Thursday, February 28, 2013

Some Veggies Might Taste Austrian?

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Last of the butternut
Butternut squash is an amazing vegetable. Our garden put out enough to last us most of the winter. Until a couple of days ago, we were still eating fresh butternut. They last for ages. The last five in the pantry were beginning to get brown spots so I peeled and canned them. We'll either make soup, Christie makes fabulous butternut squash soup, or we can steam and mash with butter.

Butternut canned
Spaghetti squash has the same lasting power as butternut, but we don't seem to be quite as enamored by it. I find it kind of tasteless. This variety depends more on sauces where butternut is tasty without anything on it.

Garlic shoots
The garlic has punched through the cold earth. We didn't have garlic last year because we didn't move in until after Christmas. This last October, no one else seemed to be thinking about planting. But we use a lot of garlic, I love garlic and so I took the lead on this crop. I used gloves of garlic - yep, regular old garlic from the store. I did a minimal amount of research - not exactly the farmer lady - and this was the easiest route to go. They've popped up. I put mulch around them. A hard freeze will probably kill them back and in the spring they are supposed to send up more shoots. Keep your fingers crossed.

Flower garden surprise
In the front flower garden there are green shoots. Most of what is out there came with the house. I did plant some seeds of various flowers but without success last summer. I'm not sure if what is coming up is from before or what I planted. There's no way for me to tell at this point as they're not recognizable, to me anyway. I love surprises!

The other early green is on the strawberry plants. I haven't taken the time yet to read up on them. We planted a few late in the year and only got a handful of fruit. I planted two out front in my flower garden that would produce one or two berries at a time. It was a game to see if I could get to them before Xena when they came ripe. I didn't know dogs liked strawberries.

Some of the work is starting soon. The blackberry bushes need cutting back in the next couple of weeks. Truthfully, not looking forward to it. They are tangled and stickery (no such word but really says it). I sort of took the lead on them last year so I'm afraid I set a precedent. I'm working on some sort of blackmail to get a few more hands tackling the thorny bushes.

I've mentioned the seeds we've purchased, but forgot to mention we have seeds from Austria. Our friends in Austria, Harte and Uli, sent Lance and Christie a box of seed packets for a wedding gift. What a fun gift. Maybe seeds are seeds, but I find this a fascinating concept.  How cool to think about something growing in Paulden, Arizona that came from another continent.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Condoms, Castles and Navajo Blankets

Muse Monday
Even if you write fiction, you have to get your facts straight. The story of a novel may be pure imagination, but the detail better ring true or readers won't stick with you. For instance, if your hero is a motorcycle enthusiast you might want to know the names of a few real motorcycles. Or if your heroine is a famous French chef, you better include some restaurant lingo or French cuisine recipe names. Researching is a necessary evil.

Some authors love the research phase and spend weeks at it before they ever start the first chapter. I prefer to do it as I go. I'm not always sure what I need to know until I need to know it.

While writing The Morning After, I had to stop and call the Amarillo Marriage License Department. I had a wonderful conversation with a woman who not only educated me on the law in Amarillo in regards to getting married but charmed me with her drawl.

For the first book in the Love and Murder series I'm currently writing, I brought my family into my research. I wrote a scene involving a kidnap victim and a gunshot from a sheriff. I could picture in my mind how I wanted it to go down but would it work? I assigned everyone their part and told them what would happen. They acted it out and my error was glaring.

The Internet is a goldmine for most of the research although I can get so caught up that not much writing gets accomplished. I got hung up for an hour the other day trying to find out the name of the golden grasses in the Chino Valley area. In the middle of a scene, I needed the name. Sometimes I might type xxx and come back to it later, but other times it's as if I get an itch and can't write another word without scratching out the fact.

Other writers are also a good source for research. Who else can you go to when you need to ask a graphic question like would a condom break if it had a pinhole in it and are the statistics I found on the Internet accurate as to the failure rate of a vasectomy? I suppose I could've called a doctor, but the varied answers I got were a lot more fun than the doctor might have recited to me.

No telling what questions will pop up tomorrow when I'm writing. What does an Austrian police car look like? What's the name of the first room you enter in a castle? Can a Navajo blanket fit in a saddle bag? Who has jurisdiction over a murder on a college campus? What's the name of an unusual herbal tea? How do you say "kiss me right here" in German?

If you still haven't signed up for my Quarterly Newsletter to be eligible for a $15 Amazon Gift Card at the end of this month and a $25 Amazon Gift Card at the end of April, then hop on over to my web page and just do it!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Exploring Arizona - Better Than Working!

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Last Thursday, I opened with noting we'd had snow but it had all but gone. Today I can say the snow is still here. It started some time in the night Wednesday and continued on and off all morning. Still not enough to totally cover all the bare ground.

Since there is still no farming to do or building of the green house or watering system, we've been getting out and exploring. I still have a bathroom and living room to paint but couldn't get the energy to do it. Maybe next week, depending on if Sadi has arrived or not. I intended on having all the painting done by the time she arrived. I really hate to paint so I've been dragging my feet. Writing has taken a higher priority.

Rooibliss at the Haunted Hamburger
At the museum
Jerome is in the Black Hills. It's a fascinating old mining town that has survived, barely. The whole city is on the side of the mountains. First we had lunch at the Haunted Hamburger with my sister and husband then toured the Douglas Museum and had a great time. We snooped around the haunted hotel too.

Clowning in Jerome
Down a mine shaft

Hiking around Granite Basin
Lake and riders at Granite Basin

Frank and I explored around Prescott. We had lunch at a new sandwich place in Prescott called Scout's. Great fresh food. Then we went looking for Granite Basin Lake. There are numerous trails around the area for bikes, horses and hiking. Lots of camping in the area. There were signs posted to drive carefully, high use area, so I can imagine how crowded it is in the summer. We didn't have much competition for space on our hike although we were passed by five horses and riders.

We live in a great part of Arizona as far as being close to so many good day trips. We've made a promise to ourselves to get out like this more often.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Authors Are Jugglers

I don't know any authors who, when they decided to become writers, dropped everything else in their lives to follow the dream. Most of us work full time jobs, have children, usually a husband and continue with other commitments. In order to write, we juggle it all in the middle of our own life circus. While driving kids to baseball practice or shuttling grandkids around, we have characters in our heads plotting the next scene. Part of our mind is on the phone call we take at work, while the rest of our head is visualizing our hero's eyes and accent.The second book I published was written almost entirely in fifteen minute segments before work and on my half hour lunch break.

When my day job went away and my husband retired, we moved to the Arizona prairie. Although I no longer punch a clock, I'm still juggling. The big difference now is I can call my own time - most of the time.

All that juggling for years while I worked, was good training for a different type of juggling this year: two blog posts a week, sporadic guest posts, writing the second book of my mystery/suspense series and writing a novella. I also have the third book in my mystery/suspense series started. That may get my attention occasionally. Normally, only one of the books gets my attention in any day, but there are days I'm working on two posts and a book.

At any given time, farm news, writing thoughts, book promo, Phoebe and Mason making love or finding murder victims, Amanda writing letters and possibly an Austrian cop that resembles 007 are passing from my right hand to my left hand to floating around in my head and starting the cycle all over again.

Many authors have several projects going at a time so I'm not unique. Until recently, I didn't think I could do it. Now I find it's rather addictive. At some point, one of my juggled items will be free to fly away on its own, but there's always another to take its place.

Working titles of what I'm juggling:
The Love and Murder Series, Book Two: Southwest of Love and Murder
The Love and Murder Series, Book Three: A Legacy of Love and Murder
Tortuga Thursday (farm happenings blog)
Muse Monday (writing thoughts blog)
Amanda in the Summer (a novella)

If you still haven't signed up for my Quarterly Newsletter to be eligible for a $15 Amazon Gift Card at the end of this month and a $25 Amazon Gift Card at the end of April, then hop on over to my web page and just do it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Every Picture Has a Story...

2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Starting plants inside
Not a lot of farming going on right now. We had snow but it's pretty much gone. We haven't purchased materials to build the green house yet. Waiting for funds to build up. We do have some plants growing inside. In fact, we'll probably be starting seeds over the next few weeks which will stay in the house until they're big enough for the green house. We won't be able to heat the green house and we can have cold temps into May.

What we have been doing is inside work. These pictures tell the story. 

Baby bed put together
More of Sadi's room

Bedroom got paint and new computer table
New picture of old days        

New writing area put together

Frank installed a new kitchen sink
I got the wedding pictures organized

Monday, February 11, 2013

Promo, Perspiration and Pain

Muse Monday
I did another promotion appearance Saturday night. There's always an opportunity to learn something at these events. And it usually hurts. I'm not a shy person. Oh how uncomfortable these learning activities must be for shy authors. But even though shyness is not a personality trait pour moi, there's still a bit of suffering, and I usually wonder at some point why am I here?

I'm an author, I want to write - not sell myself or my product. Unfortunately, there's no getting around the fact that in order to find any success at being an author, you have to get out there and convince total strangers that your books are better than all the other millions of books they might consider reading. I'm not very good at it, I've decided.

What usually happens is my attention is drawn to the other authors around me. Watching them in action, or at least those who seem to enjoy or hate the process, shows me what I should and should not be doing. Avoiding what I shouldn't do is much easier than adopting the methods of those who appear to be successful. I know to stand, unlike the writer who crouches in her seat afraid that someone might actually speak to her. Smiling isn't a problem for me. I like people and feel friendly. But - big but - confession time - I have trouble with those first few words to reach out, rope that reader and make he or she salivate over my books.

Speaking of salivating, I have another problem as I see it in the world of romance novels - no drop dead, hunky hero on any of my covers. I use to pooh pooh the importance of such a thing, but at a walk by promo you better believe the cover with a yummy hero will get more than a few ladies to stop in front of you.

I can't change the covers, but I can work on my spiel. All I have to do is figure out how to relay how I really feel about my books. They're entertaining, and I have to be able to say that in a totally intriguing way in three sentences. Not an easy task for me. Feel my pain?

Now that that's off my chest, I'm going back to writing my current book. I'll think about this promo stuff more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Last Year's Ugly-This Year's Healthy

Last year's ugly heirloom-this year's good sauce
2012 On the plains in Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.
I finished reading the fourth book of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series yesterday morning while sitting on Lake Mohave. Beautiful day - seventy degrees, sunny, water was glassy and Frank was casting for bass. Now what has this to do with Tortuga Flats Farm? Several days ago, I learned that marigolds are supposed to keep insects away. I'm going to plant some around certain crops that are prone to infestation. Gabaldon is a 'smart' author in that her books are usually well researched and fact based. In this series, her heroine is a time traveler and is in the eighteenth century. She mentions using marigolds to keep bugs away from some food in her home.

As we become more in tune with our crops and our life on our prairie farm, I've learned that much of what we do or know dates way back. I mean way, way back - such as the marigolds. I may be a geek, but I found that really interesting.

Living with a pregnant lady is also educational when it comes to what we grow and consume. For instance, fresh ginger is good for morning sickness. Chamomile (I harvested a ton of this and am still making tea from our dried plants) is not good for pregnant ladies. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties which would be bad for a fetus heart.

Here's a fact I found very odd but Lance can attest that it works - cayenne pepper helps defray heartburn. I would think the opposite.

Zucchini is good for dogs. We include it in our dogs' meals.

Canned tomatoes/tomato sauce is better for you than fresh tomatoes.

Jarred potatoes are tasty. This is merely my own insight. We tried freezing and jarring. Both are good, but I have a particular liking for the jarred potatoes. They get kind of sweet and have a peculiar texture.

We haven't started on the greenhouse yet. Got the quote from the watering system company and it'll cost us about $850 to set up the fields and the greenhouse. Lance was happy with the quote, BUT we won't be buying it this month. Still have a bit of time. We have about a month before we have to get serious about building the greenhouse or getting the irrigation set up. I predict a flurry of activity in April and May.

Monday, February 4, 2013

How Important is a Title? Huge!

Muse Monday
Coming up with titles is a struggle. Sometimes they come to me as if out of ether. Others take a hammer and a crow bar to pry an idea from my head.

I don't believe I've ever known the title of a story or book before well into the manuscript, except once. One of my favorite published short stories, Amanda in the Summer, came to me from a wedding announcement. In fact, the entire story grew from the title. The announcement was printed on an 8 1/2 x 11 page of parchment. The bride's name was Amanda and it was a summer wedding. When I pulled the page out of the envelope, it was folded so that the words Amanda, in and summer aligned. Amanda in the Summer struck my fancy.

My first published novel, Sleeping with the Lights On, had the working title Of Men and Bullshit. I knew that wouldn't stick but because I drew on my sister's dating experiences, well, it fit. It was somewhere around page two hundred that the title came to me. Abby asks Sandra how she can get any sleep if her husband doesn't come home that night. Sandra tells her to sleep with the lights on - which she's been doing since her divorce. And so we hope Sandra finds love again so she can turn the lights off.

The same sort of epiphany gave me the title for Honey On White Bread. I didn't even have a working title. There were scenes that would come to me while riding in the car or falling asleep at night. One of those times, I saw my heroine, Claire, and the hero, Benjamin, in a sweet moment. (This story takes place in 1945.) Ben explains to Claire why she's so special.
“You know what honey does to plain white bread?” He kissed my cheek softly, his lips like the touch of a butterfly wing. “You dribble it on, slow…and…thick. The bread soaks the honey in and changes.” His lips caressed my earlobe. “Well, I’m white bread to your honey.”
My short story about a blind date, which I originally titled Blind Date (brilliant, huh?) became Tattoos, Leather and Studs because the hero is wearing just that. And I wanted a sexy title.

Right now I'm working on a three book series. The titles I've come up with may or may not hold once an editor gets them. Because they're a series, I wanted a common thread. They are mystery/suspense and of course romance. Love and Murder series sounded good to me. The first book concerns art so The Art of Love and Murder is the title. But I didn't come up with either the series name or the book title until the first book was written. I put out a cry for help on Facebook for the second and third book. I needed to submit the series to my agent and couldn't do it without titles - an impossible task for me before I've even written the books. With help from my FB friends I have Southwest of Love and Murder (the book takes place in the southwest) and A Legacy of Love and Murder (the plot deals with an inheritance).

The last book I released, The Morning After, has a funny story about the title. I can't remember what title I suggested to my editor once the book was accepted, but she didn't like it. I submitted five more titles and she vetoed all of them. She's tough! Then she emailed me and told me when I originally submitted the book I entitled my email The Morning After. I guess way back I had that title and forgot! She liked it.

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