I keep forgetting to do this…

Well, I may or may not have come up with what I want to say in the book trailer, but for now I think I’ll be Scarlet O’Hara and think more about it tomorrow.  Until then, I’ve decided to take my mind off it, relax, listen to some soft music, and read for awhile.

And that reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to post here for weeks.

I don’t know about other writers, but I often listen to music to help get me in the right frame of mind.  For writing certain scenes, to help me get into the heads of some of the characters, or to set a mood I might be having trouble with.  I also use it to help me relax when things aren’t going smoothly…and I’m about to chuck the whole story.

One invaluable tool for this is http://www.playlist.com.  You can create a free account and then start creating play lists and filling them with just about songs you can think of.  I often Google specific eras to find what I need, or just to jog my memory about favorite songs from any given year.

If I’m not mistaken, I have fifteen different play lists at the moment.  Upbeat, 70’s, country, 1920/30s and a lot more.  One in particular makes me laugh.  I called it ‘Pretty Stuff,’ and it has music like Pachabel’s Canon in D, Music Box Dancer, and lots of soft love songs.  And right in the middle of them all, for some reason, I included Lido Shuffle and Puttin’ On The Ritz.  Don’t ask me why.  I have no clue.  But there they are, and there they’ll stay.

At some point I suppose I’m going to have to take the time to make more specific groups of music, but I manage to keep putting it off because it just isn’t a priority right now.

However, it’s well worth the time to create your lists, and do searches for the music you love to listen to.  It does help for writing.  But it’s also pretty handy to open an upbeat list and crank up REO Speedwagon and The Bee Gees while doing your housework.

If you want some examples of the wide range of music available, check out the site and look me up (Kristy424).  Yeah, I admit it…I like a variety.

And now it’s time to open that book and ignore the other things I should be doing right now.  🙂

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Update on my picture taking trip

I wound up traveling to two different cities, about an hour apart, and spending quite some time walking around a beautiful garden, and through the oldest part of a well maintained, lovely cemetery.  In between I managed to locate a house that is similar to the one in my book, and a couple of really pretty fountains.

In all, I have seventy-nine photos to choose from for my book trailer.

The only thing I didn’t get was a few shots of a swamp, but after nearly seven hours of traveling, searching and walking around, I was ready to call it a day.  I’ll have to drive over there tomorrow though, because I really think I need one.

All I have to say is that it was a lot of fun.  And I may wind up taking up photography as a new hobby.  Two shots really convinced me that this is something I would enjoy immensely.

The first was an uneven set of rough stone steps on a path in the woods.  It was so cool trying to set up the perfect angle to get exactly what I wanted.  The second, and probably something I won’t be using in the trailer, was just too good to not get.  A spiderweb in a tree.  There were droplets of water all over it, and I loved it!  There were also a couple of small, dried leaves that I didn’t love quite so much, but it’s one thing to take a picture of a spiderweb.  It’s quite another to put my fingers close enough to it to remove anything from it, and so they stayed exactly where they were.  No, I’m not particularly fond of spiders.

The most amazing thing about the day, though, doesn’t have anything to do with the photographs.  While I’m a little tired, I’m still awake, still thinking clearly, and still feeling pretty darned good.

Why is that the best part?

Because it wasn’t that long ago that even a quick trip to the first city would have ruined me for the rest of the day.  I expect that today’s outcome is due to a combination of having my hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated, going gluten-free, and spending so much time on my pool workouts.

Whatever the cause, almost three years after the accident that felt like it ruined my life, I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Yeah, there’s still room for improvement.  But life is finally getting back to normal!

Now if I can just manage to avoid a nervous breakdown as I begin work on the trailer…

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Today is the day

Yup.  I’ll be leaving in a bit to travel around my area of the great state of Michigan in search of pretty scenery for my book trailer.  I will.  Really.  I mean it.  Sometime very soon.  Before noon.  Maybe.

For whatever reason, I was a lot more motivated and energetic yesterday on four hours sleep than I am today on almost seven.  Although, to be perfectly honest, I think the procrastination has more to do with fear.

Why am I even considering making a book trailer?!

A fellow writer wrote a blog this morning that really resonated with me.  The subject was about the voices in our heads and the things they tell us.  Negative, self-defeating thoughts that can prevent you from taking any kind of action.

Her solution to those voices?  Tell them to shut up.

Hmm.  That could work.  Actually I know that it does, because I’ve told the voices in my head to shut up on a very regular basis, and not just in reference to my writing.  Do they always shut them up?  Oftentimes, yes.

There have been times, though, that I let them defeat me.  And other times when I’ve just had to do my best to ignore them and do whatever it was they were trying to discourage me from.

This may be a case where I just have to apply the ignore principle.  Because they’re not shutting up.  No, they’re reminding me that I can barely even open Windows Movie Maker, let alone put compelling captions on the pictures I intend to take today.  Pictures that will then have to be uploaded into the movie maker, along with the appropriate music.

But even though those voices are loud, and persistent, there’s another in there, too.  It’s very faint.  In fact, it’s barely discernible.  Still, it whispers softly that I have to take a chance.  Perhaps my efforts will result in a dismal failure.  Or maybe, just maybe, I might surprise myself.

I think I’m going to agree with that voice.  Yes, I might fail.  But then again, maybe I won’t.  So I think I’m going to grab my camera, get in the car and ‘just do it.’ (thank you, Nike, for such a catchy phrase, and one that’s stuck in my head for the past twenty years or so).

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Helpful Tips For Getting Published On Smashwords

Smashwords Logo

Okay…  So I really like the mug being given away in the current Smashwords blogging contest, and I’m going to try my very best to win one.

How did I publish Reluctant Guardian, A Fine Mess, and The Stranger In My Head on Smashwords?

I’d like to tell you that it was this long, complicated process that took me weeks to figure out.  That I was popping Advil like M & M’s because Mark Coker went out of his way to make the whole publishing process  as difficult as he possibly could.

But I can’t say either one of those things.  Why?  Because using the Meatgrinder couldn’t have been easier.  In fact, it only took minutes (single digit minutes) for each book, and voilà, they were done!

However…

Getting the books ready for the Meatgrinder?  Not quite so easy.

Not that it was all that hard, just very time consuming.  I come from a generation of students who were taught to double space between sentences.  Let me tell you, it’s not an easy habit to break.  But I was advised to change it to single spacing, and so change it I would.  Hmm.  Know what?  Converting a 72,000+ word book took quite awhile.

But wait!

Before you even think of going there, I have an especially great piece of advice.  First choose the nuclear method of getting your book ready.  The process is explained in detail in Mark’s free ebook, Smashwords Style Guide ( http://bit.ly/qsfKKF ).  In a nutshell, copy your book to Notepad.  It removes any formatting that might give the Meatgrinder problems, and will save you lots of headaches in the long run.

Once you’ve done that, copy the Notepad version back into a new file in your writing program.  I labeled mine ‘Title of the book-Smashwords edition.’

Now look for a fancy backwards ‘P’ located somewhere in your options at the top of your file, and click it.  Don’t panic when you see hundreds of the ‘P’s’ scattered throughout your manuscript.  It’s just pointing out where your paragraphs (or dialog) end.  If there are any dots between the period and the P, backspace to remove them.  And make sure there are no P’s between paragraphs, if you’re leaving a space between them.

Next you need to look to see if there are double dots between sentences.  If there are two, that means you’ve double spaced after each period.  In that case, use your backspace key and remove one.  After each period in your story.

Those are my best tips for publishing on Smashwords.  Like I said, it isn’t hard, it’s just time consuming…and really quite boring.  I suggest putting on some upbeat music and just resigning yourself to getting it done.  Although you might want to limit yourself to thirty minutes at a time so you don’t wind up cross-eyed.

But I can guarantee that if you take the time to do these three things, the effort will make your experience with the Meatgrinder will be relatively painless.

Just check out my author page at http://bit.ly/pVZqCC to see how easy it was.  Believe me when I say that as far as technology goes, it doesn’t come easy to me.  But this?  This was a piece of cake!

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An Exciting Evening!

I really should be getting myself to bed.  Actually I should have done it an hour or so ago, but here I sit, procrastinating again.  Well, it’s not really procrastination; it’s more that with the schedule I’ve been keeping, my brain just isn’t ready to give it up for the night.  Not yet.

And I know I’m going to regret it in the morning when the alarm starts blaring at five-thirty, but I need to keep the car so I can keep an appointment with my eye doctor.  The doctor who will, hopefully, release me to drive after more than two years.  At the appointment I intend to drive to tomorrow.

Yeah.  Okay.  So I’ve been cheating.  Sort of.  Technically I was released from vision therapy sixteen months ago.  And even more technically, I was supposed to start some driving ‘lessons’ with an instructor who specializes in head injuries nineteen months ago (to make sure my depth perception was back to normal), until the insurance company decided I was fine and canceled them.

So anyway, since I couldn’t get an appointment until August, I decided I was going to try driving a little when I got the pool membership in June.  It’s only a mile from my house and I knew my depth perception was fine again.  And I was right.  Two and a half months with no problems, except being nervous after having been chauffeured everywhere for so long.  After a couple of weeks, I even started driving to the grocery store and a few dental appointments.

Now I just need the official release so I don’t have to feel guilty anymore.

However…

That’s not really why I wanted to write a blog before I head into bed (so I can toss and turn for the next three hours).  Nope, I have an even better reason.

I have tried, off and on, for a few years now to locate the student teacher from my ninth grade creative writing class.  I remembered her name, her husband’s name and very little other information to help me find her.

But one night, not too long ago, I was extremely bored…and even more determined, so I did a Facebook search.  And I found her name all right.  Lots of them.  So many, in fact, that I’m surprised my chin didn’t hit the keyboard.  My determination didn’t waver though, and I started checking out every single profile, until I found one that looked promising.

And I sent her a quick, poorly worded, straight to the point Facebook message.  What can I say, it was late and as is usually the case at that hour of the morning, my brain was begging me to let it sleep.

Are you wondering what happened?

I heard back from her tonight…and she is the same student teacher I’ve been looking for so long!  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was.  Kind of like my daughter was the day she got to meet Bucky Covington, privately, because she was too young to get into the saloon he was performing at.

After all this time I still consider this woman to be my mentor because, but for her, I might never have had the courage to write that first, embarrassingly immature book.  While I can’t recall the exact words, every time I begin a new book, I remember her encouragement after reading my earliest efforts at writing.  And I have always, always wanted to find a way to thank her.

And now I have the opportunity to do exactly that…and to get to know her all over again.

So, Linda Marks…from the bottom of my heart thank you!  Because of you, I have spent countless hours doing one of the things I love the most in the world.

And now I’m going to make my way into my hopefully chilly bedroom, where I might get some relief from the mosquitoes (which, incidentally, I still hate with a passion!).  Maybe I’ll even manage to get a little sleep….  🙂

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Well, I finally did it…

A couple of Christmases ago I decided I needed to find a new hair stylist.  Bad timing, I know, but I have a lot of hair.  It’s not just long, it’s really thick.  And if I don’t put some effort into it, I can have a sort of Bozo thing going on.  So with my family holiday party looming, I decided it was time to tame things down just a bit.

‘Just a bit’ translated into more hair on the floor than was left on my head though, and I cried off and on for days…but only when trying to learn to use a flat iron.  Because let me tell you, thick hair without any weight to help pull it down gives new meaning to ‘bad hair day.’

It took me about a year and a half before I worked up the courage to go back.  I liked the stylist and thought maybe if I explained what it was that I wanted a little more clearly, I might have better luck.

Well…

She remembered my phone call after the first disaster, thanking her for ruining my Christmas (she had caller I.D., darn it!).

But we got past it (I thought), and I sat down in the chair for the second time.  She starts running her fingers through my hair, lifting it up and sighing.  Then she said, ‘You really have the hair thing going on, don’t you?  If I were you, I’d chop it all off.”

Oh hey.  You know I just don’t see that happening because I actually like having long hair.  So what happened?  She barely trimmed it.  Badly.  Maybe I deserved it for that phone call, but I was justifiably upset.  And it’s not like I cussed her out or anything.

Regardless, I still had the sort of Bozo thing going on and knew I had to do something about it.  As I lamented about my head full of frizz one day, my daughter reminded me that there’s a new place in town we should check out.

After some thought, a lot of thought, I stopped by one day a few weeks ago.  And I basically interviewed her.  I see that she has short hair, is she okay with cutting long hair?  Explaining what happened the last two times, and exactly what I wanted, she assured me that she had no problem with it.

So it was back home to think about it.  For about three more weeks.

I finally went in to get the cut today.  And I love it!  At least I did when I left the shop.  She not only kept the length, she also managed to get the layers in…and thin it out quite a bit in the process!  Of course she used a couple of hair products, a hair dryer, and a flat iron, too.

Only I’m kind of a wash and wear girl.  I want it look nice without a lot of hassle.  So I just washed it and we’ll see if I still love it when it dries.  Without any help, without any gels or mousse or spray.  It’s only partially dry at the moment, but it’s looking promising.

Guess I have a new stylist. 

Even my daughter is impressed-and not only because she finally got the cut she wanted.  The woman just happens to be friends with someone who went to school with Taylor Lautner.  Even though she’s Switzerland, she still likes Taylor and she thought that was very cool.  I, however, am Team Jacob all the way.  But if this woman wasn’t a good stylist, the fact that she knows someone who knows Taylor Lautner wouldn’t keep me going back.  🙂

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Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

I wish I were a bit more awake right now, but I’m not and there’s not much I can do about it tonight.  However, I wanted to write one more quick blog about an exciting event I’ve signed up for.  It’s called the Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign.

While I admit I’m going to have to read everything again tomorrow, after I’ve had some sleep (and most importantly, after my Melatonin has worn off!), I’m very excited about the opportunity to get to know other writers and bloggers.  The challenges and groups sound like they will be a lot of fun, too.

I encourage anyone who reads my blog, who is also a blogger or author, to check it out Just go to http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html and sign up.  I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to learning all I can, and meeting new people!

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Help!

I know I’ve mentioned that I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism this past spring, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I tend to have some less than normal symptoms.  It’s not surprising given the fact that my body doesn’t always respond to ‘normal’ things in the way it should respond.

For example, the fact that I wound up needing seven shots at the dentist’s office before she could pull my tooth, the final one being the most painful of all.  Or the fact that I was ‘pulling my feet out of the strap’ during my last C-section because the epidural didn’t work as well as the anesthesiologist thought it had.

Well, turns out I have to be just a bit different with the hypothyroidism, too.  While most people afflicted with this peachy little problem find that they’re almost always cold, I am not.  In the winter I sometimes have trouble with the cold, but mostly I just plain and simply too warm.  Of course that’s not a ‘normal’ symptom, though a minority of people are also affected this way.  I’m not alone!

Apparently the medication I’m taking for it affects me in mysterious ways as well.

I was started out on the smallest dose of Synthroid there is.  I’m actually okay with that since I’ve never been much into taking medications of any sort.  And the small dose was working.  It brought my TSH levels down slightly.  Not enough, though, so the doctor doubled it about three weeks ago.

On one hand, I’m kind of feeling better.  On another, I think I’m sleeping more hours sometimes.  And on yet another, most days I’m more tired than I’ve ever been.  Yes, I know that’s three hands…  Really, I only have two.

You’re not supposed to be more tired with treatment, but there it is.  Along with another handful of people (probably the same ones that are too warm instead of too cold), I find myself feeling like I’m in the Arizona room at the gym.

Anyway…

My reason for explaining all of this?  Because I’ve been slacking off my blogging.  It’s tough to be creative when you start yawning the second you crawl out of bed.  I will be making a better effort to combat the fatigue with B-12, coconut oil and mega doses of vitamin C.

Hopefully my body will adjust to the higher dose of Synthroid and, before you know it, I’ll be back to blogging regularly.  🙂

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What a weekend!

Tomorrow will be two full weeks since I started eating gluten-free.  And while it’s not the easiest thing in the world, it’s also not the hardest either.  In fact, I haven’t had many problems at all.  There are still many foods I love that are allowed.

My solution for fast food?  A baked potato from Wendy’s and two Whopper patties that I bring home and eat like a real meal.   A chocolate craving gets a little too strong to ignore?  Butterfinger candy bars are allowed (yay!).  In need of comfort food?  Tinkyada pasta to the rescue.  Can’t tell the difference between ‘real’ macaroni and cheese and the gluten-free version I made last week.

The only thing that’s caused me any concern at all is this weekend.  Yesterday was the annual pig roast my brother’s host every year.  All the guests bring a dish to pass, and they provide…obviously…the meat.

I’ve always brought mashed potatoes and gravy, which meant peeling enough spuds to feed a small army, and cooking a pork roast for the broth.  I’d add a couple of packages of pork gravy mix, and the results have been very tasty.  Except this year I had to make a small batch just for me because the dry mix contains wheat.

I was also worried because I knew some of my favorite foods would be sitting on the buffet tables.  Favorites I can no longer eat.  Would I be strong enough to do the right thing?  Absolutely.  The only thing I did wrong was to assume the chocolate covered Rice Krispies treats were safe.  I mean rice?  It sounded safe enough.  But having three of the little squares likely explains the almost overwhelming fatigue I’ve had to deal with today.

And that does lead us to today…my family reunion.

If I thought the pig roast was going to be challenging, it doesn’t hold a candle to the reunion.  None of my mother’s scalloped potatoes or apple pie?  Goodbye to the cheesy potatoes with the crunchy topping, a specialty of one aunt.  And another aunt’s rice/chicken/broccoli/cheese casserole…no more (because it contains a cream soup with…you guessed it…a wheat product).

But surprisingly enough, I didn’t have a problem not eating all those foods.   Yeah, I was a little bummed out about it, but it was a very fleeting feeling.  Instead, I decided I was just going to have to find a way to alter the recipes so I can still enjoy them.  Just probably not at the same picnic or pig roast, because in order for me to eat all of those dishes, I’d have to make all of the dishes.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t make them all, one at a time, to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.

So all in all, I’m very pleased with the way the weekend food orgy went.  I did eat the one gluten containing food, but that is because I assumed it was a safe food (and to be honest, I’m not really sorry because it was still really good!).  It gives me hope that I will survive the coming holiday season without feel completely deprived.

For now, though, I think I’m going to have to find a recipe for that chocolate covered crispy rice treat that’s safe for me to eat.  On the other hand, I’m the only one in the house that has to do gluten-free thing, which means they’d all be mine.

Hmm.  Might not be the best idea I’ve ever had, even though my taste buds are thinking it is.

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Rules are made to be broken

I just finished reading a review on a book that, unfortunately, I have no interest in reading.  What caught my attention was that the reviewer suggested that the author fix a couple of problems that editors might have a problem with…twice.  And that really rankles.

Don’t get me wrong, I think editors are a good and necessary evil when it comes to turning out a good product.  But they’re also one of the things about traditional publishing that I find offensive.

There are so many rules that authors must abide by, if they hope to be picked up by a publishing company.  Word count, a particular number of conflicts, a certain formula, format, font, margin setting… And if the author doesn’t comply during rewrites, if they’re even given a chance to do rewrites, they can kiss any sort of contract goodbye.

By today’s standards, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) and The Time Machine (H.G. Wells) would be too short for most publishers, who seem to want books that average 50,000-75,000 words.  And Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) would be edited from 423,575 words to a shadow of the timeless classic it has become.  Or, at the very least, broken up into a series of several books instead of one giant one.  Of course then I suppose the movie would have been treated the same, with parts 1, 2, 3….

These authors told the stories they wanted to tell.  And while I’m sure their publishers had some guidelines, I can’t imagine that they were as stringent as what ‘modern’ authors have to deal with.  I mean, really, can you imagine any publisher having the guts to tell Mark Twain that his books were too short?

What if ABCDEFG Publishing has a requirement of 50-55,000 words, but I managed to tell my story, and to tell it well, in 48,000?  Would I have to add a chapter’s worth of unnecessary prose in order to meet their exacting standards?

Or what if it took 61,500 words to tell the story that needed to be told?  Obviously I would have to do some serious editing to par the book down, possibly requiring the need to eliminate something I felt was necessary to the quality of the story.

And that’s why I’m falling in love with self-publishing.  Right or wrong, in a publisher’s or editor’s eyes, I can tell the story.  I don’t have to conform to a cookie-cutter formula.  So what if my word count is off by a few thousand, one way or the other?  As long as I start at the beginning and arrive at the end, as long as it’s a good and entertaining story, who cares how many words are living between the covers?

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