The Next Big Thing…

Rachel Gold was nice enough to start us off on  this, so I’m carrying forward. As Rachel said, I don’t think I’m the “next big thing,” but I think this is a great chance to meet new authors. I’ve linked to Rachel’s site above, and since I feel as if I struck gold in “discovering” MB Panichi, I’m linking to her as well. My “second” author (Rachel doesn’t count as she added me) is the wonderful Erica Abbott.

Each author fills out a short blog interview like the one you see below and then recommends a few other authors with upcoming projects.

So without further ado, here’s my response to this blog hopping interview:

What is the working title of your next book?

Celtic Tide

Where did the idea come from for the book?

There’s a folk song about the women in Dundee, Scotland, who kept the village fed and basically alive during extremely lean years at the turn of the century.  As a musician and a writer, I wanted to explore that…the basis for men (the traditional singers of folk songs) to write a song about the efforts of women. To make it relevant to today, one of my characters is an ethnomusicologist, a careers I’d have loved to tackle had I the talent.

I have a terrific source in my aunt who is in fact a musicologist and music historian, so I’m excited to be in the middle of this project.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary romance.

What is the synopsis or blurb of your book?

Celtic Tide is the story of Grace O’Malley, an American musician and researcher who has run away to Ireland to escape her troubles, and Anne Flaherty, the woman who rights Grace’s upside-down world.  Though she tells herself she is simply “expanding her research opportunities,” Grace, a 35-year-old music professor, is hiding.  The scandal that rocked her small-town college shattered her confidence and broke her heart, and she wants nothing more than to tuck herself away in the small village of An Daingean (Dingle), Ireland—the village in which her grandfather grew up.

Anne Flaherty has lived in the village of An Daingean all of her life, save for two brief years away at Trinity College, Dublin.  Her time at Trinity was bittersweet, allowing her to grow and build her musical range, but battering both her confidence and her gentle heart.  A Catholic struggling with her own demons, she resists her growing attraction to the American musician, insisting on a platonic friendship, despite wanting . . . and needing . . . more.

This is Grace and Anne’s story.  Neither is looking for love and both have been deeply hurt.  Together they will heal each other and themselves, and begin to build a friendship that can only deepen into love.  This is a story that can only be told here, in Dingle, Ireland, where the endless days of summer are painted in fairylike light and the music of a community blends with the rhythm of life and love to make magic happen.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Wow. Um…I’m terrible at this part since I don’t see a lot of movies or watch a lot of TV. Let’s see…nope. I’ve got nuthin.’

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Bella published my first book and graciously accepted this, my second.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Hmm…hard to quantify, because I don’t write full-time. Truthfully, I’m still hammering out the last parts of the manuscript, but I think…yes, if I had to quantify, I’d say about six months.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This is similar to the “get the idea…” question, but I’ll answer this: what inspired me to set it in Ireland? We took a trip to Ireland a few years ago and I fell in love with the village of Dingle (An Daingean). The pub in which Grace meets Anne is a real place. Most of the characters in the book are based upon real people from the village.

As for why Ireland and not Scotland, I wanted the book set in Ireland, but the song that inspired the story, the Women of Dundee, is set, of course, in Scotland. In working out why Grace is in Ireland and not Scotland, I also found a good deal of Grace…her reasons for moving around, her spinta.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There’s romance, there’s music, there’s self-discovery (though this is not a coming-out story, per se).

Here are the writers whose work you can check out next:

If you’re a fan of women in uniform, Erica Abbott’s Fragmentary Blue is for you. Erica writes a tight, well-plotted tale, and her knowledge of the legal system adds terrific depth and texture to the story without being overwhelming.

I was lucky enough to be the Golden Crown Literary Society mentor to a bright new author, MB Panichi. MaryBeth’s debut novel, Saving Morgan, is due out in Fall of 2013. The best part of mentoring is the chance to read terrific new talent long before anyone else gets to.  Saving Morgan is a taught, well-crafted sci-fi story that I cannot wait to hold in my hands. The only problem I have with having read her manuscript so early is that I have to wait that much longer for the sequel.


Things…and a Sneak Preview.

Well. What has happened in the near-month since I updated? I went to the Golden Crown Literary Conference, and annual writers/readers/publishers four day get-together/energy booster/meet up with friends old and new.  This year the Con was held in Minneapolis, MN. Well, Bloomfield, actually, just near the Mall of America.

What a con it was! My debut novel, Open Water (2011, Bella Books), though nominated in three categories was only shortlisted for one, “Debut Author.”  And…I won! I was one of three winners in that category and, luckily enough, the first award announced that night. Whew! Talk about getting it over with!

Posing with the wonderfully generous Karin Kallmaker. If you squint, you can see my award tucked between us.

The Con overall was great fun and a wonderful chance to reconnect with friends and to meet face-to-face with those I only know through online discussions.

I was so lucky this year to get to go.  Finances are exceptionally tight, but my stepdad gave me his mileage for my flight, and I offset the cost of registration by doing the program for the event.  My biggest cost was the hotel. Well, and the Lego Store at Mall of America. :::sigh:::

Another pic from this event was all of the Bella Authors dressed up for the awards. I love this photo!

We are, from left to right: Erica Abbott, Nat Burns, Jordan Redhawk, KG MacGregor, Dillon Watson, Karin Kallmaker, Mary Griggs, Pol Robinson, Rachel Gold, and Kenna White. Missing: Tracey Richardson, who had to head back to Canada.

When I returned, it was straight back into work on The Project (and I will update that soon).

It’s coming along quite nicely, and should soon be ready for its maiden voyage. Hopefully.

Now, with the success of one book under my belt (using the term “success” loosely here), it’s more than past time to focus on my sophomore effort. I was working on a new Olympic novel, Thin Ice, but have struggled because the story is far weightier than the first book.  For several reasons, chief among them being I want to get the Olympics books back onto the actual Olympics cycle, I have shelved it.

I have two others in the works, and last night finally got the “zing” to work on Celtic Tide, a contemporary romance sent in Ireland, featuring an American musician who, for her own reasons, settles in the town of An Daingean (Dingle, to the non-Gaelic speakers), in County Kerry.

Here is an excerpt:

Grace watched, mesmerized, as Anne’s hand flew along the neck of the fiddle, moving in counterpoint to the bow sizzling across the strings. Quick and bright, and too fast to distinguish one note from another, Anne’s fiddle filled the room with music, accompanied by Sean and Jamie. Eyes closed and foot tapping, Anne didn’t hesitate as Sean finished leading the first round of the tune, allowing Anne to pick up the melody. The music pulled an old man and woman to their feet to dance along. Tourists, American by the look of them, began to clap and laugh as the old gentleman spun his wife in a happy jig.

Tim looked up from the pint he was building and called out to the dancers, “Oh, it’s the O’Shea, is it? Well, boyo, go on then!”

The man smiled back at Tim and gave his wife another spin, pulling her arms down and across in front of her to lead the two of them through the bar, side by side, hands linked together at the waist, feet flying in tandem. Grace watched as the couple kept their eyes on each other and matched their steps together. They’ve done this for years. She laughed with the crowd as the woman gave her husband a saucy wink, ducked under his arm and began a faster step in time with Anne’s speeding fiddle.

The clapping grew louder as Jamie shouted encouragement, giving a yip as he changed key. Anne’s eyes opened and she grinned at him, raising an eyebrow in challenge. The old woman, feet flying and eyes alight, caught the exchange and shouted, “Go on with you, girl!”Anne grinned back and stepped up the tempo as she matched Jamie’s key and his change in tempo. Grace heard the transition from the fast slip jig to an even faster reel and laughed out loud as, impossibly, the two dancers moved to match the musician’s increased speed. Her fingers twitched as Anne’s bow danced across the bridge of the fiddle and Jamie bent low over his guitar, his fingers a blur on the strings.

The dancing couple once again joined together to match steps, waving two others to join them. As had the first two, the new couple easily swung into step, the four of them performing a complicated set.  Feet flashed, skirts whirled, and the music danced with them around the room.  The noise in the pub grew as the music did, ending with a crescendo of music, rousing cheers and laughter of both participants and spectators.

Suffused with the rush and joy she always felt when there was music, good music, around her, Grace happily looked around the room. This was why she’d come here, to Ireland. This…the pub, the people, and most importantly, the music. She had read and studied all of her life, but she had always known she’d have to come here, to live here, to fully grasp what she’d read. It wasn’t just the music, it was the way it was a part of their lives. Grace watched as the four dancers made their breathless way back to their tables, as Tim began building pints again, laughing and joking with customers, most of whom he’d probably known his entire life. All the studying in the world couldn’t teach her as much as one night in a place like this. The music flowing from the instruments was born in the music of the community. To begin to understand it she had to surround herself with it.

And maybe in the surrounding, she could learn to live again.—

Today: Home Depot in Canoga park for three last things. Tonight: Writing.

Learning to Be…in a Whole New Way.

Well, here’s a thing I realized late last night. I have lost the ability to just…be. To be still. To sit. To relax. To read for pleasure.

Yes, I do have a book due to my publisher on July 1 and really have no hope of making that deadline.  I am finding it difficult to sit and write. I am truthfully finding it difficult to just sit.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my afternoon swim with my neighbor, I realized I had 15 minutes before we were to meet. I thought of at least a dozen things I could do in that time before realizing that I did not HAVE to fill that time with anything!

What a shock!

I have heard that post-doctoral folks tend toward depression following completion of their programs and I can see why. I’m not by any means depressed, but I am finding it hard to not work on something like crazy.

Take, for example, my newest endeavor: The Treehouse.

I have always wanted a treehouse and have always wanted a pop-up camper. Now I have both, combined in one. I bought, for a ridiculously low price, a 30+ year old Starcraft pop-up, complete with worn through canvas, rotted wood, and about 60 or so black widow spiders.

Not kidding about the spiders. Got the thing home, put it in the garage to work on it, and then bombed the crap out of the thing. Came out the next morning and the garage floor resembled Gettysburg, post battle.

Now that I have a Project (aka, the Treehouse), I’m going to town on the thing. Since the doctorate is done, I will be posting the progress on the Project. We are not replacing the canvas. Instead I am making something I saw once, fold-up/down solid walls (the top still pops up). Kind of like this one. The difference is that ours has slide-out beds that will also have rigid sides.

Pictures to follow in the next blog, this has gotten too long.

Tonight. Reading. For realsies. And relaxing.

Missives From Mount Dissertation

My Dearest Family,

I can only hope that someday you shall read this. Or better, that I shall be able to share this with you in person.  But, if that is not to be, if the mountain should claim me, let this be a record of our journey.

I write to you from the very depths of the caverns of Mount Dissertation, a place that lives in my mind near the famed Everest…but taller.  As had Sir Edmund and his intrepid team, I, too, began this journey with the highest of hopes.

None but I would be able to scale the mountain before me. Yes, there would be hazards. The early days of Introduction were nothing at all, and I thought, “Onward to glory” at every step.

I admit now that my steps slowed some as we slogged through the Swamp of Previous Literature. As all prior reports had indicated, this was indeed treacherous ground.  At every turn one was tempted to stray, to stop, to read, to sink… Alas, I too found myself tempted.  It was only the strength of my boon companion, the dog I call Sir Charles, and the whispy fantasy of the woman I love and left behind in this quest.  I say “left behind” in spirit only because I know that she, in her quiet and unassuming way, slogs beside me with each wearying step.

There are nights were I am sure I cannot go on, and I dream that a meal has been placed before me.  Sir Charles and I both wake, sniffing longingly, and dream of home.

Ah, but in my delirium I digress.  Yes, the Swamp of Prior Literature was indeed a boggy ground, but I thought, “Onward, ever onward” to my goal.  For somewhere ahead lay the Prize. My raison d’être… the Floppy Hat.

We had heard, Charles and I, that the most tedious and technical part of our ascent would be the Wall of Human Subjects Review. However, to our surprise, our preparation and planning won out and we managed that in a mere 27 days.  An accomplishment, to be sure.

Following the Wall were, as you will recall from our planning sessions, the dreaded Cliffs of Methodological Design.  Those were, indeed, as treacherous as we had feared.  I was almost lost at one point when a missive from my good friend Dr. (almost) V. Bailey arrived to provide me light and guidance when it was needed most.  Truly, those three words, “As we know…” offered strength and fortitude in my darkest hour.

While the Cliffs were oft touted as the most dangerous and harrowing of this ascent, I shall share with you, my loving family, that is not so.  The greatest danger in this endeavor is not the climb through the Cliffs to the top, it is in forging our path back down, through the Miasma of Incomprehensible Findings.  Alas, this area casts the Swamp and Cliffs before in a shining light of easy memory.  The Miasma is a swirling vortex of thought and wind, of fancy and dream.  Oft I fall back from our attempts to pass too weary to continue.

We were told, were we not, before the journey that this was one of endurance, of fortitude.  I fear, now, in my darkest hours, that I shall not be able to carry on.  That I have not the fortitude. The strength. I have the desire, surely, for the Floppy Hat, but often wonder if I have the will.

I am weary now, and it is difficult to form my thoughts. The Grippe has gripped me and I fear my strength is waning.  We, Sir Charles and I, rest here beside our guttering campfire dreaming of days long past. Of warm breezes and Sport to be watched and enjoyed. Of Family and companionship. Of the love of a woman.

The end is near, now.  Sometimes I feel that I can just see it, wavering just on the edge of my vision.  Beyond the Pale lies the Slope of Conclusion and then home. And then…victory.

Sir Charles and I are footsore now, I in the grip of illness that shakes me to my core.  Charles, ever faithful Charles, can only gaze upon me with love and as give as much comfort as can any faithful hound. Writing this, simply putting words to paper has given me, given us, strength.  I believe we can do it.  We can conquer. We can achieve. Weary, battered, worn, but not broken. Never broken.

Onward, ever onward, to the Floppy Hat.

Victory shall be ours.

My love to all.


This blog is linked to wonderful blogs others write about…well, writing, etc.

My blog was originally begun to chronicle my time in the doctoral program. As I write this, I am in the home stretch. The final mile. The last inning. The final quar– well, you get the picture. I am writing this weekend, all weekend, on Chapter’s 4 and 5 (Results and Conclusions). On Monday I deliver all five chapters to The Powers That Be for hacking and slashing (and refining).

Hence, the continued dearth of blog postings of anything that would be of interest to normal human beings. For that, I apologize. For entertainment, check out This Video.

For even more entertainment, check out his Facebook page. I love this guy’s sense of humor and absurdity.

Tonight: More writing. And tomorrow…and Sunday…

TechnoGeeking Out for a Day.

In an effort to be even more productive, I’ve been experimenting with new software on the iPad and integration with my laptop. Who’d have thunk that my laptop would be considered the clunky, cumbersome, heavy thing to haul around?!

I digress.

I’ve customized PDF files to autocalculate my students’ speech scores in class so that when I’m listening to their speeches I can simply tap along my score sheet and their scores auto-tally. I can also add comments, etc.  This is my protection in an extremely litigious society. I now have electronic records of each individual speech score sheet instead of just a final score in my gradebook. Awesome.

Still trying to figure out how to make that PDF thing into a paying app. :::sigh:::

However, when using Word and Excel I have stumbled.

I’ve been using Pages on my iPad to write and edit parts of the new book (and papers, etc…) but find the transfer back to Word cumbersome and annoying.  I transfer back to Word because, quite simply, I hate Pages’ interface. I am not stoooopid. I hate software that makes me feel as if I am stoooopid.

In my explorations, I played today with something called “CoudOn” and it’s free.

It sync’s back automatically with DropBox (more on that below) and it’s a fantastic interface. Just like Word/Excel/PPT.

On the plus side, it’s JUST like Word/Excel/PPT. On the down side…see prior sentence. That means that the program is running on a computer somewhere (ie, not being run on my iPad). That means that my document is living somewhere ELSE while I’m working on it, kind of like my iPad is a slave machine to a remote “Master.” Brings up HUGE security considerations, but I’ve passworded everything, so…we’ll see.

Now, the syncing with DropBox is great except that in syncing it overwrites what’s in your dropbox! So if I have DocA in my DropBox folder, I open DocA on my iPad (through this mystery remote computer) and then edit directly on my iPad (as if I had Word on the iPad). When I close (or change windows), it saves right away. So it saves over what I have in my DropBox (as if you were at home and you opened, edited, saved, and closed the file.

Why is that bad? What if the connection drop? What if the file becomes corrupt? What if, what if, what if…? I don’t like it overwriting. I’d like it if it made a DocA_1 version and let me decide which to keep.  To work around that I just create a new doc on the iPad and type, then choose to save it to my folder with a different name.  When I’m home again later, I play.

Now…HUGE drawback. If you’re not connected (ie, to the InterWebz), you can. non. work.

Thus, I think I’m going to go with DocumentsToGo. Much better in the end, I think. I can work offline (and since at least one of my campuses has no wi-fi connectivity…).

So, that’s your tech blurb for the day.

Tonight: Reading. Playing. Perhaps some LEGOs. Yes, I am 9 again. Sweet.

Catching Up…

I always think about posting to this blog late at night just as I’m falling asleep.  Of course, once awake, I lose the brilliance that was last night’s inspiration and this is the result.

To catch up:

The blog was initially begun as a way for family and friends to keep track of me while enrolled in the doctoral program. I was promised that I’d have little time to eat or sleep, let alone correspond with other humans on the planet.  Well, that was certainly true for the first two years, but this year that has been less so.  Thus, less blogging.

The reach of the blog has expanded and allowed me to connect with heretofore unknown relatives, and that has been the very best part of posting here. (Waving to my “new” Hall cousins!)

The year is almost ended and it’s been quite a year. My first novel was published to good reviews.  I even got my first royalty check recently…I was paid for my writing! Oh my gosh!

I was advanced to candidacy in the doctoral program and just yesterday began (after passing IRB requirements) the research phase.  I even have a graduation date and tie: May 24th, 6:30 pm. Sweet.

Another semester of teaching has come and gone, quite quickly this time around.

Then there’s the surgery.  Back surgery was successful, though not without its trauma.  I have lingering paresthesias in the left leg below the knee and including the foot.  The “drop foot” (a result of nerve damage from the surgery) gets significantly worse when I am out and about for any length of time.  On the positive side, my walking is much smoother and, unless I’m excessively tired, you cannot really tell there’s damage.

Things I’ve learned this year:

  • Nurses should be revered above all others.  The middle-of-the-night freakout’s for post-op patients are made better by a kind word and a warm hand.

  • Doctors should be very careful about overmedicating patients.  I fell asleep on two separate occasions with food in my mouth.  I was so severely overmedicated that they brought in a respiratory therapist because they thought I was having breathing problems. I was, but that was because my body was asleep!

  • True friends are those who will go through anything with and for you. Cherish them.

  • It’s all about love, everything else is just rhetoric. Go Navy (<– link. Those are words I never thought I’d say.)

  • I’m sure I learned more, but at the moment, I’m out of bullet points.

Today: writing, some last Christmas shopping, lunch with the great Tammy at the WB, and then cleaning house for visiting family.

Tonight: More relaxing reading.

Merry Christmas, Good Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, Good Kwanzaa, and/or Happy Holidays (or days off) to all and sundry.