Saturday, December 27, 2014

series rebranding

wheee! we survived christmas, nearly.

all three of the kids here with us are sick as all get out with bronchitis and fevers, but they managed to have a great holiday.

over the break i also tinkered with the cover situation that had been giving me so much heartburn.

i went back to the drawing board and came up with these:



so happy with them and i think they do a good job capturing the mood of the story better than the original covers do. i'm in the midst of updating all the vendors so they show up now.

i also got an hd camcorder for christmas, so pretty soon i'm going to have to make good on all those threats to do a youtube channel for writing talk and book reviews. right after i lose about a million pounds...cameras are not kind to girls with naturally round faces.

watch out world...



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Friday, December 19, 2014

help me! cover art + indiegogo reward updates

book three is dropping in the next few weeks (maybe a month or so?) and as i get ready for that, promo season will be upon us and i need to have all sorts of fancy banners and graphics prepped.

hoooray!

i'm just having a hard time settling on book 3's final cover and i'm hoping you can offer me your opinion.

the covers don't have to be exactly the same...but an identifiable "look" to them certainly helps. would you take a look at my three options and weigh in either here or on FB?  thank you!

* * *



Option 1.

So, the file as a whole came across a little dusty, but a lot of you have seen the cover for book 3 (vertigo) that i originally had done.

i love it, i really do. but it's kind of like...."one of these things is not like the other..." seriously. sesame street song in my head and all....

beautiful cover. sort of missing the vibe of the other ones.

* * *



Option 2.

Helllloooo, Renn. Here, we've got the branding down and even the light, washed colors in the background. but. there's. a. boy. on the cover. and it breaks with the girl thing i had going for books 1 and 2.

keep in mind though, a good number of popular series with a strong male lead switched covers just like this throughout the series and they were just fine. and renn really does play a big part in this final book. but still..... girl, girl...boy!

this is my favorite one so far, but it still is nagging at me for some reason.

* * *




Option 3.

I can't find an "atmospheric blond girl" picture to round out the trifecta, but i found this one and i love it. she's close enough (these aren't hard copies and other than right here, you'll never have the three girls side by side like you do right now...so it's not anything huge if she's not the same girl.)

what this new july has going for her is that we are going to see a really strong, really powerful (and sort of terrifying) side of july in 'vertigo' so the dark, intense smolder thing she's doing might just work.

plus the branding is the same and you know all that. obviously the watermarks will be taken out of all these when i finally buy the stockart.

* * *

so...what do you think????

let me know!

INDIEGOGO REWARDS

Ohmaigosh!

I'm finally at the point where the end is in sight and I can start organizing all my lovely packages and thank yous!

Somewhere toward the end of January, right when I release Vertigo, I'll be contacting you via email (the one provided on the campaign) and getting a mailing address to ship off the goodies.

I don't have hard copies printed yet because I need the third book and to finalize the covers. Unfortunately, the jpeg covers I use for Kindle and other ebooks don't fly with the printers, so it's going to take me a week or so at the computer to get those high rez, wrap around covers configured and approved by Amazon.

My guess for hard copies is March?!

I have bookmarks/postcards and ebooks, though!!! Hallelujiah!

Like I said, I'll be in touch shortly after the holidays and will get all my awesome sauce friends squared away.

I love you guys!



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Sunday, December 14, 2014

a bunch of silly little things


(early this month, i was working at a conference in chicago and instead of taking dutiful notes, i was distracted by a bright red purse. i love the color red and this little tangent is the result of me being distracted by red, shiny things.)

12/1/2014
8:02 a.m.

i want a red sofa.


a red door on the first house i own, too.


the amount of hot sauce i’ve been dousing myself in is scary. i eat it on everything.


i’m on a mission to make biscuits every week until christmas.


i collect cookie recipes. i think our worth as a society lies somewhere in the ability to make our families happy with baked goods. the more worn, smudged recipe cards you have in your recipe box, the better you’re doing.


its my new purpose in life to be nice to strangers. in passing. never to be seen again. people in chicago are so nice. i’m sure there are plenty who aren't, but the strangers i’m passing say goodmorning and good afternoon and they give you the “hello, fellow human being” nod that means “i see you. you’re real.”  


i see you all. you’re all very real, very worthy, and very loved. that’s my new mission in life. i can’t right all the wrongs, but maybe i can right one day for one person. that’s now enough for me.


i want a pair of red heels. bright red heels, plain ones with no buckles or bows. buckles and bows make me angry when they are on heels because i hated buckles and bows on my shoes when i was a kid and now that i am grown, well, i still hate them.


for that matter, i hated bows and buckles on my christmas dresses. 

more than that, i hated pinched short-sleeves on those stupid frilly, dresses and i would yank on them until the cuff snapped when i was little. i’d pretend i didn’t know how it happened when my mom would see the ripped sleeve.

i hated tights, too. i still hate tights. they’re unnatural and invasive and make me look lumpy in that span of time before i can find my skirt and get it yanked on. i refuse to wear tights no matter how hard my mom has been hinting these past 36 years.


i want to find something to do with all the poor, broken crayons in the world. my children are like miniature godzillas lately, snapping magenta and cyan like brittle high rise buildings in their tantrums. and i just throw them out and that makes me sad. but don’t suggest that i do pinterest projects with them because blowdrying crayon fragments on a canvas and calling it art doesn’t work so well. trust me, i tried it.

above all this, i really, really want that red sofa.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

scandinavian christmas



in honor of audrey eclectic's st. lucia blog procession, i'd love to post a recipe for norwegian sugar cookies, courtesy of my mom!

our family is norwegian--my great grandfather emigrated to america through Galveston in 1905 and their scandinavian culture is something my kids are learning bit by bit.

we love baking and we love nissen. cookies and christmas gnomes are all over our house.

tonight, we'll light candles in honor of st. lucia and we'll talk about the light in the midst of darkness and how traditions light the way for generations to come.


Norwegian Sugar Cookies 

ingredients


  • 1 cup of butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (well beaten)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp almond flavoring


directions

cream sugar and butter. add beaten egg and almond flavoring. mix in flour. refrigerate for 1 hour. roll dough into 24 walnut-sized balls. on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, press cookie dough with bottom of glass, dipped in sugar. add 1/2 of maraschino cherry to each cookie. bake at 350 for 15 minutes, until edges brown.

god jul!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

in search of the hat trick...



"there's nothing to writing. all you do is sit down at a typewriter, open a vein and bleed..." (red smith)

on sunday i finally finished book 2 of the series.

let me just tell you, friends, this book was so difficult to finish. so. freakin'. hard.

i lost faith in it about midway through, especially when it was about time to start all the major action and conflict resolution-y stuff.

but with a little help (and gentle nudges) from a couple really good friends, i somehow managed to limp along to the end. (hooray!)

in the old days, that would have been the end of it. agonize a little in the process of writing the book, whine a little, and then be done with the damn thing.

a long, long time ago...the really hard part of this writing thing was getting past chapter 3.

i mean it.

you'd have a great idea to start yourself out with and you'd go for it.  (i am sooo good at the "go for it part"!)

And then  somewhere around page 30 or 40, you'd start to realize that you didn't really plan this charade out all that great and you (and by that I mean "I") abandon ship. cannoooonball!

my guess is you'd probably blink a few times in surprise if i told you how many false starts live in my computer's cloud. (that sounded funny, didn't it? there's also that perpetual cloud my brain lives in and there are millions more false starts there, too.)

but somewhere along the way, in the past two years, i figured out how to end a book. hoooray, right?!

in the past two years i've actually had the chance to write "the end" on four projects (two of them attached to my YA series and two are in the romance/smoochy-smoochy genre).

and since i figured out how to type "the end," the panic no longer happens at page 30 or 40. it happens that next morning after you finish your book. (for the record, i only finish books at night. strange, right?)

these days, i want to unsend my book to my editors. i don't want anyone to read it and i wish i'd never said anything about being a writer at all.

i worst-case-scenario myself all to hell and convince myself that in a world of millions upon millions of traditionally and indie published books out there, mine will never really reach anybody, so why bother?

it's ugly. but mostly it shows me it's probably part of a maturing process as a writer (not a human being--i've given up hope on ever encountering one of those).

maybe the next phase is that i panic when a NY publisher wants to hand me a chunky little advance check. and then after that, i'll panic when i'm not sure if i want the red private jet or the gold one...

baby steps, i get it...i get it...

but for this moment right here...i mostly need to stuff those awful things i tell myself and march on. i've got another book to complete to round out before i can really wallow in how scary this publishing journey is and how i'm just not cut out for it.

kidding. kind of....


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Sunday, December 7, 2014

a month and a book



mostly i want to talk about a book, but i'll talk a little about a month first.

november seemed to go by really, really fast. we did a lot of fun stuff. we visited family, played with cousins, had a first snow here in virginia, and i capped the month off with a trip to chicago.

i think i've traveled for business once in my life and that was to juneau, alaska. i barely survived landing at the airport that time forgot, so thankfully, my trip to midway (by way of atlanta) was smooth.

i know it's silly to feel all grown up at 36, but honestly, navigating a huge city by way of cabs, metros and train lines alone all while covering a high-tech radiology conference really makes you feel like a competent human being when you can accomplish it all without getting mugged, lost or fired.

yay, megan.

on to the book...

i read about sarah wildman's "paper love" on npr.org and knew it was something i'd be interested, hefty $12 price tag (for a darn ebook) be damned.

the gist of it? wildman's grandfather escaped the holocaust and set up a successful medical practice here in the states. he went on to have a wild, fun life full of family, adventure and comfort. after his death, wildman (a journalist) discover's a hidden trove of letters from a girl back in vienna named valy.

"his first true love," according to wildman's grandmother.

"paper love" tracks wildman's exhaustive search to find out what happened to valy (a fellow doctor) who didn't make it out of vienna ahead of the nazi invasion.

i'll stop here and say that i read a lot of holocaust literature. my favorite, so far, has been a fiction book called "blessings on the moon" but i've read elie wiesel's books a few times and have read corrie ten boom and managed to finish "auschwitz: a doctor's eyewitness account" by miklos nyiszli. that one was really tough to digest and walk away from at the same time.

the premise for "paper love" really grabbed me. a collection of found ephemera (remember my recent obsession with collections of long-forgotten recipe cards i run across?) leads a writer on a multi-year journey across the states, europe and the uk trying to find out whatever happened to this woman she's growing increasingly fond of as she researches the times valy lived in and valy herself through the letters to her grandfather. she interviews experts, family members and relatives of the players in the story.

wildman weaves the german invasion era well with modern day as she makes her way across europe in search of clues as to valy's fate. with wildman, we're all holding out hope that valy was an exception and not a norm for jews during the nazi occupation.

valy is brave and smart and manages to stay just outside deportation to forced labor camps time and time again. she refuses to leave europe without her mother when wildman's grandfather flees with his family in 1938. he promises to send for her...but it's a promise he can't keep for many, many heartbreaking reasons.

there's a point in the book and in valy's letters (after the anxiousness and the desperation) where she realizes her true love isn't going to come back for her. it's a hard section to read, to say the least.

we follow valy (and wildman's) movements through berlin as 1943 dawns. valy's married a much younger, courageous man from the jewish hospital where she works. he's trying to save valy as much as he's trying to save himself and you're pulling so hard for these two.

(SPOILERS ALERT. STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS)

can i just say how hollow i've felt the past couple of days since reading the book?

Dr. Valy (Valerie) Scheftel
hans and valy make a plan to go underground in berlin ahead of the final gestapo roundup of jewish hospital workers. hans and his friend ernest go to their apartment to gather valy to make their escape, but their greeted by a gestapo officer lying in wait.

valy's already been rounded up hours earlier. they missed their chance to escape by one day...

the gestapo grab hans.

ernest makes an escape. he survives the war and spends decades looking for valy and frans, only to find they didn't make it to the following evening. they died upon arrival at the camp.

ernest (one of my favorite characters of the book) eventually buys a commemorative plaque for the couple and list their death dates as 29 january 1943. remarkable valy was 31, brave hans was 21.

i. was. so. broken.

valy was brilliant and brave and stayed behind to save her mother who was killed a few weeks later.

i know i rarely post book reviews here the past few years, but if this book made it's way to just one friend's hand, well, then mission accomplished.

it will rip you apart and slowly sew you back together again. it will break your heart but open your eyes to hope at the same time.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

photo 29 of 30 (snow day)



(30 photos in 30 days. More here.)

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First snow in Virginia

I'm pretty sure I'll drive my friends crazy on Facebook if I don't slow down with the snow pictures already. But it's soooo pretty in Virginia. And unlike our decade in Alaska, this snow is mostly fleeting.

Riley was born in Houston in 2012. She's never seen snow before and I'm pretty sure up until it made her poor toes and fingers numb, she loved it.

There's something special about the first snow around here. It's quiet. The cows move noiselessly through the paddocks and even into our yard if we're not mindful of the gate.

The red barn I love so much looks even more gorgeous in the snow, too.







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photo 26 of 30 (luray mural)




(30 photos in 30 days. More here.)
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

photo 25 of 30 (ferry sign)




(30 photos in 30 days. More here.)
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Monday, November 24, 2014

photo 24 of 30 (fire escape)




(30 photos in 30 days. More here.)

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

photo 18 of 30 (new guy)




(30 photos in 30 days. More here.)

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Monday, November 17, 2014

recipe archaeologist (west virginia: polly's pumpkin cookies)





I mentioned on Facebook last weekend that I hit the ultimate jackpot when I went to our weekend Flea Market here in Page County. For a whole quarter, I got a recipe tin with a few handwritten recipe castoffs, some clipped recipes from women's magazines, and a couple snippings from a local newspaper.

I was hooked. Not only did I love the loopy, scratched handwritten recipes on the stained and worn recipe cards, I loved the ephemera I found with them. Thank you notes. Newspaper articles.

It was too much for my nosy, former reporter self not to dig deeper.

I started with the newspaper clippings from The Moorefield Examiner.

Moorfield is about an hour and 45 minutes away (a huge flood happened in 1982. A civil war battle happened in 1864. Union troops defeated Brig. Gen. John McCausland thanks in large part to McCasland foolishly splitting his troops' camp into two across the south branch of the Potomac River. Oops...)

The piece I found (complete with an Apple Cake recipe) gave me a couple clues once I fired up the Googles.



Wasn't too hard to find McCoy's Grand Theater (now a museum). Next step was the Bruce Dern film "Smile," which I've never heard of.

Thanks to the movie reference and an incomplete event announcement right below, that puts us at about 1975 in our kitchen archeology dig so far.

Oh, I forgot to add this thank-you note given to our mystery chef that actually gives her a name. Bear with me...



So....we have a name. A town. A time frame. And thanks to another thank-you note, we had a church reference.

Google did the rest of the work for me.

Turns out Polly is alive and well in Moorefield.

A sprightly 78-year old bridge master, she's still winning local tournaments as of last year and celebrating each Sunday at the local Presbyterian church with her husband George. I'm leaving her last name out on purpose, of course.

If the math is correct, much of the collecting she did in the recipe box I found happened in the mid-to late 70s...when Polly would have been about, oh say, 37-ish? (I can relate.) In the tin recipe box I found, it's all pumpkin and oatmeal and peanut butter cookie recipes. There's one for a peach pie, too.

I like her style, ya'll. Sugar and carbs and carbs and sugar. I imagine Polly's a sweet thing at heart...

I figured, given the season and our proximity to Thanksgiving, I'd include Polly's recipe for pumpkin cookies. It was a little incomplete, so I had to guess the oven temperature and the time. And the actual steps to the cookie making, but, you know... it worked out fine in the end.

Thanks for the head start, Miss Polly.



Polly's Pumpkin Cookies

1 and 1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. shortening
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
2 and 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon and nutmeg
1 c. nuts
1/2 c. raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar with shortening and eggs.

Add pumpkin and mix well.

In separate bowl, sift flour with baking powder, salt and spices.

Fold into pumpkin mixture and combine. Add in nuts and raisins if desired.

Drop by spoonful onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes and send out some good vibes to our new friend Polly while you wait.

...happy eating...


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