Thursday, March 28, 2013

No Dining at a Farmer's Table

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.

To tell the truth it's not been a week since my last Tortuga Thursday update. I'm writing this one early since we're headed out of town tomorrow for the river and three free hotel nights in Laughlin, Nevada. I'll have limited Internet access. And I'll be oblivious to what's happening on the farm anyway so may as well log my update today.

The tiller broke. Not everything that's been happening is good. This refurbished tiller was a happily received wedding present for Lance and Christie. It's seen a few hours here but gave out on the last pass through the fourth quadrant. Hopefully, a friend Lance knows in Flagstaff can repair it. We have a great neighbor that will loan us his to finish up.

That same neighbor has the tractor attachment he borrowed to run over all the land again. Not only do we have some veggies sprouting inside in trays but the weeds are sprouting at a faster rate outside. Good neighbor.

Frank got the pump house built. Not really a house. More of a cover. But much needed.

The trays covering the dining table and the table behind the couch are showing signs of green. They are such tiny little things. No wonder last year we had trouble with some of them. Lance has rigged some lighting over the trays. No big dinner parties for us for awhile. This year, everything will start in trays in the house then get moved to the greenhouse next month.

The sweet potato slips will arrive late May and will go directly in the ground. Last year we had a late frost that really damaged our potato growth. Keeping fingers crossed that isn't the case this year.

Speaking of the greenhouse, the plastic that will be the cover is due to arrive on Thursday while we are gone. Frank will have a project to help with when we return. The watering system will arrive also while we are gone. Frank is going to have plenty to keep him busy when we return.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sleeping with the Lights On

Today, on Muse Monday, I want to do a little plug for my very first published book, Sleeping with the Lights On. The Wild Rose Press has reduced the eBook price to $2.99, and I'm excited that some readers might take advantage of a fun read. It's pure entertainment. 

When I wrote Sleeping, I did what the sages tell you to do - write what you know. So I looked to people I knew for inspiration, and I came up with my sister. She was single and at a turning point in her life. And she approached her situation with a good dose of humor, like Sandra. In Sleeping, Sandra is single, her career is stalled and she is still searching for her niche even after years of experience and two marriages. Women like Sandra are inspiring. We’ve all known people who have gotten to a certain point in their lives and realized they aren’t really where they want to be, whether in love or career or experience. This is my favorite kind of discovery story. Sandra figures it out.

Sandra isn’t the typical romance heroine. She’s fifty, twice divorced, but still looking for Mr. Right. And a career. She sees humor in most situations, even when being stalked by a tall, vamp-like redhead. Talk about an optimist!
People often say, if I only knew then what I know now. I say, if I’d known as much then, I would’ve avoided way too much and wouldn’t know now what I know. Nor would I have been where I found myself that morning—the object of affection by a man I’d yet to fully discover on a lazy spring morning. I had to believe my future held some good possibilities.

And then there's Carson, the hero of this romance. Who wouldn’t lust over a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks? Add a Texas drawl and, well, let’s say he knows how to fill out his jeans!

His jeans, tight cowboy style, hugged nice thighs and hips I remembered all too well. I avoided looking at my favorite part. I hoped my face didn’t twitch like my insides. 

And he certainly knows how to sweet-talk a lady, even one like Sandra who was once married to him.

When he lowered his voice, I lost my peripheral vision to the point that we were the only two people in the restaurant. “Sandra, when a gal’s figure fills in the spaces to make it a woman’s body, a man can lose all common sense just lookin’.”

Don't forget to join my Quarterly Newsletter Group for a chance to win some Amazon gift cards! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Year Two Begins

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.

Pounding rebar
Months pass with short daylight hours. Everything is dormant and the garden is nothing but dirt. I thought about when the farming would all begin again and the time seemed so far away. Then...bam! There's no easing into it. We're way ahead of last year, but we'd only moved in and hardly knew where to begin.

The greenhouse is nearly done. We're waiting for the plastic covering to arrive. I can't believe how fast Frank and Lance got the frame up - one day. It looked like the most difficult part was pounding the rebar into the ground to attach the PVC pipes.

Lance has trays and trays of seeds planted. They cover our dining room table and another table in front of the living room window. In a month, they go to the greenhouse. They'll spend time there until the danger of last frost has passed for most of them. Some vegetable seeds will be direct sowed into the ground but not for another month.

Garlic planted in the fall is up
Cucumber trellis
Meanwhile, the ground is getting tilled and compost added. We started a compost pile when we first moved in a year ago. Composting is not an entirely pleasant process but the garden is going to love it. The trellis system for the cucumbers is in the process also. We didn't do this last year so I'm excited to see how it will work.

I did manage to get all the blackberries trimmed and watered in between welcome spells of minding Sadi. Yes, twist my arm to hold my darling granddaughter!

I cleaned out the front flower garden and planted some flower seeds. Last years perennials are already peeking through. The early ones even have flowers. What we aren't happy to see are the peach and apricot trees already sending out buds. I haven't even gotten into the orchard to trim and clean out the tree wells. Frank put the tree food spikes in and noticed the buds. Bad news. We lost them last year with a late frost. A frost in May is not unusual. I suspect peaches and apricots are not a good choice for the orchard on this prairie. Not sure why the previous owner planted them. They're two of my favorites but wonder if we'll ever get any since they are so early to bloom.

Grandpa amuses Sadi
I have the trees to get in shape and the patio to clean up and then I'll get back to writing. Caring for Christie and Sadi comes first. Christie will be on her way to doing a lot more in another couple of weeks. I'll just keep the stories going in my head until I get it all down on paper.

We already have a rabbit problem this year. I'll leave that story for next time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Insecure? Who Me?


There’s a fine line between confidence and abject insecurity. For an author, the abject insecurity can sneak up at anytime and stall you, or at least convince you every word going from head to paper has bypassed the creative juice chamber coming out dry and tasteless. Such is the journey. And we all travel this road differently.

I love to write about characters on a journey, traveling both the physical and the mental roads. Along the fictional journey I create pitfalls and summits, conflicts and resolutions. The road to publication is no different, although as authors we’d like to skip the pitfalls and conflicts.

The abject insecurity I mentioned earlier usually hits me three times when I’m writing a book:  two chapters short of completion, while I’m writing the synopsis, and again right after I type “the end”.  I always manage to muddle through the last two chapters, a whip in one hand holding off my negative inner critic. I wring those chapters out, a word, no a syllable at a time. I won’t even go into the torture of writing a synopsis. But the final phase, the now-I’m-finished-and-who-will-publish-this-inadequate-book is the hardest to overcome.
So far, I’ve been lucky. I’ve published most of what I’ve written. Now I’m writing a three book series. Not only do I have to sell a publisher on one story, but I have to convince them to take all three. I’d hate to break a set.

Rejection is hard to take regardless of how thick your hide. Rejection is no easier to take once you’re published. I haven’t received a no on my series yet. I’m still waiting to hear. Personally, I think it’s my best work ever – positive thinking helps. 

I haven’t found a cure for conquering the insecurities, but perseverance gets me over the crest. The journey has to have a happily ever after ending, and the trick is to not stop until you arrive.

No two people look at a book exactly the same. Is there a book you’ve read and raved about that a friend found dull or boring?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Baby Arrives: A Story of Heaven and Hell

 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.

The last time I posted was March 4th. On March 5th all hell broke loose, with a big piece of heaven to balance it. According to the birthday book we have, March 5th is the day of heaven and hell. Our sweet Sadi Belle Whiteside, my first grandchild, entered our lives that day, and her birth date lived up to the hype.

All farm matters went on hold. All writing projects were suspended.

My daughter-in-law started labor at 6:00 am, March 4th. They admitted her into the birthing center that night about 10:30. We hung by the phone, but the night passed. On March 5th, we joined her parents in the waiting room vigil at the birthing center.

Proud Daddy wheels Sadi out
A little background: this had been one of the easiest pregnancies I'd ever witnessed. But then Christie is in amazing shape. She is a yoga practitioner, walks every day and eats incredibly healthy. She was bound and determined to have a total, no drug, natural delivery. Every indication was that she would.

Lance got zzz's while Grandpa rocked
First bottle during Mom's surgery
Okay - so - by the afternoon she was not progressing. Her back pain was so great she couldn't relax enough. She and my son finally agreed to an epidural. She quickly went from four to ten. Labor continued with my son coaching and Christie pushing. Then the contractions lessened, a side affect of the epidural. Unhappily, they consented to an inducing drug. But after over three hours of pushing, Sadi was stuck. The doctor rushed her in for an emergency C-section. At 5:24 pm, we had a beautiful granddaughter. The doctor said he'd never encountered this problem before. Christie has an odd shaped bone which turns in instead of out restricting the birth canal. Sadi's head stuck and she had the bump to prove it afterwards. Once they had her out, all seemed well. She immediately nursed, and Mom was beaming. An hour later, hell broke loose. By the time Christie made it back into surgery, she'd lost half her blood. It took eight units to get her through this. She'd pushed so hard she'd torn her cervix in two places. The surgeon did an amazing job of saving her and her chances for future children. We nearly lost her, and each day one of us tears up with the memory.

After several days in the hospital, Mom and daughter are home and doing fine. Christie has many weeks of recuperating to get through, but she's looking stronger each day. Sadi is a happy baby who is gaining weight and already has grandma and grandpa wrapped around her finger.

Yesterday was the first day we'd been able to turn some attention to the farm and me to my writing. I've just about finished trimming the blackberry rows. Frank and Lance got the supplies to build the green house. The watering system is on order. We couldn't wait any longer so we're funding it with credit. We hope to have two commercial crops, and I'll elaborate on that in future blogs.

For sure, life on Tortuga Flats Farm will never be the same!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hook Me, Excite Me

Muse Monday

The first few lines of a novel are the most important in the book. For a reader that isn't necessarily the case. It's highly unlikely you would throw away a book you'd paid for or delete it from your eReader if the first paragraph doesn't totally knock your socks off.

But for an author, the first sentence or two can make or break your book. I might be overstating this slightly, but if an author can't rope in an editor that quickly, her book may never make it to print. Editors are very busy people with hundreds of manuscripts to read. They need to be convinced quickly that their time will not be wasted by investing an hour in reading further.

As an experiment, I pulled some of my favorite books. I tested the rule to see how impressive these published, successful authors did with their first couple of lines.

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
"It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance."

Maeve Binchy, Circle of Friends
"The kitchen was full of the smells of baking. Benny put down her school bag and went on a tour of inspection."

Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
"On the morning of August 8, 1965, Robert Kincaid locked the door to his small two-room apartment on the third floor of a rambling house in Bellingham, Washington."

Nora Roberts, Angels Fall
"Reece Gilmore smoked through the tough knuckles of Angel's Fist in an overheating Chevy Cavalier."

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem's fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury."

Hmmm...A couple might pass the test, but all in all, I should've given them the first page to hook me. More than likely an editor will at least give you that much - that is if the synopsis doesn't kill your chances. A couple of these do rope me in after the first page, but a couple of others took even more reading to make me want to turn the next page.

In the end, I'll keep doing as they say and not as they do. Trying to hook a reader on the first page is a good model to follow.

I'll end with the first lines of a few of my stories. When I separate them away from the rest of the text, it's easy to see which have "oomph" and which do not.

"I woke before Wesley that morning, the first morning waking up next to him. I silently yawned, stretching my feet against the cowboy sheets tucked tight at the foot of his bed."

"The throb behind Abigail’s eyes scraped at her temples like chiseled fingernails. She squeezed her lids tight. Was the sheet twisted around her?"

"The cheap chenille could have been angel hair as I smoothed the spread over the bed, my mood sunnier than the faded yellow walls of the room. For most of my life, I'd never had my own room."

"Phoebe awakened sudden and breathless. Not slow like when the sheet tangled around her legs or when she needed a trip to the toilet in the gray fog of near-sleep. What noise had she heard that now wasn’t there?"
"Lacy quickened her pace. The footsteps behind her did the same. As fast as her feet touched the bricks, her heart beat twice that speed. If only she could clear the narrow alley, step onto the lit sidewalk…"