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text 2018-09-25 04:08
Houses of Stone -- Buddy read
Houses of Stone - Barbara Michaels

Just setting this up for tomorrow's buddy read.

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text 2018-08-01 04:39
Extending my mini-vacation, and then it's over
  • The four-day week-end I spent in the Seattle area was not much of a vacation, other than being a break from cooking and washing dishes.

    I think I walked three or four miles just through the airports and had the burden of hauling a suitcase and overloaded laptop case.  Being old and out of shape doesn't help.  Even on wheels, the combination of luggage was heavy.  There was no way I could have carried it up and down stairs, so I appreciated the escalators, but in many places there were just ramps.  They're fine on the downward slant, but uphill ramps have always done a number on my ankle and calf muscles.

    During my stay, we went to baseball games three days out of the four, and invariably there was uphill and downhill walking, with the same effect on my muscles as airport ramps.  Nights were often late and most mornings were early, so I didn't get nearly as much sleep as I would have liked.  And sleep in an unfamiliar bed never provides the best rest.  Each day I fell further and further behind.

    Sunday, we went to beaches.  Several of them.  We went in search of stones and seaglass.  I found enough little stones at one beach to maybe make a small tumbler load and maybe produce some casual jewelry, but the seaglass beach was inaccessible.  That was a bit of a disappointment.

    We also went to the beaches to take pictures.  No one has any pictures of me because I'm always the one taking the photos, and I don't like any of the photos of me anyway.  But everyone wanted some family pictures, so we found a big driftwood log at one beach and some pictures were taken.  I haven't seen them yet.  I'm not sure when I will.

    I returned to Arizona Monday – the airport walks were longer and even more horrendous because I was already exhausted – and wasted no time.  Dirty laundry was the first thing unpacked, and while the washer was running I finished the unpacking.  As soon as the clothes were in the dryer, I set the timer for an hour and crawled into bed for a 60 minute nap.  There being insufficient groceries in the house to fix supper – and there being absolutely no enthusiasm on my part for cooking it anyway – we went out to eat.  I came home completely exhausted in spite of my nap, and was sound asleep shortly after 9:00.

    This morning I woke up earlier than I really wanted to and had no desire to get out of bed, so I spent about an hour just being lazy and doing some thinking.  It's not the first morning I've done that, but for a variety of reasons this morning was a bit different.

    A good portion of the past weekend was also devoted to motivational conversations, for reasons I won't go into here.  Although I was not the object of these discussions, much of what was said hit home: I've not been adequately motivated to stick to my writing and I've also been far too willing to come up with convenient excuses.  The weather is too hot or too cold, there are too many worries about finances, too many appliances have broken, blah, blah, blah, blah.  The end result is that I have two novels sitting at well more than 50,000 words each, and I have done virtually nothing on either of them for months.

    A few weeks ago, I figured out why one of the books was stalled.  The problems were fixable, with some work, and the fix would make the story much stronger.  And even at 50,000 words, the book was going to require a whole lot more writing anyway.  The words don't write themselves; I'd have to stop making excuses and get to work.

    The other book presents a much more complicated problem.  I began writing it without a clear idea where it was going.  The plot was vague and strongly character-driven, so I had the character arc well formed, but not much else.  The more I worked on it, the more the writing veered to the character part of the plot and away from the story, because the story wasn't strong enough to pull it back.

    The story also had a huge hole.  No, that's not quite right.  The story as I had written it up to those 50,000 words had an obvious weakness.  At least it was obvious to me.

    As I read other books and saw similar or even worse weaknesses, I wondered if readers noticed, and if they noticed, did they care.  These flimsy plots and characters who acted without proper motivation or consistency bothered me.  Did they bother other readers?  Whether or not they did, I knew I was having more and more problems with this book because it bothered me.  I had put my character, the one who was driving the whole book, into a situation I couldn't imagine her actually getting herself into.  It made no sense to me the author; how could I even begin to make it make sense to a reader?

    Over the weekend I found an answer, or at least a possible answer.  As with the other stalled novel, this one would require more work.  I'm not sure how much work, or where the changes will need to be made.  Will I have to go back into those existing 50,000 words and make major modifications?  It's been months since I've read it all the way through and I know there are details I've forgotten.  Will they fit in this new "fix" I've sort of come up with?

    The truth is, I've allowed myself to be distracted far too much.  I've forgotten how difficult writing is.  I wanted it to be easy.

    In fact, writing has always been easy for me.  That's not to say the easy writing is always good writing, but I've always been able to do it.  

    What's hard is turning off the distractions.  What's hard is sitting down and facing the next blank line, the next sentence, the next paragraph, without worrying whether some reader is going to like it or not.  What's hard is turning of my internal editor who has the rejection slip already in her hand and just needs my own SASE to send it back to me.

    Today is Tuesday.  I'm catching up on some other work while I mentally play with these two plot improvement projects.  Tomorrow I have another grocery shopping expedition on the schedule, with the follow-up of putting the groceries away.  Overall, it will take up my entire morning.  Another list of chores faces me related to the upcoming art show season.  My first scheduled show is less than ten weeks away.

    The arts and crafts stuff is part of this.  It's a distraction in and of itself, but it's also a source of income, which I need.  There's a necessary balance to be achieved, and frankly, I haven't found it yet.  That's another task for the next couple of days as I think this all through.

    I've been in this position before.  There's always a desire to write, and plenty of workable ideas to which to apply that desire, but the distractions and emotional obstacles stand in the way.  Self doubt is a big one, and maybe having these two plots worked out – at least for now – will help erase some of that doubt.  I've never had an abundance of self-confidence, and it gets pummeled pretty regularly.  Even a light-hearted Twitter query about "Did you ever have someone who had more confidence in yourself than you did, and how did it affect you?" can feel like a dagger to the heart.  No, I never had anyone who had more confidence in me than I did.  Never.  And I never really had much confidence in myself to begin with.

    It's hard to push past that, and yet I've done it in the past.  I know it can be done.  I know I can do it.  I just have to do it.            

    Therefore, I've given myself the rest of this week to put all these other issues in order and out of the way.  There will still be work to be done for the art shows, but that's an ongoing effort.  The other stuff needs to be set aside, so I can focus on the writing.

    There were elements of my four-day weekend that were enough of a vacation to give me the opportunity to think out the problems of these two books and clarify potential fixes.  As I continue to think these through, my job is also to make -- make, not find -- the time to do the writing.  That means to stop making excuses, stop finding excuses.
     
    I think we get a warm feeling inside at the thought of everyone having a mentor, a supporter, someone who makes each of us somehow rise above whatever is holding us back so we can achieve our dreams.  The sad truth is that most of us don't have that someone.  Most of us don't achieve our dreams.  Many of us don't achieve those dreams because we're waiting for that bit of support or encouragement.  But I wonder just how many successes out there are attributable to raw, ugly, solo determination.  I'm taking that for my model.
     

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review 2018-06-02 03:44
A reread, and I finally figured this one out
Be Buried in the Rain - Barbara Michaels

I've read this at least three times, maybe more, with the most recent reread about a year ago when I was reading all of the Barbara Michaels gothics that I have.

 

That particular reread was with a specific purpose: I had started writing another contemporary romantic-suspense-with-ghosts and I wanted to get good handle on how Michaels had structured hers.  I already knew Ammie, Come Home had serious plot and detail problems.  Be Buried in the Rain was written about twenty years later, so I was hoping she had improved her technique.

 

Be Buried in the Rain was also one of my favorites of the Michaels gothics, along with Houses of Stone and The Walker in Shadows.  Even though I read all three books last year, I still had some issues with both Houses and Be Buried.  So although I'm already involved in several other reading projects, this afternoon I picked up the latter to see if I could finally figure out the solution to my problem with it . . . or accept that maybe Michaels had left a major thread dangling.

 

And I think I did it.  In the process, I gained a grand new respect for the writer Michaels/Mertz/Peters became after the almost laughable errors in Ammie.

 

No spoiler posted here, and maybe everyone else who has read Be Buried in the Rain picked up on this detail the first time through and I'm just the dullard who missed it until the (at least) fourth read.  But I feel more confident tonight about my own writing. 

 

And now, back to my own ghosts!

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text 2018-04-17 00:11
Taxes and stuff -- and 43,025

In amongst everything else, I put together my tax returns the past couple of days.  There weren't any surprises, because I've kept my bookkeeping up to date.  I knew my liability was going to be modest, with no panic at the last minute.  All I have left to do is make copies for my files, then seal the forms and check in an envelope to drop in the mail tomorrow.

 

Yay!

 

My studio is still a complete and total disaster, but I did get some time on the rock saw, and slightly diminished the inventory.  (We're talkin' a dozen or two rocks out of thousands, so it's not a whole lot.)  The slices from Friday and Saturday are cleaned up and the first batch is in the tumbler.  More will be started in the next few days.  If the weather cooperates, I may even get more time on the saw later this week.  This will be a good thing.

 

Depending on how many I end up with, the stones will basically take most of the summer to process.  I already have lots of other stones to work on over the next six months before the 2018-19 show season, so that will keep me busy building inventory.

 

Having finished my taxes, I have a really clear picture of my 2017 income -- as well as 2016 -- vis a vis both the jewelry and art shows on one hand, and my writing on the other hand.   Bottom line is I need to write more.

 

Bottom line really is I want to write more. 

 

I never seem to have time to read, let alone write.  When I read, I write.  I think I've written that more than once in the past, but it's true.  It's like a priming of the pump or something.  But the past several months especially, I haven't been able to gather sufficient reading time.  All those books on my "currently reading" wall?  For the most part, I'm still currently reading them.  I just can't find the time to finish . . . anything.

 

That has to stop.  And it has to stop now.

 

The Secrets of White Apple Tree Farm is currently at 43,025 words.  I have more in hand-written scribblings that I need to transcribe, but I have no idea at all how much is there.  There have been many nights when I've lain in bed and thought through some of the the plot lines, but can't find the time to write them down.  Are they forgotten?  No, they're cemented in my imagination, waiting for time/energy/discipline.

 

I want to write this book.  I want to write this book NOW.

 

 

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review 2018-01-26 16:19
I can't even - A Nit-Picky Review in Real Time
Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries - Roger Hayden

Disclosure:  I obtained this collection when it was offered free on Amazon.  I do not know any of the authors, nor have I ever had any communication with any of them about these books or any other matter.  I am an author of historical and contemporary romances, including gothic romances.

 

This is a collection of four separate novels by four authors.  When it showed up as a freebie in my email notices on 25 January 2018, I went ahead and downloaded it.  It is still free as of 26 January, if anyone is interested.

 

The first novel is The Haunting of Saxton Mansion. I had in fact "purchased" this as a freebie a few months ago, but hadn't read more than the first page or so.  Later, when checking the reviews on Amazon, I learned that this was one of those teaser books, where the first half is free, but the ending is in the second half that isn't free.  Since I hadn't been immediately captivated by the opening, I didn't go back to read any further.

 

I'm assuming, therefore, that the boxed set contains the whole thing.  The Table of Contents lists Book 0, Book 1, and Book 2.

 

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 0

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 1

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 2

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 7-10). Kindle Edition.

I began reading Book 0, which is a very different opening from what I had read from the first freebie.  Whether it is a prequel or backstory, I don't know yet.  I may never find out, because I may not be able to force myself through it.

 

The scene is set as December 22, 1982, in Cypress Creek, Florida.

 

I don't mind a haunting from the recent past.  In fact, I find it intriguing, because it seems there has always been a preponderance of ghosts from past centuries when it's just as likely that unhappy, restless spirits might be active from more recent times.  So the near-contemporary timeframe didn't bother me.

 

The opening text is visual description of the scene.  Full moon, clouds, and so on.

 

Wispy clouds streaked the evening sky, illuminated by the glow of a full moon. Palm trees in a slumbering town swayed in the slight breeze. On the corner of a sparsely populated back street sat a grand, two-story Victorian home. An iron gate over six feet tall surrounded the premises.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 28-30). Kindle Edition.

Four sentences into the book and I stopped, dead.  Four sentences.

 

The clouds and the moon, okay.  Overview of the whole town, hm, okay.  Zoom into house on the corner, hmmmm, less okay but passable.

 

Iron gate surrounding the premises?  NO.

 

A fence surrounds a property, but a gate doesn't.

 

Disbelief is no longer suspended.

 

Freshly cut St. Augustine grass encompassed the massive front lawn where the old Saxton manor rested atop a small hill, shrouded by thick, looming tree branches in a neighboring forest.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 30-31). Kindle Edition. 

The grass doesn't "encompass" the lawn.  Lawns aren't usually described as "massive." How is there a small hill on a corner city lot?  If the forest is neighboring, how are its branches shrouding the house?

 

I'm barely onto Page 2, and my eyes are spinning in their sockets.

 

This is bad writing.  It's poor word choices mixed with bad cinematography.  And it doesn't stop.

 

Past the gated entrance was a long driveway that ran past the courtyard to the garage. The house itself had been constructed in 1970 and was one of the oldest homes in Cypress Creek. Its history was shrouded in secrecy.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 32-33). Kindle Edition.

 

What courtyard?  Does this author know what a courtyard is?  I have my doubts.

 

And, a house built in 1970 is not Victorian.  While it might be Victorian style, or Queen Anne Style, or whatever style that evokes the Victorian era, it's way too new to be true Victorian.

 

Maybe today's readers don't care.  Maybe they're so accustomed to inaccuracies and otherwise bad writing that they can't tell the difference.  Maybe they don't know the difference between a gate and a fence.  Maybe they think "Victorian" is a synonym for "big and looks old."  I don't know.  As we here on BookLikes learned from our buddy reads Ammie, Come Home and Jamaica Inn, even traditionally published books can be loaded with errors.

 

Is that an excuse for the kind of crap that shows up in books like The Haunting of Saxton Manor?  Because, hoo boy, it gets worse.

 

The action takes place a mere 12 years after the house was built, yet its history is "shrouded in secrecy."  Um, no.  The description of the setting is clichés upon clichés, but without substance.  This is bad writing.

 

A decorated Christmas tree shined through a front window with its colorful reds, blues, and greens. The Saxton family living inside had much to celebrate during the coming holidays, unaware that outside their home, someone was watching.

 

Gerald Saxton’s black BMW drove through the automatic gate and up the driveway. He parked near the courtyard and got out, carrying two full paper grocery bags in each arm. Dressed in his creased gray suit, he walked up the three concrete steps onto the front porch with its wooden railing and thin white columns that ran up to the roof.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 33-38). Kindle Edition.

The lights of the Christmas tree shone (not shined) through the window, not the tree itself.  And the family probably lived inside the house, not inside the tree.

 

Gerald drove the car; it didn't drive itself.  Why did he park "near the courtyard" and not in the garage?  Does the writer stop to think how impossible it would be to carry two full paper grocery bags in one arm and then grab two more with the other arm and then, with both arms full, open the car door and maneuver past the steering wheel to exit the vehicle? 

 

Why is his suit creased?  Does the author mean the suit is wrinkled, as though Gerald slept in it?  Or does the author mean the suit is neatly pressed, with sharp creases in the trousers?  Does the author know what words even mean?

 

Potted plants lined the top railing. A porch swing, held by chains from above, creaked with the wind. It was a cool sixty-eight degrees that evening, hardly winter, but quite normal for the south Florida neighborhood.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 38-40). Kindle Edition.

 

If the columns described in the previous paragraph rose all the way to the roof of the two-story home, it's unlikely the swing would have been on chains that long.  And the temperature would have been "quite normal" for all of south Florida that time of the year, not just the local neighborhood.  Though this lucky paragraph didn't have any major errors, it's still an example of what happens when a writer doesn't pay attention to details.

 

Fresh aqua paint covered the home’s wooden exterior; its steep roofline was a dark gray. Much of the house had undergone renovations some five years prior. The roof arched in the center, and there were two windows on the second floor that resembled eyes, with an even higher single attic window centered above. With its unique architecture, expansive courtyard, and adjacent tennis court, the Saxton estate was like no other home in Cypress Creek.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 40-43). Kindle Edition. 


The house is only twelve years old, yet it had undergone renovations at the age of seven?  Why?  And what does the author mean by "The roof arched in the center"?  And we still don't know about this "courtyard."

 

I'll give you a break, dear reader, and not quote every single line for a while.  Gerald enters the house and greets his wife, Annette, who is wearing a silk purple bathrobe.

 

Usage dictates that the bathrobe should be purple silk, not silk purple.

 

1  /   SIZE  :       How big ?         Large, small, tiny, enormous

2 /     AGE   :      How old ?           New, young, old, ancient

3 /    SHAPE :    What shape ?     Square, round, rectangular, flat

4 / COLOUR :    What colour ?      Blue, pink, yellow, crimson

5 /  ORIGIN :    Where from ?      English, American, Chinese,French

6 / MATERIAL: What it is made of ?    Plastic, cardboard, glass, wooden

7 / PURPOSE : What it  is used for ?    Racing car, frying pan, rocking chair 

 

Though we -- as both readers and writers -- don't normally think in terms of these rules for ordering adjectives, "silk purple" just doesn't read as comfortably on our mental ears as "purple silk."  Is it possible the author of this book is not well read?

 

At any rate, Gerald greets Annette and takes the groceries into the kitchen.

 

Gerald set the bags onto the kitchen counter and sighed. “Another long night at the office. What can I say?” He pulled a bottle of red wine from one the bags, proudly displaying the Dom Perignon label.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 54-56). Kindle Edition.

 

WALLBANGER.

 

 

 

I can't leave a review on Amazon because I'm also a writer, and we're only allowed to write positive reviews, not negative or critical ones.

 

How many asinine mistakes is a reader supposed to put up with before DNFing and zero-starring a piece of garbage?  How many "mulligans" does a lazy, incompetent writer get?  This book (or at least the original first part of it) has 256 ratings on Amazon, with an average of 4.2 stars.  What the ever living fuck?

 

 

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