Here you can follow the blow-by-blow account of my attempt to transform myself into a (regularly) published author.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Chapters 24-27 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

This weekend was really busy with other tasks with deadlines, but I managed to get them all done, and write four more chapters of News from Dead Mule Swamp. The story is getting spun out more than I expected, but that really is fine because it keeps the suspense up (I hope!).

Here's an excerpt from a phone conversation in Chapter 27:

    “Somebody must have thought Cliff was a threat,” I said, trying not to commit myself to a particular suggestion. Cora’s eyes were bright and she was shaking her head vigorously from side to side. I got the hint, but it felt like I had to choose between trusting Adele or Cora. However, I knew that Adele had no ability to keep a secret, so for now I sided with Cora.
    “Exactly!” Adele barked. “What are you and Cora doing?”
    “We’re still sorting old newspapers,” I said. It was almost the truth.
    “Let me know if you find something interesting.”
    “I will.” That was the truth too, as long as there was no time restriction placed on the promise.
I'm hoping to finish the first draft before November 6th. I have a beta reader who wants to take it on a trip with her.

Right now, my goal is to have the e-book available before the end of November. I'm deciding between POD and a short advance run of print copies.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Article for North Star

One of the things I needed to get done this weekend was an article for the next issue of North Star, the magazine of the North Country Trail Association. I don't get paid for those, but its one of the volunteer things I do for the trail.

I wasn't very enthused about the topic of this one, but that doesn't mean I could worm my way out of it. After all, I did agree to write it. The idea is to call to mind some of the women who have made great contributions to the NCT. I'm not a fan of gender distinctions, I'd rather just recall great people.

Nevertheless, I had fun looking back for some info on candidates for the feature, and in doing so found two additional articles I had written for the magazine.

I did complete this one, and sent it off to the editor.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Anastasia Raven Mysteries Fan Page

There is now an Anastasia Raven Mysteries fan page on Facebook. If you go there, you can read the opening paragraphs of the book.

It would make my day if you would "Like" it, and/or leave a comment.

For some reason, the code for the button to "Like" it directly isn't working properly, so you'll have to go to the page to do so. But, I know you want to read those paragraphs, anyway!

I've finally beat myself into doing some of the other work that I HAVE to complete this weekend. Hope I'll be back to finishing News from Dead Mule Swamp really soon.

Go to the Anastasia Raven Mysteries fan page

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chapters 22-23 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

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I am closing in on the final chapters of News from Dead Mule Swamp. The really sad part is that I have to work today, and the two other assignments I have pending must be completed this weekend.

These final chapters have to be done well or the mystery won't be suspenseful enough, or have enough action. I might get you to buy this first book, but you wouldn't want any others from me, right? So I want to pay really close attention to detail and timing and tone.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 23:
    I was brushing my fingers over it to remove any superficial dirt when a hand was placed on my back. I nearly jumped a foot, and indeed, I barked a shin on one of the metal bars.
    “Good Morning, Ana. Are you fascinated by our historic machine?” The voice was Kevin Teeter’s; the tone was edgy.
    Rubbing my shin, I contemplated that tone. I turned, stood up and forced myself to be cheerful. “Mr. Teeter, Kevin, how are you?”
    “Fine, just fine.” he said. The sharpness was gone, and the salesman was back.

At this point there are still several people that Ana is suspicious of... which one is the key to her puzzle?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chapters 19-21 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I seem to have hit a real writing jag on News from Dead Mule Swamp. I've written three more chapters, tied in a loose end nicely and dragged another red herring through the story in the process.

My writing group, West Side Gang, has heard 16 of the chapters. Our regular meeting was last night. I showed them the cover, and introduced them to Cora, the character who turned out to be so interesting. One person wrote on the copy (we discuss and annotate everyone's work) that she thinks Cora is a very likable character.

There are at least five chapters to go, but that might be pulled out into more if the plot needs them for full resolution. I have to work tomorrow, but I'm going to try to write one more chapter yet today.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 21:
    “Did you take the things out?”
    Bella squirmed again. “Just to see what was there. I didn’t take anything, honest!” She glanced fretfully from Chief Jarvi to me, and finally settled on her mother as her best ally.
    “We know you didn’t take anything, Bella,” said Tracy. Everything was there except a piece of old newspaper.
    “I didn’t do it!” wailed Bella. “It must have been that man.”
    “What man?” we all demanded at once.

I definitely have other things I should be working on, but I don't want to let this spurt of creativity get away.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapters 17-18 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

I seem to really be on a roll with News from Dead Mule Swamp. I just got in the groove of writing yesterday and did two more chapters. This bumped my outline into 23 chapters, at least. I discovered that I have a couple of loose ends to weave back in which will add another chapter or two. This is all good.

The book wasn't necessarily too short, but it's not that long either, so adding some more events into the plot will be perfect.

I found out that a character I introduced in Chapter 15 is a lot more interesting than I had realized. She is playing a larger role than I had thought. Indeed, if this turns out to be a series, she is going to be a major player in one whose plot is already forming in my head. I'm making notes as that intrudes, but I really need to concentrate on finishing this book. I'm so good at starting things and so bad at finishing them.

The interesting character is Cora, who is the unofficial county historian.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 17:
   The first case was an old one with quarter-sawn oak edges, and a rounded glass front. It contained fossils and arrowheads, stone hatchets and wicked-looking stone knives. Some were grouped, and every group was labeled with a typed card. The card beside one batch of small arrow points read, “Clarence B. Morrow farm, found by William Morrow, aged 7, 1934.”
   “How do you know all this?” I asked.
   “People generally want to tell me all they know about things when they bring them in. I mostly display the items that have more provenance, and keep the less-well documented things upstairs.”

I hope all mystery fans are looking forward to when this will be for sale!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cover for News from Dead Mule Swamp

About draft three, but I think I'm getting close!

It looks really good in print. I probably need a version that is digitally sharper in a small size for ebooks

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Outlined the Rest of News from Dead Mule Swamp

Today I wrote a general overview of the rest of News from Dead Mule Swamp. Basically, I did a brief synopsis of what will happen in each of chapters 17-22 and made notes about how I want to handle some of the details. Everything seems to hang together pretty well, and makes sense. I don't have to stretch anything too much to have the story resolve.

What I may need to do is go back and add more details from Ana's personal life. The sub-theme is that she is learning about rural life, and it takes some getting used to!

Then I went back and worked on some of the actual writing of Chapter 17.

It's probably time to start thinking about a cover.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Final Edits on "Toby and Harry"

This may be getting really close! Yesterday I received what I hope are the final edits for "Toby and Harry." I have been told that it will be live today at Twin Trinity Books. We shall see.

Since this is a bit of a (light by today's standards) horror tale, having it appear just before Halloween is great timing. I hope that I'll soon be able to report that you can buy and read "Toby and Harry."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Path Less Traveled- Media Coverage Grand Rapids Press

hiker on a rocky outcrop
JHY overlooking the US-Canadian border from the Border Route Trail (photo by RMA

The Grand Rapids Press is running a nice article today about my being the first (so far only) woman to hike the entire North Country National Scenic Trail. I was interviewed three weeks ago for this, but didn't want to say anything till the article appeared in print.

Hopefully, it will generate a few book sales, although the Grand Rapids bookstores that were carrying North Country Cache have mostly dropped it, so people will probably have to look on line. Thankfully the writer does mention the name of the book.

She did get a few things really wrong (and there are way too many spelling errors for submission to a major newspaper), but I'm glad to have the coverage!

The story begins:
When Jennifer Pharr Davis set the fastest thru-hike record of the Appalachian Trail in August, completing the 2,181-mile foot path in less than 47 days -- the fastest by any man or woman -- the North Carolina hiker’s achievement got a storm of national media coverage.

But just a year earlier, Joan Young, of Scottville, became the first woman to hike the North Country Trail -- the longest foot path in the United States.

And, for the most part, the media were mum.

See the full article at:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wow- Also Sold Out of Would You Dare?

I have also discovered that I am completely out of copies of my book of short biographies Would You Dare?

That's a bit more serious of a printing project because it has 86 pages, and has a comb binding. I'll need to pretty much find a whole day to devote to that. Of course, an order for a copy would turn it into an immediate priority!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Order of Devotions for Hikers

I got an order for ten copies of Devotions for Hikers this week, to be delivered tomorrow. Horray!

That means I need to print more. I'm really glad that I wrote down EXACTLY how to do that and put it in my file, and also that the new printer doesn't seem to have any idiosyncrasies that cause it to print differently from the last one.

I have all the printing done, and am assembling them next. I have chosen to print this book myself, because it keeps the weight very small- something that backpackers are always worried about, and the printing costs are very low this way, as well.

I'll never get rich offering this little booklet, but it is a slow, but steady, seller. If my records are accurate, I've sold 62 copies with almost no promotion. I just put it out for sale with my other things when I give a program. Of course it's listed at Books Leaving Footprints

I have a file with ideas for a second volume. It's also available as an e-book at Smashwords. Click the picture of the cover to go there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chapters 15-16 of News from Dead Mule Swamp

The West Side Gang writers' group meets tonight and I want to have a chapter of News from Dead Mule Swamp to read. After lunch I got down to work, and actually wrote two chapters. This is too much to share at one meeting, but I feel really good about making progress on the story.

Chapter 15 gives more insight into rural life, which is really the tongue-in-cheek sub-theme of the book. In Chapter 16, the plot begins to move along again.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 15:
    I followed her through the porch into a kitchen that probably hadn’t changed since the 1950s. A wooden table and chairs, painted white, occupied the center floor space. A one-piece cast, enameled sink and drainboard filled a corner, and flowered chintz hid the pipes and whatever was stored beneath. Open shelves were neatly lined with flowered paper and stacked with dishes, pans, books and knick-knacks. A round-topped refrigerator hummed in the adjacent corner. The one anomaly was a brand-new cooktop range. Cora had been following my eyes. “Had to do it,” she said. “The old oven just up and died one day."

If the West Side Gang has interesting things to say, I'll report tomorrow.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spirit of the Woods Program and Book Sales

Last night I gave my program "The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink" for our local chapter of the North Country Trail Association. There were quite a few guests there, so that was fun- to educate a lot more people about the trail.

I thought that the group was pretty well saturated with book sales, but I sold two copies of North Country Cache, so that's always a good thing.

Also, there was one ordered through Amazon this week.

I have no bookings coming up until spring, and that date is not firm yet. If you are in the Midwest and would like a great program at a reasonable cost, let me know! You can see the flyer of my offerings and prices at Books Leaving Footprints. (Click on Meet the Author, see lower left corner)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review- Spin the Plate

I am participating today in Jennifer Walker's Book Tour. To do so, I'm reviewing the book Spin the Plate

Spin the Plate was a surprisingly interesting read. Donna Anastasi weaves a tale of two people who do not fit well into society and brings them together in a believable way.

Jo is a victim of sexual child abuse at the hand of her father, which she can not forgive. Not a small woman, she has become tough and reclusive. She earns a living as a tattoo artist and roams the streets at night rescuing and avenging hurt and abandoned animals.

Francis is a small man, who was bullied as a child because of his size and shy nature. He is drawn to Jo so much that he seeks out a way to make her acquaintance and win her confidence.

This unlikely duo build a relationship that works for them, and along the way surprising things happen.

Spin the Plate is the 2011 Living Now Books Gold Medal winner. If you are familiar with this award, you will suspect before you begin reading that there is going to be a positive outcome. Living Now Books are “designed to improve and enhance our lives through creative ideas, [or] inspiring advice.” The core philosophy of the book is Christian. Yet the inevitable presentation of the Christian message is not forced or hackneyed. It simply grows out of Francis’ sharing of his life story. Yet, not all Christians will be comfortable with some of the actions of the characters. They are “real” people, not all good or all bad.

Any author is going to bring in his or her own world view, and secular authors feel free to hint at or expound on their philosophies. Anastasi's world view is Christian, and it shows, but is not forced on the reader as coming from outside the story. I found this refreshing in a Christian book.

The one false note in the book is a long soliloquy by Francis about a charity he has founded that gains visibility by being featured on American Idol. It’s an interesting concept, but Anastasi has Francis talk about it for several pages. It breaks the flow of the story, and just becomes an advertisement for an idea

At 194 pages, this is an easy read, and will leave you with positive feelings about the world rather than the general angst of “literary fiction.” Published by Black Rose Writing. Order Spin the Plate

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Working on "Fall Off the Couch Laughing"

I'm hopeful that this eBook will take a lot less time than the first one. For one thing, the seemingly complex steps you need to follow to format a book for Smashwords doesn't seem so daunting this time.

Also, I know what I need to do with the pictures to incorporate them. E-books don't deal very will with images, but they are an important part of my essays. And they do load in all formats except the plain text version. From my first experience, I learned that I need to make the caption a part of the image itself.

So, I'm working on getting the ten essays collected into one document, and choosing the order. Then I'll put the pictures in.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ludington Daily News Column- September 2011

Wow! I don't know what happened to September. Consequently, I turned my column in late. Not good, but they will probably print it when they get a chance. In the fall months, the deer hunters' trophies take up most of the Recreation Section, anyway.

This time I wrote about the economic value of the Manistee National Forest, based on a report issued by the Forest Service. As a factual article, it's perhaps not as entertaining as some columns, but here's an excerpt anyway:
The primary expenditures on these trips were at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. Non-locals spent an average of $277 each time they came. Even local folks averaged $139 a trip. That’s a fair chunk of change. The study shows that local folks like to stay overnight in or near the Forest almost as much as those who travel to the area. And they... we... spend money when we do it.
These columns are not available on-line, unless you subscribe to the Ludington Daily News. One collection of columns is currently available as an e-book, called Get Off the Couch with Joan, at Smashwords. I recently reduced the price to $1.89. It's really difficult to price e-books- they range is all over the map.

I'm formatting a second volume of humorous essays entitled Fall Off the Couch Laughing. It will be available soon.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Short Story Collection Idea

I know that ideas are cheap, but no completed project happens without an idea that started it.

One of my pet peeves is the idea that for a story to have value, it must be filled with angst and tragedy. I call it the "life is a sad enigma" genre. So I sort of decided a few months ago to keep in mind a short story collection based on the opposite of the Seven Deadly Sins, that is, the Seven Virtues.

Although I've found a couple of lists, I think I like this one best: four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, restraint or temperance, and courage or fortitude, and three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Then I would write a short story on each of those themes. I already have one done for hope. It was written for another contest but didn't win. I think that might be because is it a rather straightforward interpretation of the idea. There aren't any fancy twists. It's very, well.... hopeful.

So, the other night, I couldn't sleep. It made me groggy all the next day. In one way, I should be thankful for those nights because I often think up story ideas as I toss and turn. And, that is just what happened. I came up with what I think is a viable idea on the theme of justice.

Yes, I made notes so I won't forget until I get time to actually work on it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's in the e-Mail

The short story is sent off to the Star City Blog Short Story Contest.

Another writer friend read it as well, and she thinks it's pretty good. Now it's up to the judges. I have no delusions of greatness. I know that contest judges are looking for wahtever they are looking for which may not have any relationship to what I wrote.

But, I did my best, and if it doesn't get me anything, at least I have another short story that could go in a collection.