Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Know I Live in the Country, but This is Ridiculous

"Accident is the name of the greatest of all inventors." ~Mark Twain

I'm a country girl by location, if not by heart. I grew up in a very small, rural town, spent a few years living in various cities during school, and now also live in a small, rural town, though this county is actually the fastest-growing in NY. While there's still lots of farmland and open countryside, we also have a few larger towns and small cities scattered around.

Since I live on 10 acres on the side of a Catskill mountain ridge, though, I'm used to seeing deer in my front yard, groundhogs under my porch, rabbits and squirrels amid the birds, and the occasional flock of turkeys parading across my driveway. Fine.

I am not, however, used to giant turkey vultures dive-bombing my car.

Yesterday morning, I dropped hubby off at work (we work for the same school, though 2 locations about 3 miles apart), where he picked up his car and went to grab something for breakfast. I was heading across town when all of a sudden this giant black shadow appears over my windshield. Then there is an enormous thud.

And then everything slows down as I try to process what just happened. This is my brain, in the span of about 5 seconds:

What the he** was that? Did I just - did I hit something?

Wait...the windshield is completely shattered.

Was that a - deer? But it fell onto my car. Some kind of bird?

Holy crap, did I just hit a person???

(Oh, and I should mention that of course this is hubby's BRAND NEW car that he's had for 3 months, that I was driving because my own needs an inspection sticker.)

So I pulled over and called 911. I would love to hear that recording again:

Me: "Um, yeah, I'm on ________ and I'm not really sure what just happened? I think I may have hit an animal?

911: "Do you see an animal anywhere around?"

Me: "Well, no, but, my windshield is shattered and..."

911: "Is there glass inside the car?"

Me: (Looking down at my lap for the first time) "Um, yes. (covering my lap and on the passenger seat. When did that happen?)

911: "Are you injured?"

Me: (Looking into the rear view mirror just to be sure) "No. I'm fine."

911: "Okay, I'm sending someone right now. Just stay right there."

Like I'm going somewhere?

The cop arrived about 5 minutes later, and I swear he was 12. Okay, maybe 16. What's the minimum age for the police academy these days?

Cop: "Ah, hello, there, miss."

Me: (so grateful he didn't call me ma'am) "Hi. I think I hit an animal."

Cop: "Yup, that's a deer strike."

Me: "Are you sure? Because it felt like a huge bird."

Cop: (leaning over the windshield and picking something out of the glass) "Oh yeah - look at that! Those are feathers."

So he goes up the road to check it out, and meanwhile hubby has come to my rescue. I will tell you that I am very proud: I never cried. I was shaken up, but I was quite pleased with whatever part of me was able to rationally make the phone calls I needed to and proceed on to school a few minutes later.

Cop comes back a few minutes later. "Looks like you hit a turkey buzzard. It's flat now." Chuckles.

Well, I am an animal lover, and I did say a little "I'm sorry...go to the Rainbow Bridge" to the bird, but I've gotta say, I wasn't overly sad about killing it. It clearly dove directly into my windshield.

To wrap up this saga, hubby and I switched cars, and the windshield was fixed by yesterday afternoon. Insurance is an amazing thing, in this case; New York has full glass coverage, so it didn't cost a thing.

I really am fine, though I do realize I'm fortunate that I wasn't hurt. And on the bright side, I figure it was good research, should I decide to write a car accident scene in an upcoming story. I'll post a picture or two of the damage, when I find where hubby put the digital camera. You've gotta see it - as windshield breaks go, it's a pretty glorious one. was your Friday?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Promo $$ and Eyes Crossing in Despair

I'm dashing out the door (late) this morning, and that darn chef over at Friday's Feast decided to take the morning off, so I don't even have a clever meme to fall back on for today.

I will say that I've been getting serious about my upcoming promotions, since Release Day is less than 2 months away, and this weekend I'll be putting together my next major efforts at promotion: 2 formal ads for One Night in Boston and Lost in Paradise. This will be the first major thing(s) I've spent $$ on, outside of excerpt booklets and smaller giveaways. It's amazing how much you can spend on advertising. I know I've talked about it before, but I've watched so many authors over the last year or so, trying to figure out what REALLY seems to work to improve name recognition and drive sales. With these print releases of my book, I plan to try my best to track when ads release and how my sales do in comparison. Otherwise it's just like opening my front door and tossing a fistful of cash into the wind.

I do believe, however, that consistently writing good books is the #1 advertising an author can do for herself, which is why I also need to sit down this weekend and make 2 plans: one for finishing the draft of One Night in Napa (yes, progress has slowed down a bit) and one for fine-tuning Summer's Song and getting it out to agents and editors.

First, though, I'm off to get together my Romantic Times ad (they say this is the mother of promo places for romance writers, so we'll see) and my Romance Sells ad (this one goes to librarians and booksellers across the country).

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Felt a Little Like Socrates

"Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued." ~Socrates

Okay, to fully understand my absolute pleasure at what happened yesterday, you first must know how incredibly LONG winter has been here in the Northeast US. Not only did we get socked with snow/sleet/ice multiple times, so that we had 6-foot drifts along our driveway for months, even when the snow melted, around March, the weather never warmed up. Until this week, it was down around 15-20 degrees every night. And gray. So gray. Never any sun.

So finally, FINALLY, yesterday, we had a day that felt like spring was really here. The sun came out, and it was up in the 60s.

And my students asked if we could have class outside.

"Are you kidding?" I said. "I'll be the first one out the door."

So with the usual caveats of If you don't behave and stay focused, we're coming right back inside, and this will never happen again, we headed out to the park next door.

And for an hour, we sat in a circle in the sunshine and read poetry together. I have to say, it was a near-perfect day. There was something so organic, so very cool, about engaging 20 teenagers in conversation about language with the trees around us and the sun on our backs.

Of course, tomorrow they'll probably cry about the workload, or beg for a grade change, or I'll get called into the principal's office for taking them off school grounds without prior permission.

But I don't care. For a day, anyway, it was what being a teacher is all about. It's true: I felt a little like Socrates, surrounded by pupils engaged in earnest discussion. Except, you know, not nearly as brilliant. But otherwise...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Colin Harvey

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today's interview is with author Colin Harvey. Enjoy!

Hi, Colin! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I’m 47, married to Kate for almost 20 years; no kids but two spaniels. I worked for Unilever for over twenty years before being made redundant last August. Since then I’ve been freelancing.

We're glad you're here today. Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

I have two!

The Silk Palace is an epic fantasy which has gone top five on the fictionwise (electronic) chart even outselling JK Rowling and Terry Pratchett for a week! The print copy has been selling well, as well, partly because the Library Journal said of it: “Harvey brings to life a compelling world of flying machines, wizardry, and divine magic.” While Bruce Boston, Bram Stoker Award winning author of The Guardener's Tale, said of it, “Harvey fashions a richly textured magical kingdom that is ripe with sensuality and filled with both wonder and horror. Intrigues, betrayals, murders, love affairs, transformations, and revelations combine to create a narrative of epic proportions.”

And at the end of this month I move into non-fiction! Katy’s Cookbook is a collection of recipes that have been gathering dust in our kitchen in a hand-written book.

What wonderful reviews and selling success - congrats! So what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

i. Write. Write some more. Write every day – small amounts regularly are better than huge binges on an irregular basis.
ii. Finish what you start.
iii. Remember, nothing works equally for anyone, so any advice you’re given should be tried, but if it doesn’t work for you, discard it.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

SF / fantasy, and crime.
Two favourite authors; in SF it’s Alfred Bester, and in crime it’s Rex Stout. Apparently they lived next door to each other for a while!

Big question, now: how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

My wife would tell you that I don’t balance it….but seriously, every writing minute has to be quarried out of life. Take lots of breaks – I work for 45 minutes, break for 15. On again – then off again. Exercise. I walk the dogs twice a day and go to the gym a couple of times a week. It’s important to exercise as much as you can, because writing is a sedentary, lonely occupation. But walking gives you time to think, as well.

Ah. Well, do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I suffered for about twenty years. It ends when it ends, but I think the key is to convince yourself that it doesn’t matter. Take the pressure off yourself; write little bits and bobs – “thequick brown fox ran through the lobby of the hallway…” then see where it takes you.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I think about writing….

Colin, thanks so much for being here today. Readers, make sure to visit Colin's website and MySpace page - and have a terrific day!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Gardening Woes

"Science, or para-science, tells us that geraniums bloom better if they are spoken to. But a kind word every now and then is really quite enough. Too much attention, like too much feeding, and weeding and hoeing, inhibits and embarrasses them." ~Victoria Glendinning

I have never been a gardener. I have never even pretended to be. I know some people love it, the planting and the tending and the reaping, and they all have lovely gardens that I envy whenever I drive by.

But I just cannot find the energy or motivation to join them, despite the promises of fresh air and exercise and meditation that comes with gardening. For one, any spare time I do have, I'd rather be reading or writing or running or walking - all of which I can also do outside. For two, gardening takes an awful lot of work, and vision, and patience, and I have discovered that I really don't have the hours or the creative ability to nurse plants and flowers over months at a time.

Having said that, I do try mightily each year to plant something new, to try again to coax flowers to grow. And I do love the moment they emerge from the ground in early spring. There is something so encouraging about green shoots poking up from bare earth, where there had only been snow for so long.

So I share with you my early spring pictures. And if anyone has suggestions for foolproof (and deer-resistant) plants and flowers that aren't too difficult to grow, I'm all ears.

The very first daffodil to begin to show its face (it's in the premiere spot, in full sun right in front of the house)

Snowdrops doing their best to survive still-cold nights...

...and an interesting occurrence: the daffodils in the back of this bed are, obviously, healthy and ready to bloom. The ones in the foreground, well, I laid all that black weed fabric in this bed last year and completely forgot I had early perennials there (we've only been in this house 2 springs). So not only were these guys fighting against the fabric, I had also laid a couple of fieldstones squarely over them. When I noticed a bump in the mulch a few weeks ago, I decided to investigate. Whoops. Poor things (I know uber-gardener Marianne will be angry with me...). But isn't it amazing that they continued to grow, despite all that? I'm waiting to see if they'll actually bloom.

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Next Book to Read

"In the end, people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out." ~from "The Lessons I'm Leaving Behind" by Randy Pausch

Did anyone see the featured author/book in the Sunday Parade issue yesterday? The main article was on Randy Pausch, a computer science professor who's 47 and dying of pancreatic cancer. He gave his final, farewell lecture at Carnegie Mellon a few months ago and has turned it into a book: The Last Lecture.

Among other comments quoted in the article:

"At the end of [one] semester, I presented a stuffed penguin to the team that took the biggest gamble while not meeting its goals. The award came from the idea that when penguins jump in water that might have predators, well, one of them's got to be the first penguin...Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted. And it can be the most valuable thing you have to offer..."

"As a professor, I've seen how disruptive it can be for parents to have specific dreams for their children. My job is to help my kids foster a joy for life and develop the tools to fulfill their own wishes. My wishes for them are very exact and, given that I won't be there, I want to be clear: Kids, don't try to figure out what I wanted you to become. I want you to become what you want to become. And I want you to feel as if I am there with you, whatever path you choose..."

You can read the whole article, or watch his last lecture, here.

I've definitely put his book on my To Be Read List. Kind of reminds you what's important in life, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Last Chance for Spring Showers!

"It's not true that nice guys finish last. Nice guys are winners before the game even starts." ~Addison Walker

Well, here it is: the last week for the Samhain Spring Showers Event, over at Coffee Time Romance. I have another excerpt posted, from One Night in Memphis - where hero and heroine meet speak for the second time. (Remember to scroll down to subsequent pages if it's not on the first one :)

I loved writing Ethan, the hero in this story. He's a non-Alpha male, the sweet, quiet guy who's forced to step beyond his comfort level when he falls for crazy Dakota. Ooh, seeing the story again makes me wish for July to be here, so the book can officially release! (Yes, Devon, I will try my hardest to give you the heads-up before it does and before Samhain sends it out for review...)

By the way, my faithful blog readers will recognize Devon Gray's name because she likes to hang around my blog and say nice things about my writing :) She's also a reviewer for Fallen Angel Reviews AND even better, she's a romance writer herself who just got some great news from a editor who's interested in publishing her first book! So drop her a line of congrats on her blog if you get a chance.


Did some good writing on One Night in Napa yesterday: I'm finished with the Midnight chapter and hope to do a little work on 1:00 am today. We'll see. It's supposed to be a really nice day here, though, so the weather (and my flowers trying so hard to bloom) might tempt me outside.

Have a wonderful day!!