.

So he does. Don’t ask me the details because I don’t know, but he sneaks into the cemetery, finds the right tomb, and breaks in. To his surprise, there’s a candle burning on a desk, and at the desk sits a man hard at work erasing something.

The kid says, “Hey, who are you?” The man turns around with a scowl. “I am Johann Sebastian Bach. Now go away. Can’t you see I’m decomposing?”

Okay, so the joke’s not all that funny. But then, neither is de-composing.

I don’t know anything about writing music, but with prose, an unavoidable part offile0002057395066 writing is un-writing. Back in the day, I wrote stories on notebook paper, and my early drafts were full of scribbles and scratch-outs. Sometimes I’d X out whole paragraphs (or throw out whole pages), or circle sections and insert them elsewhere by means of arrows. Computers make the task much easier and neater. But it’s never fun to delete large swaths of your work.

Yesterday I was excited at how far I’d progressed in my WIP this week; but at the same time, I was concerned about the direction it was going.  After mulling it over all night, I realized by morning that I had to delete a large portion of what I’d written yesterday.

But that’s just part of the game. If Johann Sebastian Bach can do it, I can too. At least I don’t have to do it by candlelight.

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