Saturday, December 26, 2015

And, as they say in Mexico


Próspero año nuevo! 
The Twelve Grapes (SpLas doce uvas de la suerte, “The twelve grapes of luck”) is a Spanish tradition that dates back from at least 1895, but became established in 1909. In December of that year, when vine growers popularized this custom to better sell huge amounts of grapes from an excellent harvest.
The tradition consists of eating a grape with each strike of the bell at midnight of December 31.
According to the tradition, that leads to a year of prosperity. In some areas, it is believed that the tradition wards away witches and general evil, although this “magic” is treated like an old heritage, and in modern days it’s viewed as a cultural tradition to welcome the new year.
There are two main places where people gather to take the grapes. With family after dinner, or in the main squares around the country..

Friday, December 18, 2015

Liverpool - not England, but Mexico



Liverpool, first called The Cloth Case, was founded in 1847 by Jean Baptiste Ebrard, a Frenchman who sold clothes from cases in downtown Mexico City.
In 1872, he began importing products from Europe. Much of the merchandise was shipped via Liverpool, England, prompting Ebrard to adopt the name Liverpool for his store.
In 1862 he opened a second store and since then it has not stopped growing. Now, Liverpool is a mid-to-high end retailer and the largest chain of department stores in Mexico, operating 17 shopping and 73 stores under the Liverpool name, 22 stores under the Fábricas de Francia name, 6 Duty Free stores, and 27 specialized boutiques.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Re-reading my own books



An author spends hours writing the first draft of a novel and then many more hours editing, proofing, and rewriting. We agonize over plot lines, character development, and word usage. We keep an eye out for proper grammar and punctuation. We have beta readers and writing partners and critiquing groups to guide us along the way to publication.

We set up our books on Amazon and Smashwords and Createspace. Copies of our books sit on our bookshelves and our ereaders, but we don’t open them. We’re too busy marketing and writing the next book and reading whatever we can get our hands on, because writers are above all readers.

It came as a surprise to me one day a few months ago when I had an urge to reread my own work. After four years, I expected to see them in a new light—and I did.

I found myself enthralled once again in the story I knew so intimately. With the fresh perspective of time away: there was much that I loved, a few typos, and a few bits that made me wince. How could I have repeated myself like that?

Back to work it was for yet more editing.

Perhaps in four years’ time I’ll read them again, but for now, I’m very happy with my work and it’s on to the next novel:

 When the Sun was Mine  - now available in all formats. www.emandyves.com



Friday, December 4, 2015

Create a productive working group


At the office, on the job site, in informal settings, a critiquing group—getting a number of employees or strangers to work productively together can be a challenge.

Often the group leader has participants engage in “warm-up” activities. You know the kind of thing—adult games to learn names, to get the group thinking about the task, etc.

Most, if not all, of these are a waste of time.

Two simple things work much better for team building.

The first is to have each person “check in.” As a newly appointed principal, I tried this at the first staff meeting of the school year with a mix of the old gang and newly hired teachers, aides and custodians. Each was to tell us their name and something about their summer break and then say, “I’m checked in.” Or, they had the option of saying their name and passing. The teachers talked about their trips or funny things that happened. All of the support and custodial staff passed, but many came to me after and said, “I’ve never felt so much a part of the school before. Thank you for the checking in.”


The second strategy is even simpler. Working on a shared goal brings a group together faster than any games or checking in. I joined a newly formed critiquing group some years ago. We were strangers determined to write and write well. We introduced ourselves, decided on a procedure for sharing our writing and critiquing and got to work. By the end of that first meeting, we were a “team”—one that went on to hold writing retreats, one that many years later finds the members keeping in touch.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Double your reading pleasure



Double your reading pleasure. Get books 1 and 2 of the Em and Yves series FREE.   

EMBATTLED FREE emandyves.com 

BLURB My face is on every television, in every newspaper. They say I’m saving the world. I know better. I’m a school principal not a superhero.
Of course that doesn’t explain the blood on my hands. Or the strange languages coming out of my mouth. Or the feel of swinging a machete. Or the sensation of lifting off the ground before I lose all memory.
Someone or something has hijacked my life. How do I get it back?
Alien contact leads to adventure and love as the characters involve themselves in world affairs in this science fiction novel series. But are humans given second chances after our superhero fights war or will the gods decide our fate?

Subscribe and get book 2 EMPOWERED FREE   emandyves.com

BLURB I do what I do to make the world a better place because of these visions I had when I was a kid. I’m sort of invincible too. Crazy, huh? And I’ve found my promised soulmate. Victor doesn’t believe he’s the one. Not yet, anyway.
Damn, damn, damn. I’ve been kidnapped. Victor will find me. He has to. Doesn’t he? The visions can’t be wrong.
With her bodyguards in the hospital it’s up to her watcher, the ex-cons, her dad, and friends to save her. Will they and her soulmate come to the rescue in time or will her delusions be her ruin?

EMPOWERED EXCERPT

“Okay, Unc, I’m dying of curiosity. What do you need?”
“Anything and everything you can find on Brian Berdin.” Maria’s eyebrows rose.
The Mr. Berdin!”
“Yes.”
“Jeez, what’d he do? Rob a bank or something?”
“Nothing like that.” Nick grinned. “If I tell you why, can you keep it a secret?”
“From Mom and Grandma too?” Nick nodded. He could see the wheels turning. Maria loved subterfuge and wanted to be a police detective like him. He was confident she would keep his secret when many adults wouldn’t.
“He offered me a job.”
“What?” she squealed and then clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry Unc. I better be quiet or the boys will be in here and you know how they blab everything.”
“The chief recommended me for the job and I met with Mr. Berdin yesterday morning.”
“Were you nervous?” Maria asked. “I mean it being Mr. Berdin and all.”
“Yeah,” Nick admitted. “Who the hell wouldn’t be, Kiddo?”
“So when do you start?”
“I’m going to say no.”
“But, a chance to work for Berdin? Are you sure you want to give that up? I know you love being a cop but jeez, couldn’t you take a leave from work or something and try it anyway?”
“It’s tempting but, no.”
“But …” Maria stopped when Nick frowned at her. “Okay, okay, but if you’re not going to take the job, why do you want the info?”
“He made me an offer and I feel that I have to at least do the research to be fair before I give him my answer.” Maria nodded agreement. Nick knew that would make sense to her moral code too. What he didn’t tell her was just how tempting the offer was. He could buy a place for his mother, send her on a holiday to visit family in Italy, and ease the financial strain for Angie, Maria, and the boys. God, to do all that; to have real cash flow, no money worries. Much to his chagrin, he hadn’t been able to put the financial side of it out of his mind. “Also, see what, if anything, you can find on Jasmine Wade.”
“His sleepover?”
“Maria!”
“Give it up Unc. I know all about that stuff.”
“You kids grow up too fast,” he muttered as he studied the little girl become woman. How had that happened? Just yesterday she was a miniature of her mother.
Maria groaned. “I’m almost fifteen for heaven’s sake, not a baby. You sound just like Mom.”
“Okay, okay.” Nick held his hands up in surrender.
“Did you see Miss Wade? What’s she like? What was she wearing? Are her eyes really that green? I mean, in pictures they look brilliant. Is she as beautiful in real life as in her pictures?”

Friday, November 6, 2015

Can war ever be stopped?



Vivid memories of my youth center on the “cold war.” Friends at school talked about their big brothers building and selling bomb shelters. Parents talked about how to provision a shelter. They discussed, in hushed tones, ways to protect their children or, even more frightening, ways to ensure the family died together.  
Coupled with those memories are the ones from the era of UFO mania. We feared alien invasion, or worse—abduction. We speculated endlessly about where they might take us, what experiments they might perform on us.
Back then I was young and naive and a dreamer. I had a notion that war could be stopped if only Earth were to be attacked by an external force. Russia and the US would surely fight side by side against an invasion and who better to invade than aliens.
It was easy to make the aliens the bad guys, fierce beings that wanted Earth for their own nefarious needs. If only they would attack, we would be one happy world, living peacefully side-by-side—of course that would be after we defeated the invading forces.
Now, much older, and perhaps a bit wiser, I know how futile dreams are and I know that there are no easy solutions, but as I watch the news daily, see the horrors of war and refugees, the brutality of racism, the endless dramas that play out around our planet, the proliferation of weapons and fanatics, I dearly wish that my childhood notion wasn’t so far fetched.
In my Em and Yves series, I wrote the “notion” of my youth. I created a magical solution, one where aliens do indeed come to Earth—not as invaders, but as saviors. They work to “fix” our world for us and among the many things they do, they find a way to stop war.
The big question from all of this, of course is: Can war be stopped? If so, how? Or are humans destined to self-destruct?
What do you think?


Friday, October 30, 2015

Evolution of Pop-up books

Howling winter winds pounding the snow into hard packed drifts. Howling summer winds snatching the precious top soil from the fields. Isolated. Lonely. No electricity. No radio. No television. What was a child to do?

Read. No matter that there were less than half a dozen books in the house. They could always be read and reread.





The fuzzy wuzzy Santa lost much of his fuzz from all the touches. The pop-up book barely escaped tears from all the pulling to see what treasures were in those pictures.



And what did that child do when she was an adult? Bought adult versions of pop-up books of course—the most special being Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series, with their letters to be pulled out, unfolded, read, and tucked back into their envelopes.

And what did that child do when she had children of her own? Bought them books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That mother marveled with her children at the magic of the books with their pullout bits, their wheels to turn, their pages that magically grew as they were opened.




And what did that child do when she had a granddaughter? Bought her books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That grandmother marveled with her munchkin at the magic of the intricate designs.



We’ve come a long way, baby. A long way.

Pictures: 

Santa Claus and the Little Lost Kitten by Louise W. Meyers 1952
Santa's Christmas Party by Helen Sterling 1951
Mother Goose - Hallmark (no date)
School Bugs by David A. Carter 2000


Saturday, October 24, 2015

When the Sun was Mine


When the Sun was Mine

NEW RELEASE – http://ow.ly/Ohut1  limited time introductory offer 0.99
Review comments
“Expertly written, suspenseful, the mystery grips you from the first page.”
“… a surprising, entirely satisfying beginning.”
“… moments of true poetic beauty as a delicate, unusual friendship develops between a young girl (Brit) and an old lady(Flo).”
“I couldn’t put it down and towards the end I was sobbing.  Good thing I wasn’t wearing any make-up.”
“Alzheimer’s is such a fearsome disease, but Jones’ story doesn’t live there.”
“… makes its mark in terms of social commentary on this disease.”
“…when you have people willing to care, even those newly in your life, the most dreadful of situations can still touch your heart and leave you as the reader with possibility rather than loss.”
EXCERPT
iPAD_front
Poor little Miss Wright. Second time she comes into my room and once again she gets the shock of her life. Appreciated her concern for me, but really what could she do? I gave her a little wave as she eyed the two nurses bearing down on me and then slipped out the door behind Matthews.
All I wanted now was a long hot shower and something to eat. I’d missed breakfast of course and there likely wasn’t much left from lunch, but maybe I could scrounge something. I ignored the two nurses who had come in. One took my arm to help me to the bathroom. I shook her off and slammed the door in her face. Not fair to take my anger out on them. They hadn’t strapped me down, but then they hadn’t come to check on me all morning either.
By the time I finished my shower and put on my jeans, M*A*S*H* T-shirt, and thongs, oops, I mean flip-flops, Curly and Mo had remade my bed. The room still stank. I opened the window to let in some air. The incinerator wasn’t spewing forth at the moment so maybe my room would smell decent when I got back. I squirted some Chanel #5 on my neck and wrists and then a couple of sprays around the room. Terrible waste really, but I thought it might help.
I stepped out into the hallway and took a deep breath. Big mistake. The air didn’t smell a hell of a lot better than in my room. The omnipresent hospital odor mixed with the unique scent of old people. Not fair that everything went to pot as we aged. Wrinkles, creaky bones, flaccid muscles, droopy skin, and the sour fragrance of decay.
Just the other day, some little kid was in the visitor lounge with Esther. “Grandma, you smell funny,” he said, when his mother urged him to hug the old lady. Kid refused and kicked up a fuss. Couldn’t really blame him. At least his mother had the smarts to back off.
Yes, we were allowed out of our rooms during the day, the idea being that we could entertain each other and not burden the staff. Heaven forbid they should have to exert themselves for us. I went to the dining room and found a couple of slices of bread to pop in the toaster, and a hard-boiled egg. I poured a glass of watery orange drink made from powder like that horrible Tang stuff they sent us when we were overseas years ago, and smeared my toast with something that was supposed be butter. It tasted okay if you held your nose. Lord knows, I’d eaten a lot worse in my lifetime. Millet laced with grains of sand. I laughed when I remembered seeing the goats foraging in the mortar and pestle that held our food. I brushed toast crumbs off my hands and had to admit I felt better after eating.
I wandered over to the rec room and a sorry excuse it was. A few rickety tables and battered folding metal chairs, which made me think of France with all those sidewalk cafes, the parks, the little wrought iron tables, Michel. Now there was a lover extraordinaire, lived up to the romantic Frenchman reputation; kind and thoughtful and gentle, but a lion in bed. I closed my eyes and lived it again. Ah, those were the days.
Then I made the mistake of opening my eyes. Worn linoleum floors. One tiny window. I didn’t bother looking out. I already knew it was the same dismal view as from my room. Decrepit war-time houses across the street, scrubby grass that passed for lawns, the odd scrawny tree, no flowers to speak of, although one house had a couple of hanging pots that looked pretty, the riot of color a sight for sore eyes. Battered bikes lay scattered in the yards, abandoned haphazardly when the kids got home from school. Wrecks of cars parked in front of some of the houses. Was a wonder any of them still worked, but they did. I’d watched the people from my window when I couldn’t sleep: kids, parents, going about their business, work, school, with a few drug deals thrown in for good measure. Dreary little houses, dreary little lives. Bet all they did was watch the boob tube, guzzle beer, and smoke pot. Bah. Humbug.
We never got to go outside. Never. I’m sure prisoners were better treated. Didn’t they always have an exercise yard or was that just the movie image? A trip to a park or the mall would be nice, or the movies. Not that Hollywood was producing much good stuff these days, but still … just to get out.
Everything about Happy Hearts so conducive to enjoying oneself. I counted five people in the rec room sitting, staring at the floor. A sixth was watching television on mute alternately nodding and shaking her head at the screen.
Old Artie, and I mean old, ninety-nine and still toddling along, spent most of each day sitting at the chessboard. Never had any visitors or anyone to play with. I took pity on him, sat down, and offered to play a match. He proved to be a more challenging opponent than I expected, but I won. Took my mind off the Internet dilemma for a bit. I’d have to lie low for a couple of days, but then what?
I roamed the halls looking for Brittany and found her with a large screwdriver in her hand.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“I couldn’t open your window this morning. It’s stuck.”
Stuck? I burst out laughing. This younger generation never ceased to amaze with their ignorance. The chit had obviously never seen wooden windows before and didn’t know she had to turn the lock thingy at the top of the frame before she could slide the window up.
The girl bristled. “What’s so damn funny?”
“Whoa, did you just use a bad word?”
She blushed. Must have grown up in a staid household, I thought. Much like mine. The words in my head stopped me cold. I squeezed my eyes tight and fought to remember, but nothing came to me. I felt tears forming at the corners of my eyes. To have a glimpse, just one little glimpse of my mother. That’s all I asked. Did I have pictures of her? If so, where were they? Would I recognize her or would someone have to point her out to me? And my dad? What was he like?
That’s the worst thing about this Alzheimer’s business. Thoughts pop in and out of your head until you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. They taunt you with snippets of your life before, but there’s never enough to grasp a whole memory or maybe there is on some days and you just don’t remember.
“Is your window always locked?” Brittany asked.
Her voice jolted me back to the present. “No, why?”
“Not even at night?”
“I like to leave it open all the time for fresh air, if the incinerator’s not rumbling that is.”
“Okay then.”
I watched her amble down the hallway toward the caretaker’s office swinging the screwdriver and humming, “a merry tune to toot, he knows a song will move the job along.” Hated that movie. Maudlin nonsense.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Closed Doors




Before I self-published, I made the mistake of sending query letters to literary agents. I received rejections, some on little scraps of paper, or no response at all. I must have been doing something wrong.

I attended conferences and workshops designed, not only to help me be a better writer, but to help me snag an agent. Write your query letters this way, the presenter (a New York agent) said. Do this and this and this.

Other workshops had a person read the first page of our work while a panel of four agents listened. As soon as one hand went up—sometimes as quickly as after the first sentence was read—the reader stopped and the agents each explained why they would reject the manuscript.

Armed with this information, I tried yet again. I stopped when I learned that at most the agent spent 15 seconds looking at my query letter. I stopped when a keynote speaker at the Willamette conference said, “I’ve pitched my client’s book to 36 publishers. One accepted demanding rewrites. The book will be out next month. It’s taken us a year. Avoid the grief. Publish your book yourself.” I stopped when another agent said, “I’m not representing authors traditionally. I am helping them to self-publish and market.”

If the doors to literary agents are closed, the doors to Hollywood are glued shut. It’s virtually impossible to even find agents’ addresses to send query letters to. And, if you do find one? From Hollywood you don’t get rejections, you get your letters sent back unopened.

I marvel at the attitude that allows only for insider contact. What grand opportunities are the agents and producers missing? Perhaps instead of sequels upon sequels, and copycats upon copycats, Hollywood could be offering fresh new movies and television series if they cracked open those doors.

I’m not hopeful that anything will change soon—or ever. But I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop trying to make contacts. As my mother always said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”


Sunday, October 11, 2015

What does Flo know?



NEW RELEASE - http://ow.ly/Ohut1

When the Sun Was Mine

limited time introductory offer 0.99

Flo:      I was an inmate in this hellhole they charmingly called a nursing home. Then Brit climbed in my window. She was just a kid. How could she possibly help me?

Brit:      I should have been in college, not working in this dump. But then I never would have met Flo. She had Alzheimer’s. They said she never talked, but she talked to me.

Brought together by circumstance, an old lady and a young girl develop an unlikely friendship. Each has a dream they long to fulfill, but first Brit is determined to solve the mystery of Flo.


Best ways to help an author: POST A REVIEW and TELL YOUR FRIENDS

Friday, October 2, 2015

Authors helping authors



“Did you hear?” our school librarian asks? “Glen Huser has a new book out.”

I had heard. I also knew he was coming back to the city for a launch at my favorite bookstore.

“Are you going?” She waved the ad for his reading in front of me. “You’re a friend of his, aren’t you?”

I am and I am. “For sure I’m going.” Not only is Glen a friend of mine, he taught with my mom for many years. She’d be with me at the launch if she were still alive.

The bookstore is crammed with people the day of Glen’s appearance. Many are teachers. It’s like old home week, a chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while, a chance to reminisce about Mom, a chance to chat with Glen.
Um, not much chance of that, I think as I see the crowd swarm around him with cash and credit cards clutched in their fists. 

I don’t like YA books and that’s what Glen writes. As everyone else saunters around with several copies of the book clutched in their arms, I’m guilted into buying one.

After the reading I join those waiting for his autograph. The long line behind me precludes a lengthy chat, but we do manage to exchange a few words.

Glen’s book sits on my shelf for several weeks until guilt again forces me to take it down and read. After all, it’s Glen’s book. The least I can do is give it a try.

“Aren’t you coming to bed?” my husband asks. “It’s after midnight.”

“Yeah, in a minute.” I finish the book that night. I reread it the next day.

I tell everyone I know to buy it. Since then, I’ve read it several more times. My delight in the story and my admiration of Glen’s writing skills grow with each reading. Someday my granddaughter will inherit it. She’ll love it too.

But what my husband, my librarian, and the people at the book signing don’t know is that Glen played an instrumental role in my writing. I happened to mention to him one day that I had been playing with a story in my head for about a year and thought maybe I should try writing it. He listened politely as was his usual manner and said, “Oh well then, you’ve done the hard work of pre-writing. What are you waiting for?”


Thank you, Glen!

Friday, September 25, 2015

What a reader can do



Email from my writing partner:

I had a note from the woman I pitched Embattled to. She said:

I bought your friend’s book, Embattled.  I had to start the book over when I hit page 14.  I was very confused.  Think I am over the hump now…

I wrote back. I said that this was a problem you had tried to deal with right from the beginning but if she could get past the first part she'd enjoy it and that your other books in the series don't have that problem and that I admire your writing. I told her you paint pictures with words.

This was not good, not good at all. I thought I’d solved the problem, but if readers still couldn’t get through the first few pages of Embattled, they’d never finish it, let alone go on to read the rest of the series.

My dilemma now is how to fix it. Do I rewrite the first few chapters? Do I rewrite the whole book? I’m finished the series and my new work in progress is something entirely different. At the moment, my head is not back with Embattled and I don’t know what to do. I can’t see any fix in this.                     

Email from my writing partner:

She wrote back:

Darlene might want to revise her book and add a prologue…

That was my thought when I returned to the beginning.  All confusion could be remedied with a short prologue with the male character and his sister giving a bit of what is going on before you reach that page where it makes sense.  There does not have to be much…She might be losing a lot of readers by not grabbing them at the get go… 

OMG! Why hadn’t I thought of that? This could be a simple solution to what seemed to be a complex problem.

Email to my writing partner:

I'm struggling with a “fix." I’m not keen on a prologue as some readers skip those. And as Robert Sawyer says, “Start where the story starts.” Maybe I could add this as the first scene of chapter one. Trouble is, I'm not quite sure how to do it. 

Here's what I've come up with so far - pathetic attempt, but a start ... maybe. 


Email from my writing partner:

Yes! That works.

Encouraging words, but we’ve both worked on the book for such a long time, I’m not sure we’re seeing this as clearly as we should.

Email to my writing partner:

Do you think the lady who's reading my book would take a look and say if she thought it would help or not? 

Email from my writing partner:

Do you want me to send this to her? I'm sure she'd be thrilled to think you cared about her opinion.

I ask her to please send it. I’m so wrapped up in this now that I don’t just want to know her opinion; I need to know her opinion.

Email from my writing partner:

She says:

That is perfect!  What works is that now you know when Em starts bouncing that it makes sense…  One suggestion:  Change it from Chapter 1 to Prologue.

Hope this helps!

Yes! It helps. Actually, it’s a minor miracle for this author.

Thank you to this reader and all who are so helpful to authors.










Friday, September 18, 2015

EMBRACED - Book 3



Read EMBATTLED and EMPOWERED free! emandyves.com
Now, see what’s happening in book 3 of the series EMBRACED

BLURB Curtis says the clickings in the fillings of my teeth are messages from aliens. He’s 14. What does he know?
The writing paper by my bed is another thing. I didn’t put it there. Curtis says I have to write letters to the editor and ask for things that will make the world a better place. Okay, I’ll humor the kid. Can’t do any harm.
Oh My God! Everything I’ve asked for is coming true. I’m so scared, I can’t breathe. Now what do I do?
Teachers beware for when aliens come calling with their secret codes, mind reading, magic powers, and reincarnation, who knows if gods’ promises can save you?

EXCERPT
“More drawings?” Curtis gestured at the papers she held.
Abby looked down at the pages and willed her hand to stop trembling. The three pages of code drawings seemed to shimmer and shiver with a life of their own. “Yes. Three pages. From Friday, Saturday, and last night. They’re pretty … they’re … pretty well done, I’d say.”
But Curtis was no longer listening.  He waved the papers she’d just handed him and almost shouted with excitement. “These are amazing. Way better than the first drawing you brought us.”
Abby stifled a small grin, but she had to agree. The drawings outclassed her scratches a million times over. “My friend developed instant artistic talent.”
“I’ll say.” Curtis shuffled the pages back and forth. He shook his head slowly and muttered “wow” over and over. Finally he looked up at her. “Miss D, thanks for getting so many. Now we have four to compare. We’ll see if there are any repeated patterns or sequences of symbols. Your friend is great to share these with us.”
“No problem.” Oh God, I’m such a liar. Of course there was a problem, and not just because she was lying to Curtis. My friend. How lame was that? The mere existence of the pages was the real problem. Some nights the clickings chattered incessantly in her fillings, almost driving her crazy. Those were the nights of very little sleep. The weekend had been eerily silent. That was a new phenomenon since Friday, no clickings, instead Coder Guy had begun leaving the pages filled with drawings. Either way—no escaping the code.
A while back, she’d grown tired of sharpening the pencil she used each night and replaced it with a pen, which was now almost out of ink. She’d have to remember to get out a new one tonight. Or maybe not? What would happen if there was no writing utensil?
“What’s so funny?” Curtis asked. Abby hadn’t realized she’d laughed out loud. The lack of pen wouldn’t stop her night visitor. She stifled another burst of laughter she knew bordered on hysteria. Truth was, much as the pages of code scared her, she’d be devastated if no more came. The person—being, alien, Coder Guy—was an integral part of her life now; his existence had established a rhythm that kept her balanced. Or so she thought. Maybe she was completely off her rocker.
Whatever the case, she didn’t want to lose that contact. Coder Guy’s presence warmed her, kept her from feeling alone and lonely. Oh, man, I am losing it here. Really losing it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

EMPOWERED - FREE when you subscribe



Double your reading pleasure with books 1 and 2 of the Em and Yves series.   
EMBATTLED FREE emandyves.com 
BLURB My face is on every television, in every newspaper. They say I’m saving the world. I know better. I’m a school principal not a superhero.
Of course that doesn’t explain the blood on my hands. Or the strange languages coming out of my mouth. Or the feel of swinging a machete. Or the sensation of lifting off the ground before I lose all memory.
Someone or something has hijacked my life. How do I get it back?
Alien contact leads to adventure and love as the characters involve themselves in world affairs in this science fiction novel series. But are humans given second chances after our superhero fights war or will the gods decide our fate?
Subscribe and get book 2 EMPOWERED FREE   emandyves.com
BLURB I do what I do to make the world a better place because of these visions I had when I was a kid. I’m sort of invincible too. Crazy, huh? And I’ve found my promised soulmate. Victor doesn’t believe he’s the one. Not yet, anyway.
Damn, damn, damn. I’ve been kidnapped. Victor will find me. He has to. Doesn’t he? The visions can’t be wrong.
With her bodyguards in the hospital it’s up to her watcher, the ex-cons, her dad, and friends to save her. Will they and her soulmate come to the rescue in time or will her delusions be her ruin?
EMPOWERED EXCERPT
“Okay, Unc, I’m dying of curiosity. What do you need?”
“Anything and everything you can find on Brian Berdin.” Maria’s eyebrows rose.
The Mr. Berdin!”
“Yes.”
“Jeez, what’d he do? Rob a bank or something?”
“Nothing like that.” Nick grinned. “If I tell you why, can you keep it a secret?”
“From Mom and Grandma too?” Nick nodded. He could see the wheels turning. Maria loved subterfuge and wanted to be a police detective like him. He was confident she would keep his secret when many adults wouldn’t.
“He offered me a job.”
“What?” she squealed and then clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry Unc. I better be quiet or the boys will be in here and you know how they blab everything.”
“The chief recommended me for the job and I met with Mr. Berdin yesterday morning.”
“Were you nervous?” Maria asked. “I mean it being Mr. Berdin and all.”
“Yeah,” Nick admitted. “Who the hell wouldn’t be, Kiddo?”
“So when do you start?”
“I’m going to say no.”
“But, a chance to work for Berdin? Are you sure you want to give that up? I know you love being a cop but jeez, couldn’t you take a leave from work or something and try it anyway?”
“It’s tempting but, no.”
“But …” Maria stopped when Nick frowned at her. “Okay, okay, but if you’re not going to take the job, why do you want the info?”
“He made me an offer and I feel that I have to at least do the research to be fair before I give him my answer.” Maria nodded agreement. Nick knew that would make sense to her moral code too. What he didn’t tell her was just how tempting the offer was. He could buy a place for his mother, send her on a holiday to visit family in Italy, and ease the financial strain for Angie, Maria, and the boys. God, to do all that; to have real cash flow, no money worries. Much to his chagrin, he hadn’t been able to put the financial side of it out of his mind. “Also, see what, if anything, you can find on Jasmine Wade.”
“His sleepover?”
“Maria!”
“Give it up Unc. I know all about that stuff.”
“You kids grow up too fast,” he muttered as he studied the little girl become woman. How had that happened? Just yesterday she was a miniature of her mother.
Maria groaned. “I’m almost fifteen for heaven’s sake, not a baby. You sound just like Mom.”
“Okay, okay.” Nick held his hands up in surrender.
“Did you see Miss Wade? What’s she like? What was she wearing? Are her eyes really that green? I mean, in pictures they look brilliant. Is she as beautiful in real life as in her pictures?”

Friday, September 4, 2015

What a reader can do



Email from my writing partner:

I had a note from the woman I pitched Embattled to. She said:

I bought your friend’s book, Embattled.  I had to start the book over when I hit page 14.  I was very confused.  Think I am over the hump now…

I wrote back. I said that this was a problem you had tried to deal with right from the beginning but if she could get past the first part she'd enjoy it and that your other books in the series don't have that problem and that I admire your writing. I told her you paint pictures with words.

This was not good, not good at all. I thought I’d solved the problem, but if readers still couldn’t get through the first few pages of Embattled, they’d never finish it, let alone go on to read the rest of the series.

My dilemma now is how to fix it. Do I rewrite the first few chapters? Do I rewrite the whole book? I’m finished the series and my new work in progress is something entirely different. At the moment, my head is not back with Embattled and I don’t know what to do. I can’t see any fix in this.                     

Email from my writing partner:

She wrote back:

Darlene might want to revise her book and add a prologue…

That was my thought when I returned to the beginning.  All confusion could be remedied with a short prologue with the male character and his sister giving a bit of what is going on before you reach that page where it makes sense.  There does not have to be much…She might be losing a lot of readers by not grabbing them at the get go… 

OMG! Why hadn’t I thought of that? This could be a simple solution to what seemed to be a complex problem.

Email to my writing partner:

I'm struggling with a “fix." I’m not keen on a prologue as some readers skip those. And as Robert Sawyer says, “Start where the story starts.” Maybe I could add this as the first scene of chapter one. Trouble is, I'm not quite sure how to do it. 

Here's what I've come up with so far - pathetic attempt, but a start ... maybe. 


Email from my writing partner:

Yes! That works.

Encouraging words, but we’ve both worked on the book for such a long time, I’m not sure we’re seeing this as clearly as we should.

Email to my writing partner:

Do you think the lady who's reading my book would take a look and say if she thought it would help or not? 

Email from my writing partner:

Do you want me to send this to her? I'm sure she'd be thrilled to think you cared about her opinion.

I ask her to please send it. I’m so wrapped up in this now that I don’t just want to know her opinion; I need to know her opinion.

Email from my writing partner:

She says:

That is perfect!  What works is that now you know when Em starts bouncing that it makes sense…  One suggestion:  Change it from Chapter 1 to Prologue.

Hope this helps!

Yes! It helps. Actually, it’s a minor miracle for this author.

Thank you to this reader and all who are so helpful to authors.









Friday, August 28, 2015

Memory beats reality



Perusing the book shelves in the hotel lobby, I snatched up a favorite I had read many years ago. This will be a delightful reread, I thought, with visions of snuggling under a warm blanket on the sofa and reading to the wee hours of the morning. I’d pretend I’d time traveled to my youth, but now I wouldn’t need to hide under the covers with a flashlight lest Mom notice and take the book away.

Alas, it was not to be. What I remembered as a delightful romantic romp was in fact a rather poorly written story “telling” rather than “showing.” I stopped reading before I got to the end of the first chapter preferring to live with the warm fun memories of the book than the reality that I faced now.

The disappointment with the book got me thinking. How many of our past experiences are better not relived?

For one, a visit back to my childhood home—shattering.  Our house and farmyard, diminished by adult eyes brought me to tears. Where was the enormous barn? It couldn’t be that little lopsided building over there could it? The house was worse—a tiny low ceiling three room structure rotting from disuse, the pattern on the wallpaper I so loved as a child faded to mere shadows.

Travelling is another. My first return trip to Mali was a delight. Three years after coming back to Canada, I revisited the house where I had lived, spent time with the students at the school where I had taught, browsed in the market, lunched with the nuns … All was well.

Another trip to Mali twenty years later brought heartache. Inundated with refugees from the drought, the city was unrecognizable. Wide boulevards now populated with rude shelters, reduced to narrow paths. The broad steps to the post office, now crowded with make-shift dwellings, had to be pointed out to me. And most of the people I had known were nowhere to be found.

Now, when I think of Mali and Bamako, my memories are tarnished by that later visit. I push them to the back of my mind and linger over the cherished ones from my years living there.

Visiting my school after retirement was another mistake. The start of a new year carries its own excitement unique to the people involved. I was no longer a player, and while I was welcomed warmly and showered with good wishes, all I felt after the visit was deep depression.

I’ve never been attracted to the idea of reunions and have never attended one. I think, now, that my instinctive rejection of reunions stems from this subconscious knowledge that memories are best left as they are—to be savored, and, over the years, to develop a hazy halo that we can bask in to our heart’s content.



Friday, August 21, 2015

WATER





I stood under the shower for much longer than I needed to this morning. I should know better.

I’ve lived in Mali where we dared not touch the water from the river for fear of disease, where children sold this same water tied in little scraps of plastic to bus passengers, where plants and people withered and died during the dry season.

I’ve traveled from Edmonton to Tombouctou via Toronto, New York, Casablanca and Bamako.  The most expensive stop? Tombouctou—and that was for the bottled water which cost more than the night’s stay in the hotel in New York.

On safari in Kenya we stayed in a tent camp. Water for the shower was heated in bags and hung outside the tents. My roommate and I showered M*A*S*H fashion. Turn the water on. Get wet. Turn the water off. Soap and shampoo. Turn the water on. Rinse. Turn the water off.

I’ve seen the scant water holes in the Serengeti. I’ve seen the murky water coming out of the taps in Mexico – the water that leaves your skin feeling dirtier after your shower than before you got in. I’ve seen the sharp demarcation between lush green and arid desert in the Nile valley.

Here in North America, we take water for granted, waste water shamefully. Not just any water, but clean water, drinkable from the tap water.

How lucky we are to have such luxury