2014 in review

Well, we survived the holidays, where we ate too much and sat around enjoying days off and being together. I thought it might be time to do a wrap up of 2014, since I haven’t posted to Ye Olde Blogge in a while.

I’ve been busy writing stuff, when I haven’t been sick. Most of 2014 was spent lying around feeling like crap. It was horrible, and my biggest wish for this new year is to not be sick. Between whatever weird virus-thing I picked up last year — oddly enough, it was on January 4th — and the sinus infection in August, I spent the better part of the year under the weather. Bah, humbug!

Anyway, I’m sure you only really want to know about what’s going on in the chicken coop. I’ve heard you muttering about the lack of updates and cute pictures. Yes, I’m talking about you, don’t try to look innocent, it ain’t working. Sadly, there are no recent pictures, but the girls are doing fine, still laying pretty well. We’ve got a light in the coop that comes on just before dawn and twilight, staying on for about a half hour each time, to give them a little more light so they give us a few eggs, usually three a day.

George is still King of the Coop, and tells the world daily with his crowing. He talks to a couple of other roosters in the area, mostly bragging about his girls, I’m sure. He’s a handsome devil, and knows it.

The garden didn’t produce as much as I’d hoped, what with a late spring and very wet conditions throughout the season. Still, it was worth the trouble, and the basic structure is there for the coming planting season. My brother and I will be working to expand the garden, because we plan to grow some portion of the food for the chickens. The more I can grow/raise myself, the cheaper those eggs get.

I’m still writing. I publish most of my stuff lately into the new Kindle Unlimited program, which works really well for the short stories I have up. I’m trying out a new genre and a new pen name, but still working on the other stuff I had going on. I’m also getting to some more pure romance stories, though science fiction and horror are still my faves.

After reading a recent Dean Wesley Smith blog post, I'm going to work towards achieving what he called Pulp Speed One, which is one million words this year. It sounds like a lot -- well, it is, really -- but broken down into a daily word count it's reasonable and I'm sure I can get there, if I keep working. I picked my One Little Word for 2015: "consistent". My word for last year was "persistent", and I strove to persist in reaching my goals. All in all, I did pretty well.

I’m not sure how much I’ll do on this blog, though I’m hoping to post regularly. I have a blog about Gothic romances that I really want to do something with, and the publishing site I set up earlier. That will be getting the majority of my attention, because business.

The family is doing well, both parental units are maintaining their health, my siblings are doing pretty good, all things considered. And my boys are fine. Number One, Second-of-Three and Sk8monkey say Hi! See them behind me, waving and grinning? Yeah. They’re so cute. <3

And there you have it, folks. You’re all up-to-date on my exciting life, with a promise to write again soon, and I swear I will start taking pictures to post. It's no wonder I still have so much scrapbooking stuff, the way I take pictures.

Ta for now!

Horror fans, October is going to be a good month.

Mostly because I’m participating in a promotion for the month of October, called 30 Days of Indie Horror! (Oh, come on, you had to know it was all about me, didn't you? ha ha ) My collection, Zombie Town, is being featured on October 6th. You can read one of the short stories for free, yo.

Julie is also having a Rafflecopter drawing for some books from her publishing company, so if you’d like a chance to get some free horror books, check it out. And while you're there, enjoy some good fiction by indie authors. There are lots of good writing to be had in the indie world.

To see the schedule of authors, and get more info on the drawing, you can check out this post of Julie’s.

I’m pretty excited to have my collection listed there, and to give folks an opportunity to check out one of the stories (it’s the whole story, not just an excerpt, too). This is a story I wrote especially for the collection, so it hasn’t been posted anywhere else before now.

The book is actually selling pretty well for short stories, so I’m pleased with that. Novels seem to sell best, and novels in a series best of all, so having people buy the collection is pretty awesome.

I’m working on a few things that I want to have ready to publish before the end of the year, mainly a science fiction novel (tentatively called Landfall) that I've been working on for a while now, but keep putting on the back burner, and the sequel to Bound in Amber. I’m plotting out a few other things, like a couple of SF romance serials, one of which I'd like to start this month, a horror novel and a PA book about an asteroid impact. 

The last two would be the first stuff out early next year, and there's lots more I have on my idea list.

The Speculative Fiction Writing Process Blog Hop is here.

Over at the Writer’s Cafe, on Kboards.com, there’s a thread about Speculative Fiction writers, where we talk about stuff germane to our different genres under that umbrella. We’ve been posting on our blogs the answers to some questions about our writing processes and why we write what we do.

You can see the blog hop links in the sidebar to the left, beginning with the first one. We have a post on Monday, and last week was Vincent Trigili’s turn. You can read his writing process post here: http://www.losttalesofpower.com/2014/08/18/speculative-fiction-blog-hop/comment-page-1/#comment-7955. This week it’s all about me! But then, isn’t it always?

Never mind then, let’s get to the juicy bits, eh?

What am I working on?

I’m currently working on several things, in various genres. As Anne McKinley, I’m working on the second book in my urban fantasy series, 13 Gathered, and picks up where we left off in the first book, Bound in Amber, which has already gone live. I’m looking at five books total in the series, though I won’t rule out anything after that. I've decided to try out the Amazon Select program, which includes Kindle Unlimited, so the book won't be available anywhere else, at least for 90 days.

I’ve got a science fiction novel up next under my new pen name, Griffin Carmichael, about the mankind’s colonization of other planets outside our own system. There’s sabotage, adventure, heartache and more.

I have more books lined up for release next year, some horror and some science fiction. You can find my current zombie short story collection at the link in the sidebar.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think I focus more on the characters and how they react to the situations they find themselves in, rather than the situations themselves. It’s not about how gory I can be, or how scientifically accurate (though I do try), or about how many fantasy species I include.

I’d thought at one time about studying social anthropology, because humans intrigue me, so it makes sense that I’m more character driven. That’s not to say that I don’t work on having an exciting plot (or at least an interesting one), though. I think both elements are important in telling a good story.

Why do I write what I do?

Gosh, if I knew that, I’d probably have paid a psychiatrist a lot of money! I’ve been interested in horror and science fiction—and to a lesser extent fantasy--since I could read. That’s a long, long time, for those keeping records. While I have read, and continue to read, a broad range of genres and nonfiction, those two have always been my main reading focus.
How does my writing process work?

I try to write at least a thousand words a day, and really try to do double that. I’ve had some issues the last couple of years getting that amount of words because of my parents’ health problems and the usual stresses of motherhood. But this year has been much better and continues to improve. I released a short story collection, and have two stories in charity anthologies, with another in an anthology that’s due out later this year.

I don’t always write in order, from first page to last, unless it’s a short story. Sometimes I get a scene playing out in my head, and I just have to write it down so I don’t forget it. This is why I love programs like yWriter, which I used for a couple of years, and my new bestie, Scrivener. It’s so easy to move stuff around, make notes, add information about characters and locations, and things I probably haven’t learned how to do yet. And it compiles! swoon

I’m a plotter, also known as an outliner. I like to get the details of how the story goes—at least, the stuff I know at the moment—down so I can jump in and start writing. My memory is bad, and I forget so much if I don’t write it down.

Of course, just because I have an outline doesn’t mean I don’t change things around, remove or add stuff. Sometimes I take stuff out and put new stuff in at the same time. My characters are often working behind the scenes, doing all sorts of interesting things and only telling me about it at the last minute. It can make things a bit crazy, but I like being able to work with the story as it grows, without being handcuffed to a rigid timeline.

Ideas come from the local Idea Place, just on the other side of town. Okay, I’m kidding. Put down the car keys. I don’t really know where ideas come from. I could be reading about something on line, or hear something on television, and I’ll think, hey, what if… And I’m off. Sometimes I get right to work on an idea, but often I’ll write down what I have (that memory thing again) and let it percolate deep in the recesses of the ol’ gray matter. Sooner or later, things fall into place and I get to work on the story.

Anyway, enough about me. Next up is Harry Manners, at http://www.harrymanners.wordpress.com/. Harry Manners is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. A Physics student and obsessive reader, his debut release is the epic post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy, the Ruin Saga. He lives in Bedfordshire, England with his family. When he's not writing, he studies Physics at the University of Warwick, reads a ton-load of books, and generally nerds out—for which he is staunchly unapologetic.
Don’t forget to drop by and read his post next Monday, September 1st.

As usual, I’m working on a few things to thrill and amaze you all, so check back for the next exciting episode where you’ll learn more than you ever dreamed about. It’s good stuff, I promise.

Gosh darn it, we’ve got a rooster in the coop!

We’ve been hearing crowing the last few mornings, but it sounded like it was coming from down the road (out in the country, sound really travels). I’ve had my suspicions about one particular chicken, but I was hoping I was wrong.

Turns out I wasn’t. Georgia, AKA Miss Bossy Britches, is actually George, King of the Coop. I had a bad feeling this was going to happen, when “Georgia” kept getting bigger, but no eggs were forthcoming. Also, “she” was getting quite irritated with the other chickens.

 That's George there, watching over his ladies.

So darn. Yes, I really want to use stronger language, but I’ve put myself on a cursing ban so I’m falling back on childhood euphemisms. At least I’m not spelling the words out, like Number One still does. He’s so cute.

Now I have to decide whether to keep George, or send him to the great chicken stew pot in the sky. It’s not an easy decision, since we want to expand our flock in the future, and being able to make our own chicks would be handy.

There’s also the possibility of having more than one rooster. I’m starting to get that feeling about a couple of the other chickens, especially since George is being highly aggressive with them.

Oh, well. I guess this is something I can put off for another day. I really need to get some writing done, and I’ve got some other projects that need to be bumped up the list so I can mark them off and move on.

That’s my update on the exciting life here in my world, aren’t you glad you stopped by? lol

Hey, Grandpa, what’s for super?

Tonight it’s hamburger steaks, and tomorrow is shepherd pie. I know this because I have become a menu planner. And props if you get the title reference, y'all.

Yes, it is shocking. Ask anybody in my family.

How can I be so darned organized, you may ask. Well, it’s simple: if I don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner, food gets forgotten and risks being wasted. One thing I don’t like is wasting food. It costs good money that we can’t afford to lose by throwing out food that’s gone bad.

I’ve been keeping this kind of information in my head for a while, but I’ve got better uses for the ol’ gray matter. I started writing it down on the whiteboard calendar (which is no longer on the fridge, but resides in a new home on the front door), but it was a pain to write it down, erase, write something else, erase… You get the drift.

So, I’ve been looking at various things on Pinterest, and kept seeing variations of something called a menu board, or a menu planning board.

Have I mentioned I spend way too much time there? Well, I do, but it’s turning into productive time, so let’s not go there. ha ha

Back to the topic on hand, I found one particularly interesting idea and knew I could make a version for myself. I have loads of old magnetic business cards, and more scrapbooking supplies than I should probably admit to, at risk of being sent away for an intervention.

Okay, my mind wandered again. Where was I? Oh, yeah.

So I opened up a program I’ve had for a few years call Sure Cuts a Lot (SCAL), which allows you to make designs, or cut other people’s designs in paper, card stock or vinyl. I have an older model Cricut Expression (and a couple of personal cutters, too. Have I mentioned the scrapbooking supplies?), which I already had out to cut some stencils for Daddy.

Sadly, Provocraft, the maker of the Cricut machines, doesn’t allow their machines to work with third-party software, so don’t go rushing to get the program. It won’t work. boo hiss As a side note, it’s pronounced like the insect: cricket. Though in my head, I still say it “cry cut”. I’m funny that way.

After some fiddling, I managed to create a grid, like a calendar, with four rows of seven squares. I made the squares 2.5 inches, to fit the menu cards I’d already made. Oops, I’ve gotten ahead of myself here. Never mind, it will work out in the end, I promise.

I typed out the days of the week, or rather, the abbreviated versions, and welded them to the appropriate row on the grid. For this, I used a plain font, and lower case letters. I also typed the words “On the Menu” and made that into a fancy script. Just because.

Then I came to a standstill, because I couldn’t find any black vinyl to cut the blasted thing with. Talk about being frustrated. Well, mad mostly, but frustrated. Scrap bin to the rescue! Turns out I had two 12 inch squares of matte black vinyl tucked away in with the bits and pieces I keep for smaller jobs.

Hooray! Day is saved! Are you half as relieved as I was? I know the post isn’t over yet, but hang in there.

I cut the design, and spent this morning saying very naughty words while I tried to get the thing up on the fridge. This is one of those jobs it’s probably better to have an extra set of hands during the construction phase, because the grid is fairly large, and being cut it from two pieces of vinyl made it very tricky to get in position. Thank goodness for the wet apply method, is all I’m saying.

But it's up, I’ve got my magnetic menu cards done and sorted into baseball card sheets in my kitchen binder. I’ve even got the next few days’ menus on the planning board. Here’s proof:

Pretty awesome, right? Other than the glare from my white fridge, that is. Above the "On the Menu" is my gargoyle, who protects my kitchen, and keeps watch over the back door (which he is facing). I have gargoyles all over the place, and they work very hard.

I know it starts on Thursday (chili, yum!), but I had the card up from yesterday so I stuck it on the right square. Tonight's meal is hamburger steaks, then shepherd pie, nachos and soup. Monday is shopping day, so I'll start planning again from there. You can see the edges around the white paper is inked in blue, except for the soup, which I have as a vegetarian dish.

At the same site where I got the inspiration for the menu planning board, was a nifty way of storing the extra cards that aren’t being used. It involves baseball card storage pages, which I thankfully have quite a few of, remnants from Sk8monkey’s Pokeman days.


Here are a couple of pages for the cards not being used. Excuse the glare. I probably should have taken the book outside, and avoided the flash, but I'm lazy. The top picture is of some of the beef recipes, and the bottom is chicken. I really need to find more chicken recipes.

I used some old magnetic business cards from the wedding chapel my sister and I used to have. You can use magnetic sheets from the office supply or craft stores, if you don't have any old business cards hanging around. I cut the cards into two inch squares, and used an ATG tape gun to attach same-sized squares of scrapbook paper to the front. I inked the edges of these in black, to hide any spots where my cutting wasn't so great.

Then I cut some squares of white paper into 1.5 by 1.5 inch squares. I hand-wrote the names of the recipes we normally use on these pieces, inked the edges depending on their category, and stuck them onto the cards. I actually made up a Word document with the names, but my printer is out of ink and Second of Three kept forgetting to stop by someplace and get them printed for me. So we get to look at my bad handwriting. Yuck.

The categories I used were: beef (blue), chicken (yellow), vegetarian (green) and other meat (red). I also made cards for: holiday, take out, new recipe and pot luck (pinkish). There's room to add more recipes as I come across them, if they make it into the rotation.

The actual recipes are in one of my cookbook collection, my recipe book, the kitchen binder, or saved on the computer. I’m working on getting our regular things into the recipe book, so it’s easier to find them, but I know most things by heart. We eat pretty simply, so it's easy to remember what goes in the dishes.

There you have it, my latest burst of organizational enthusiasm. Thanks for sticking with me to this point. Still to come are posts on my efforts to rebrand my writing career, a disappointing chicken update, and more still more exciting news from my world.

An open letter of appreciation to readers from writers.

You may have heard or read about a letter from some authors, about the contract negotiations between Amazon and Hachette, a publishing house. There’s a lot of wrong information, some nasty allegations and flat-out untruths in that letter, and in response many other authors have written their own letter to you, the readers.

You may not have heard anything about this, and maybe you don't care, but I’ll let those who can explain why it's important better than I do so, such as Joe Konrath, who responded to the letter written by the other authors here. Are you confused yet? I know I am.

I signed the letter linked above, but I wanted to also say here on my blog how much I appreciate each and every person who reads anything I write, whether here on this blog, wherever I post around the Internet, and those who read my fiction. Without you, nothing I say would be heard, except in my own head (and that can be very scary, let me tell you).

There’s battle going on between the traditional world of publishing and self-publishing (or indie publishing, if you prefer) and there’s no reason for it. The way we get our work out to the reader shouldn’t matter, just so long as it gets to you. Readers are the only gatekeepers that matter.

Part of this battle is showing up in the way Hachette -- and the other publishers known as the “Big 6”, though there are smaller publishing houses involved as well -- is fighting with Amazon over the price the Zon wants to sell books for (there's probably other stuff as well, but it's being kept secret). It seems Amazon wants no part of the collusion that these publishers have already gotten into trouble with the Department of Justice over. Imagine that.

To get back on track on the subject of this blog post, however, let me say again that I really do thank you for taking time to read anything I write, and if you buy my work that’s good too.

Coming up in future posts are the long-dreaded — I mean, long-awaited! Long-awaited!— post about why I’m going to pen names for my fiction, and I think I need to write about my beans and chickens again, since I got chided for that by somebody who doesn’t even know me. humpf The nerve!

At long last, Zombie Town is here!

After much struggle and a few naughty words, I’ve finally gotten my short story collection, Zombie Town, up on Amazon and Smashwords, where you can download various formats (except for .epub, which I’m having a little trouble with at the mo). The book should filter through and be at the other major and minor retail sites Smashwords distributes to within a few days, I hope.

Rather than publish the stories one-by-one, I decided to make them into a collection. Some of the stories are rather short to put up on their own, unless I do it for free, which yet may happen. I’ve got a couple or three novels to finish first, though.

Those of you who are Constant Readers may notice that the author name is different. I’ve got a post coming up that explains my reasoning in detail (hey, don't be like that! it’s not that bad), but the short version is that I’m using pen names for various genres and keeping my real name for my nonfiction work.

I’m pretty excited to have published another book. It’s been a while, and I’m surprised at how much of the publishing process I’ve forgotten! I got pretty frustrated with getting Smashwords to accept the .epub, and still have to get that uploaded, and both Amazon and Smashwords took forever to load the files.

So that’s the latest news from my world. Upcoming blog posts will cover my re-branding as a writer, an open letter of appreciation to readers, and a program to get books into the hands of prisoners, so stay tuned to this channel.

Garden of tasty delights.

After I let The Chickie Chickie Girls out this morning, giving them fresh food and water to start the day, I took a walk up to the garden and spent some time harvesting beans and peas.

A lot of beans and peas. With more to come.

What have I gotten myself into?

Oh, that’s right. Dinner. ha ha

Anyway, I can see there will be a boatload of tomatoes coming very soon, and more beans and peas. My spaghetti squash is making lovely little baby squashes. I can hardly wait to taste one. Yum!

I walked back to the house — and have I mentioned this is trudging across two acres, in the heat and humidity of an early summer morning in the South? — and washed and sorted out the peas from the beans. It seems I have two different kinds of green beans (which are called garden beans for some reason). I’m not sure how that happened, but rest assured, they will be eaten, and gladly.

A tisket, a tasket veggies in a basket.

Beans, more beans, and peas, oh my!

There’s more to plant, too. I re-started some things that didn’t come up the first time, and have cucumbers, more tomatoes, and regular crook neck squash and zucchini and some more beans. My granddog got into the peppers, so that’s a bust unless I can find some at the store to plant.

The speckled Lima beans and black beans I’d planted a while back are just getting to the point where they’ll be producing, and I started a few more of each, so that will add to the harvest. All I need to do is figure out where to put everything!

I see many more days spent bent over with scissors, picking vegetables. My back is already protesting, but my tummy is growling. Is it dinner time yet?

I know you're dying to hear more about the chickens.

I can see you, sitting in the corner, sucking your thumb and mumbling about how bad I am for not giving you weekly -- nay, daily -- updates. Take a deep breath, and wipe the drool off your face, because it's here! I even have pictures. You're welcome.

So, a couple of weeks back, we decided the birds had to go outside. They were too big for the box we were using for a brooder, and they'd gotten a bit crazy and begun attacking me when I went to change their food and water. My Aussie boy startled them once while I was trying to avoid beaks to grab the water bowl, and mass panic ensued. One smart girl managed to, well, fly the coop, so to speak. What fun trying to catch her before she either made it out the door, or became dog chow. Not. Thought I was going to have a heart attack.

But the coop wasn't anywhere near ready. What to do? What to do?

Enter a plastic dog crate.Ta da! We'd been using it for my granddog, but needs must when the Devil drives. Second of Three and I went out and took an extra fence section to close off what was going to become the chickens' run. A few tweaks and we had it secure enough to keep the birds in, and predators out. Then we took the crate apart (it won't go through the door) and set it up inside the run. A couple of handfuls of pine shavings, and the fun part started:  getting six flighty and rather pissed off teen-aged hens outside. One at a time.

Well, there's good news, and good news.

Mama had a biopsy following a mammogram, and we got the news yesterday that everything is okay, no sign of cancer. We had all been worried, because the test had shown something in the other breast that the doctor didn't like, and of course we all thought the cancer was back. But, all is well, and onward to the next checkup in six months.

Second bit of good news:  my little chicken ladies are still among the living. They are growing like weeds and have almost completely lost their down, so I hope to have them outside in their coop/run by the end of next week. Then I can start scaring them half to death outside, where they have more room to run! I really need to handle them more, so they realize I'm not some predator swooping in for the kill.

Egg production is highly anticipated around here, to say the least. I know we'll all be delirious when we get the first one. I'm already planning how many chicks to get next spring. Might even throw in a few meat birds. Just call me Ms Chicken Farmer. Ha ha