New page

A quick post to let you know about a couple of changes.

First, the obvious: there’s a new look to this blog. The old one was attractive, but I really prefer to have everything out in the open, especially my book covers. they can be viewed in the column to the right. Hopefully, that will make them easier to access from the front page. I’ll probably tweak things a bit in the coming weeks.

Second, I want to let you know that the first two volumes of A City by the Lake are now available on KIndle for $2.99 USD. I changed the price to better reflect Amazon’s recommendations, based on their own algorithms, for books of a similar length and category. This is a price reduction of $3.00 USD. We’ll see how it goes.

Please note, that this price is for e-books only, and not for the paperback versions. I may change the prices on those, as well, but I need to examine that, as paper books have a definite minimum price due to the cost of printing.

Also, the release date of the third book in the series, A City of Air, has been pushed back a bit. I’ve been wrestling with the manuscript for a year now, and while going into final edits I finally figured out why: I had started the story in the wrong place. This happens now and then, and the only thing to do in such a case is to start over.

It hasn’t been a total loss, however. I now have about eighteen thousand words of the new version, and the ending remains the same. It will just take some time to re-work the beginning. Never fear, the end is in sight.

Until next time…



New Year, Blank Page

Happy New Year everyone.

Yesterday I looked up my stats on this site and discovered that this blog had a grand total of 220 page views in 2014. That sounds like a piddling amount, I know, but WordPress insisted that it was pretty good for the first year, especially given the long gap this summer when I didn’t post anything. Then again, that could just be their marketing department talking. Maybe it really is just a piddling amount.

The most popular post turned out to be the one with my cat’s picture on it. Which, come to think of it, I originally posted simply to get page views. So I guess it worked. Here is another picture of Squeaky and her sister Ginger. Ginger is the cat who likes to read stories on my tablet but, unfortunately, not when I have a camera ready to snap her picture:


Probably the first thing I need to get out of the way is something that most of you have already noticed: A City of Air is not ready for publication. Or even finished. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised, because I have yet to hit a deadline head on, and the holidays provide enough turmoil to push anything to one side.

Another hurdle is the mental block of trying to start up again after letting the story lie idle for the summer. Truly, I don’t recommend it. Once you lose the momentum on something it’s difficult to get it back. More than once, I’ve given serious thought to scrapping the whole thing and starting over. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you’re stuck.

Plus, it’s the end of a trilogy. That might not seem like much of a problem, but I’ve had fairly good response to the first two volumes of the story, which is good but scary. I’ve been afraid of messing up the ending, and fear can be crippling. Dangling plot threads littered the landscape and offered no clue as to how they can be tied up. I might give short shrift to someone’s favorite character. Or screw it up altogether.

As if that wasn’t enough, one of the main characters–Kas’s father, no less–went and did something unexpected. Where in the hell did that come from? What did he think he was doing? How on earth would I resolve that? Honestly, sir, everyone else had two whole volumes and more than 120-thousand words to develop their stories, and you had to go and pull something like that?

But the unexpected is what a writer lives for in her work and the end is finally in sight.

On New Years’ Eve, while preparing to stay up past midnight, I decided to lie down for a nap. (I don’t know why I want to stay up for the New Year, just habit, I guess.) I didn’t succeed in sleeping, but lay for an hour drifting along the free-range-thought-train that comes in that gap between not-asleep and not-entirely-awake.

Suddenly, there it was.

Click, click, click, it all opened up like a series of locked boxes.

The ending of the story.

All of the plot threads neatly tied into a bundle, resolving all of the subplots. I could give John Merriweather a happy ending without sending him to a corner like an errant child. (Although I dearly wanted to, naughty boy.)

I figure it will be another couple of weeks before I’m ready for the final edit. In the meantime, I probably won’t post here again until it’s done. Wish me luck.


Avast, Ye Mateys

I meant to post this on Saturday, but the local internet connection was pretty lousy for some reason, and I kept losing my post. I hate it when that happens.

Anyway, I was busy venting my annoyance to the blogosphere regarding an ever-growing problem among independent authors: online piracy.

You see, I’ve been pirated. It isn’t the first time. I was aware almost since the publication of my first novel, A City of Wood, that someone had nicked it out from under me and was offering free downloads of my baby on the worldwide web. At the time, I felt flattered that anyone would go to the trouble, and weirdly disappointed that there wasn’t more interest in it. For most of the past year I couldn’t find that anyone else had actually downloaded the pdf from the pirate site. The general consensus of opinion, among writers more experienced than I, seemed to be that trying to chase down the pirates themselves would be like playing Whack-a-Mole and that my time was better spent writing new stories.

Even Neil Gaiman had a YouTube video on the subject:

Then the hell that was Summer 2014 descended upon me.

I ran out of money.
I spent most of the spring and summer in a fruitless and demoralizing search for outside work.
For the entire month of July, I didn’t have enough money for bus fare.
I went to bed feeling hungry more times than I care to admit.
I became a burden to my worried family.

When summer finally turned to fall again, I managed, through the generosity of my long-suffering relatives, to get a buffer on my rent and food. Things are starting to look up again, for which I am grateful. And I found another pirate site on the web with my books on it. It now shows 1,009 downloads.

That’s 1,009 people who have downloaded my books without paying for them. When I think about how desperate I was for that money this past summer…well, I hope you understand how galling it is for me.

I could have gone to sleep with a full stomach. Or at least one that wasn’t so empty.

I needn’t have become a burden to my family.

I could have…

But we aren’t playing “could have” and “should have” here. That’s never really an option, is it?

So the question remains, what to do about it?

Here is what I have planned: for the moment, I shall leave things as they are.

When I finish the third book in the trilogy, A City of Air, (I’m still hoping for the Christmas season) I will submit it to KDP Select. This means that it will be exclusive to Amazon, and for a brief period each month, it will be free to download. I will let you know when each promotional period begins and ends.

At the time of its initial release, I will put the first two books on sale for 99 cents for a period of two weeks. Again, I will let you know when the sale begins and ends. After that, all three books will go back to their full price.

In addition, I will probably put the paperback versions on sale for the same promotional period. Keep watch here for discount codes that you can use to get the lower price. It will also be for a limited time, and I’ll keep you posted when that happens.


Long Time, No Post

Wow. It’s been a while since I posted anything here. The summer went on too long and was too lean for comfort. For my comfort, anyway. To make matters worse, I was caught in the grip of a mental logjam that some like to call writer’s block. Seriously, nothing was coming out of my brain with any kind of coherence.

But summer is finally at an end, there is food in the pantry, and the logjam has broken at last. I may get through this after all. And to celebrate, I’ve fixed the formatting issues in A City of Wood and A City of Stone, as well as giving them new, professional-looking covers. The paperback versions are very nice to hold. Check them out:

You may notice that the links are Amazon only. Despite a long time on their site, I never got anything out of Smashwords (others have had more luck, I’m sure), and I decided to try KDP Select for a while. It certainly can’t hurt.

I set up a new work schedule for myself that seems to be going well so far. The concluding volume in the trilogy, A City of Air, is coming along nicely. I’m more than half way to the end of it. Hopefully I can finish before Christmas. Then I have it in my head to try my hand at a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. I don’t have a title for it yet, but have two chapters done. It should be fun and funny, as the original stories were. See you next week with more updates.


Kasimir and his valet; an excerpt from A City of Stone

It’s been a while since I posted any book excerpts. Mostly, it’s because it is difficult to come up with anything that isn’t too spoilery. Here is a scene from the second book, A City of Stone, that is pretty self-contained. I hope you like it. I certainly enjoyed writing it.


“I’m not sure about this waistcoat,” Kasimir said, frowning at the mirror.

There was gold threaded through the brandy-colored brocade, and he thought it a bit much. Especially with the amber fob hanging from the gold chain on his watch. Every time he’d seen the businessmen of the city, they had nearly all worn raven black. Not this tobacco-and-brandy combination of silk and cashmere. And gold.

“You look fine,” Sims assured him, giving the coat another brush. He was a medium-sized man with limpid dark eyes and not much hair on his head. “Not everyone can carry off that combination, and you want to make an impression.”

“Yes, but I don’t want it to be the wrong impression.”

He wasn’t entirely accustomed to Sims yet. The man had showed up rather suddenly when the word went out that he was in the market for a personal valet. Kasimir wasn’t exactly sure why he needed a valet in the first place. He had been dressing himself for years.

But his father said that if he was going to take his place in the business world, he needed to look the part. Besides, John remarked, he’d seen over the years how his son dressed, and thought he could use all the help he could get.

From some of the combinations that Sims suggested, Kasimir began to suspect that his credentials as a dresser had been in the theater dressing the actors. He was forever going on about effect and lighting.

“You won’t,” Sims replied, “the effect of that color on your hair…all golden, and it brings out the little gold flecks in your eyes. You’ll look like a young Adonis, emerging from the fog. Everyone will be impressed.”

Definitely theatrical.

“I wasn’t aware that I had gold flecks in my eyes.”

Kasimir’s eyes were light green, and tilted upward slightly at the outer corners, like a cat. They were a legacy of his Russian mother.

“Oh yes sir, near the center of your irises.”

Kasimir leaned in closer to the mirror to look. Sims was right, after a fashion. There were tiny flecks in his eyes, but they looked more brown than gold to him.

At last, the other man ceased brushing his clothes and stepped back to admire his work.

“Perfect,” Sims declared. He looked very happy.

“If you say so,” Kasimir replied, “I’ll bow to your expertise.”

He headed for the door. No point putting it off any longer. He was probably going to be late anyway. Sims called out to him when he reached the hall.

“Wait! There’s one more thing. I nearly forgot.”

He hurried over with a mahogany walking stick in his hand, and presented it to Kasimir as if handing him a scepter. Kasimir looked at it dumbly.

It looked heavy, and had a gold head on it that was set with a large nugget of amber. This was truly over the top. Besides, he never carried a stick. That was always something Bert did, and he didn’t recall ever seeing Bert use one as ornate as this one.

“I really don’t think that’s necessary,” he said when he found his voice again.

Sims appeared to deflate a bit.

“But it completes the ensemble,” he protested, “and can be a very useful prop.”

Kasimir wondered again which acting troupe had abandoned him in this city.

“How so?”

“Well…some men find it an effective weapon to use in their defense,” Sims said, “And there’s a small flask inside. The head is actually a cup. Just large enough for a nip on very cold days. Winter is coming, you know.”

“It always does. All right then, show me the flask.”

Sims unscrewed the head of the cane to reveal that it was hollow inside. A rubber stopper was stuck into the shaft of the stick, held in place by a tiny hinge and lever similar to those on apothecary jars. It was cunningly done.

“I took the liberty of filling it with brandy,” Sims said, “and don’t worry about the metal affecting the taste. That’s twenty-two carat gold.”

“Good Lord, I thought it was brass.”

“No sir, the tin in the brass would’ve given the liquor a bad taste. I’m told the gold is from one of your mines. In California, I believe.”

“And you think that will help me impress the board of directors?”

“It will let them know you mean business sir, and are not someone to be trifled with. ‛All the world is a stage,’ after all. You need to look like the lead player to get them to pay attention.”

Kasimir took the stick from him and looked at it. He had a feeling that he might need the brandy before the day was through. Too bad it didn’t look like enough to get drunk. He looked up at the other man, who was looking back at him with hope in his eyes.

“Thank you Sims,” he said. Then he went downstairs to the carriage that was already waiting at the front door.

His father stepped out of the library as he came down the stairs and looked up. John stood frozen for a moment, an arrested look on his face.

“It’s too much isn’t it?” Kasimir said, brandishing his walking stick.

“No,” John said, recovering himself, “It’s not that. It’s just that…for a moment…you looked for all the world like Vasily Andreyev. I thought perhaps I was seeing a ghost.”

Vasily Andreyev was Kasimir’s maternal great-uncle.


“Yes. A little more quietly dressed perhaps, but…if you could summon even a tenth of his imperiousness, then you should have the board cowering at your feet in no time,” John smiled at him. “Just don’t overdo it. I wouldn’t want to live with Vasily’s ghost for any amount of time.” A slight shudder went through him.

“Was he really that awful?”

Kasimir had heard so many conflicting stories about his mother’s uncle. Yelena practically worshipped him.

“Well I was always afraid of him,” John admitted, “I suppose from his perspective, he was only upholding the family honor. But I’ve never met anyone with so much…presence. There was story going around that he could summon the dead to do his bidding. I wouldn’t have put it past him.”

That hit a little too close to home. The dead that kept haunting Kasimir’s own waking dreams insisted that he was the one doing the calling. Except that they didn’t seem to be willing to do his bidding. Nor the living, for that matter. He wondered how his great-uncle had managed it. Blossom came out of the library then, and looked up at him.

“Well?” Kasimir said to her, stretching out his arms, “What do you think?”

“You look lovely,” she said.

Her face turned pink.

“I mean, handsome,” she amended, “Well-dressed. The colors suit you. I don’t really know what I mean. I mean…I know what I mean…but the words aren’t coming out right.”

She was becoming even pinker as she spoke. Then she made a sound under her breath that sounded shockingly like a curse, and went back into the library. John looked in her direction, a speculative look on his face.

“I shouldn’t keep you any longer,” he said to Kasimir after a moment, “You’re going to be late.” Seeing his son’s expression, he added, “Don’t worry, it should afford you the opportunity to make an appropriately grand entrance. Image is everything to these people.”

Kasimir shrugged into the coat that was held out for him by a servant—he had yet to learn all of their names, most of the old staff had fled before the fire—and took his leave of his father.

The morning fog had cleared off by then, and it was noticeably colder outside. They should have frost by tomorrow. He climbed into the waiting carriage and settled back into the cushions, trying to steady his racing pulse.

Technology is Great (Except When it Doesn’t Work)

The best laid plans…

Last Saturday I was energized and ready to start hitting the writing hard. I had a schedule. I had outlines. I got up early and settled in with a cup of tea and ideas swirling in my head. You name it, I had a plan: Twenty short stories, two new chapters on a novel, article ideas for Yahoo. I was even going to update my job resume and hit the jobsites again. Then I tried to open Word on my computer.


My files were still there, but they wouldn’t open. I tried the backup files on a USB drive.


I started to panic. Then I plugged the USB into an old laptop. It worked, and I could open the files to read them…but the old laptop (it’s a Dell Latitude 620 with Windows XP) only had Open Office, not Word, so some of the formatting was screwy.

Back to the writing computer, and decided to do a refresh. That wiped out Word, so I reloaded it. Or at least tried…

…my internet connection sucks wet donkey balls, if you don’t mind me saying so.

After 12 hours (yes, you read that right) the download finally completed. I could open my files. By this time, it was early Sunday morning, so I went to bed.

Sunday I had breakfast and sat down to catch up on some belated writing. And the Word program I had spent the day loading told me that there was an error in the download and it would have to b reloaded. But I needed to remove it first.

I may have used ad language at that point. I’m surprised I held out so long.

So…uninstall Word, connect to the internet, and attempt to reload. This was around 11 a.m.

By 3 p.m. it had reached 11% of its download. I discovered that there were other updates running in the background, and disabled them. By 6 p.m. it managed to reach 14% and I gave up out of exhaustion. Besides, I was hungry.

Monday morning I took the laptop to my local library, which has killer Wi-Fi. Went through the whole process again. Finally, it completed!

PowerPoint worked. Yay!

Excel worked. Yay!

OneNote worked. Yay!

Word said: “Sorry, we’ve encountered an error loading this program.” @#^&%$ !!!!!!

I looked deep into the root menu to find out what the @#$% the problem could be. Saw that the user’s license a due to expire on April 24. Could it be that they want me to buy a new one? A search disclosed that they have a sale for ‘only’ $104 for a new version.

Uh, no.

So I looked for a new version of Open Office to download. I can learn how to use it all over again. I did it once, after all. At this time, the Wi-Fi at the library had slowed down, and by 3 p.m. I gave up and went home. Later that night, like around 11 p.m., I tried again. For some reason, my home Wi-Fi works best between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

At 3 a.m. I woke up, and the download was complete. Had no clue about how to operate it, since it’s been awhile, but shut it down and went to bed. It was now early Tuesday morning and I had lost three and a half days of writing.

Tuesday was spent trying to figure out the menu options. In retrospect, I should have downloaded the user’s guides, too, but I was feeling punchy at that point. I managed to get two paragraphs written on a short story.

Wednesday I woke up with a migraine that lasted most of the day. I spent most of the day in bed. I’m feeling better now.

This morning I set up some templates: e-book, paper book format, and short story.

And I wrote this blog. Here’s hoping things smooth out from here.


Out on a Limb

I had another job interview last week. For the record, the last interview I had, although it seemed to go well and left me feeling hopeful, didn’t result in a job offer. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The job was something that I really wanted to do. This time, I don’t want to get my hopes up.

For one thing, it only lasted fifteen minutes. Second, I kept getting brain farts every time I tried to ask a question. You know, that feeling of having your mind wiped clean of any coherent thought? That doesn’t happen to me very often, but during that interview I blanked out three times that I can recall.

Not great timing, that.

Job hunting is so much different these days than it was the last time I tried it. During my last search, I tracked opportunities on foot and filled out forms by hand. The questions then were fairly basic: make a list of your last four employers, education, job skills, and three references. If you went in for an interview, and the person on the other end could tell you within twenty-four hours whether or not you got the job.

Now, the process has moved online, and the questions are more intrusive, less obviously about the job at hand, and harder to parse for their meaning. It wouldn’t surprise me to see something in the fine print asking a prospective employee to open a vein in order to pledge fealty to the company. They already want you to pee into a cup before you’re deemed worthy.

Funny, I remember when that was still controversial. Something about violating a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights. You know, the one about probable cause and unreasonable search and seizure. But that’s a rant for another time, and I’m dating myself anyway. I’m getting old.

Which is something that I hadn’t really considered before now. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the vibe I’ve been getting lately is that I’m a little too mature to be attractive to employers these days. At least that’s what my mother says, trying to be tactful. She related that my father went through the same thing several years ago. Of course, he was seventy and already drawing a monthly check from Social Security, while I still have a decade to go before I can even think about it.

“Once you turn fifty,” she said, “they don’t really want you anymore. And they won’t come right out and say so.”

They can’t, of course, or they’ll risk an age discrimination suit. But the chill is there in subtle ways, not so much in words as in tone. And the question “Why did you leave your last position?” sits there like a loaded weapon, ready to blow my head off at any minute. There’s really no good answer to that, despite the fact that it felt like the right thing to do at the time. It was one of the few times that a decision I made wasn’t riddled with self-doubt.

The self-doubt came along later, when it was too late to do anything about it.

Still, even now, I have trouble summoning any sincere regret over it. I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. Also how fortunate I am in the family that surrounds me. They’re still sending me checks, even thought they’ve run out of excuses to send them. My brother says it’s cheaper than traveling out here (we live four states apart) to fetch me off the street if that’s where I end up. My mother has floated the offer of the cabin behind her house if I have nowhere else to go.

I confess, if it was just me I would take her up on the offer. But I have four-legged roommates who are old and not in great health, who have hysterics at the mere sight of a pet carrier. I fear they wouldn’t survive the trip. So now I have to regroup and keep doing what I’ve been doing: fill out applications, keep learning new skills, and keep writing.

Above all else, I must keep writing.