Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hi Kids!

I didn't have any better title. This is my up-dates...

Well, we, in Illinois are having a mild winter (he-he, I made the prediction that we'd have one, and I guess, so far, I win--everyone else was saying it was going to be "worse than last year"). Temps today are approaching 40. Last year at this time we had a foot of snow down, and it was beginning that downward trend of temps going below freezing and staying in single digits. We have no snow, and about the only weather problem is the fog. I'll take 40 degrees and fog any day!

As for me, I've been crocheting my fingers off (not literally, but close). I've just finished a pair of mittens. They're cute and should keep my fingers warm. I've made the fingerless gloves up til now, and found a mitten pattern that I felt up to trying and by golly, I did it! And you thought such things were only knitted. Tut tut.

Meanwhile, I'm working on two afghans--well, one is only a throw since it's only 44" x about 78"--long enough to fit on a couch, and for one person to snuggle under. My other one is larger, and is in fall colors. Since it takes me months to complete one, and repeated visits to where I buy yarn (yeah, I just like to go into the store and browse, so, yeah...) But it keeps me out of trouble. I can get into trouble all by myself, thank you. (keep reading)

Take when I had the middle part of the day off, because my wonderful husband took over a run (driving a bus) for me, and I decided I'd go to Panera. Bad idea. I dumped hot soup all over down my front. Well, they had all these damned orders piling up, and mine was over in this corner, plus the stupid counter where you pick up your order is tall--almost taller than where my shoulder comes to. So, I picked up the tray--which was slick, mind you, and the damned hot soup spilled, and stupid me, I tried to catch it from dumping, and there it went all over my shirt. I should have just let it drop to the stupid floor and made them clean it up and make me a new bowl. I'm stupid when I'm alone. Well, the shirt is ruined, but it was old. I had it in my hair, too. Some lady that cleans there sort of helped me get cleaned up before I went to the bookstore. I smelled of broccoli cheddar soup all day, and I still had to go pick up my husband (who'd had an equally bad day).

I've made the decision to go back into crafting. I've noticed that craft shows are still going strong. I'm not ready to do those, yet. Years ago, when I decided to quit crafting and put all my efforts into my writing, I threw all my paints and other stuff out. Fortunately I still have some patterns I used. But I can get this stuff again, no problem. But not until I've gotten myself firmly in place at a local craft store will I expand into that. I want to test the waters, so to speak, and see what is popular.

What will I work on during the non-winter months? Well, more stuff, of course, since it takes a while to make things. The mittens- each one - took about 1 &1/2 hours to 2hours to do.

But I thought I would make Eco-friendly string grocery bags, like these:

On the writing front... Yes, I'm still working on the next book to come out at some point this winter. Oh, here's a photo my friend Karen Kuban-Bell (no relation), took of a gargoyle that sits on NIU property.
Photo by Karen Kuban-Bell
Gargoyle guarding "Castle"
This isn't the one I chose, but when she found out I needed help to make it into a book cover, she happily said she'd love to work on it for me-do the cover. Well, Santa has given me an early Christmas gift in that respect!

Now, before I leave you, here are some blogs to check out.
The Kill Zone has the 2014 recap. that is if you want to hear the bad news of the year all over again (in case you missed any of it). On to more bizarre things As The Crowe Flies has some strange pictures--not that the images were strange, but when she photographed some common things they sort of got some haunting images appear in them, some how--she swears she didn't touch them up. I'm still not sure about that last one--sort of sends shivers up my spine. Holly's Horrorland is celebrating the 13 Days of Creepmas, and she's been giving stuff away, so I hope I'm not too late in putting this up here. And if you want something yummy to keep you warm, here is Krisztina Williams' DIY Hot Coco mix the ingredients are real simple.

Well, that's my wrap-up for mid-December. I've still got to get through the next several days of driving, and then I'll be off for 2 weeks (no pay), and I'll be hanging out with my best friend (Dennis), and doing my usual.
Until then... stay safe and don't wear yourself out on the holiday stuff. It's over-rated!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Outlasting the Storm [of Indies]

Isn't this beautiful? A pine cone in nature is beautiful in its shape and purpose, and I find them hard to resist when I come across them in one of our pine forests around here. I've collected a pail full this fall. I had plans to do something with them, and came across this idea over the Internet. Let me tell you briefly about it, and I'll come to my point soon.

If you've noticed, this pine cone is nearly white! How did it become that way? Well, it didn't happen in nature. Someone bleached it. The process is, shall we say, a bit of a challenge, dedication, and work. And if you don't know what you're doing, it might not come out right. You see, you take a pail of water, add just the right amount of bleach and let the cones soak over night--or something around 12 hours or so--and then you take them out and rinse them thoroughly, and then, you have to let them dry (either in the sun or an oven). But when finished you have a beautiful ornament--if it works!

So, what's this got to do with writing? As you can see there is a process, an amount of time devoted to making it, and a formula. And if this isn't done quite right, you'll come out with mushy pine cones that smell of bleach. If that happens the only thing you can do is--WHAT? GIVE UP?!!! 

No. you go back to the starting point. 

I've used this analogy because it is simple. Today's blog is about NOT giving up, but having a bit of a break. And I wanted to bring up a point, too. Something I've been thinking on, recently, and lo-and behold, someone blogged about it. James Scott Bell's post goes into great detail about how some are saying the profits from ebook sales for Indie authors have dropped. He explores/examines the reasons, and gives a couple of links from the Passive Voice blog, where someone has also expounded upon the reason, and goes into more detail than I will here. But, I think you've seen it too. More people are putting up their works over on Amazon than ever before. Bell describes this ocean of titles as "sprouting like steroid-laced Kudzu". And it really is. Why not? Anyone can do it if they've got a cover, and figure out how to get the formatting down. A ten-year old could do it. But should he?

If you are an author, you must have noticed this wave of new authors out there pimping their books/titles on facebook--you know, those groups for writers where you try and pimp your ebooks--to other authors. I think there must be hundreds of them now. I've talked about this before. The only people who you are putting your titles out to are other authors who also are trying to get sales. You aren't gaining new readers by doing this. Not really. Your readership has to come from regular (non-writing) folks. The only way to do this is gain them one at a time, and if they truly like your work, it will be from word-of-mouth. Not by hitting the share button on your book's page over on Amazon a couple hundred times a day. I've done it, yes, but sparingly. I find that the same people are popping up on those groups I belong to on facebook. I'll see the same one or two people over and over down that list, Is it a wonder I've given up trying to compete with them? It's nuts! I don't have the time to waste on this. And it is a waste of my time when I could be doing other things--such as writing or anything else I want, or need to do throughout the day.

But back to what might be going on with sales on Amazon. Okay, I've thought about this a lot. This is why I'm doing something else right now, and not worrying about whether or not I get the 8th book done in the series, because the 5th, 6th &7th are written. They just need some editing, and I'm basically done. My sales were good, and then they went flat. They might pick up when I put out #5, but I need the photo for the next book cover, and my people (photographers), aren't supplying. So, *shrug*.... I won't get all hyper about this. I'm exploring my other creative venues, and I'm just chilling from writing. I don't know how long I'm going to take a break(this time), but it's going to be a break of more than a few weeks. It might be months, or longer.

Some authors who may quit writing because they are experiencing this drop (or stoppage) in sales, or let's just call it a brick wall--because everyone they know has bought their ebooks. They don't understand why no one else will buy it. They'd have to write another book, and then another book, and yet another book... well, you see where I'm going. Yep, in order to get more sales they'd have to simply keep on writing the same old crap. I think the majority of these new Indies are a one- or two-book author, and can't come up with another book idea that would be as good as the first. So, I'm just going to wait this (storm) out and see what happens. Some of these Indies who are considering quitting really should because they aren't really "writers". They had this "great" idea for a book, thought it would make them a lot of money, maybe their initial sales were good--yeah, they probably have a lot of friends and family who supported them and bought their book, but after that, they're finished. They can't come up with another idea for another story. Or, if they did, maybe somewhere in the middle, or the beginning of that next "great" novel, they can't come up with the rest of it, and sort of lose interest in working on it so hard. Well, here's a news flash: they aren't writers. Yeah. I've weathered 30 years of trying to get published either by trying to interest a publisher, or an agent. I didn't quit then, and I'm unable to simply quit writing, so, that seems to pin it down for me.

Let me give you another quote from Mr. James Scott Bell: "...the successful writers are the ones who can't not write. Who exhibit persistence, discipline, production of words. Who write in the face of serial rejection or dismal sales."  Well, if this describes you, congratulations! If not. Just get off my cloud.

I'm taking a slight hiatus from writing. When I feel the need I will jot a few notes down, if I have an idea for a scene (which is constant, and I have ideas daily), I will write them down. In the early '90's I took a four-year break. I went into crafts. I worked at a craft store and had a booth there, I also had my crafts in two other stores. But although I made money--checks monthly--I found that I was putting the money back into my crafts. This time, I'm going to concentrate on a few things. I'm not going to broaden my horizons to the point I'm looking over the ocean. Even though I can do just about any craft I put my mind to (including the above one, which I'll try next summer), I'm thinking that working on just a few crocheted things for now might be the best way to start out. Branching out will come later. I've a couple of places nearby who still take crafters--one takes rent, but the rent is beyond me right now (mainly because soon the big season of Christmas will be over, and coming up with $30/month might become impossible, depending upon sales). So, I'm going to play it smart.

Do you have what it takes to outlast those who are out there, hawking their books and finding difficulty in finding new readers? Can you last through the low sales/storm of Indies, and keep on writing? If you truly can't not write, then you need to keep going. I encourage you to keep on going.

As for me... uh, well, this sums it up. I think I'll take a cat nap for a while.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lorelei's Writing Journal: Pushing Away November Blues by Making Warm Things

Hi, everyone! I've written this latest post over on my writing journal. This is what I've been up to.


Lorelei's Writing Journal: Pushing Away November Blues by Making Warm Things: Hello, all my pretties. In case you were so doused in the abnormal winter chill in your area, you didn't know that we, in the north part...

Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Blood Is the Life!"

If you're not sick of vampire posts today--or this week--then, here's one more for you, from the vampire queen (me).

Before I go further, let me explain that when I was a teenager, I got into vampires, and the interest has stayed with me. I wrote my first vampire novel (unpublished), in 1980-'83. Now I write a series with vampires and whatnot, and I have a blast doing it!

Being that my interests were cut and clear (and they just don't teach this stuff in school, y'know?), I had to investigate it all on my own. I researched the hell out of it, looking up anything in the library that had to do with vampires, and anything in the newspapers got clipped out, and I still have those browned clippings in a file.

My first experience with the vampire came from watching the old films such as "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi. His performance as Dracula is unforgettable--on stage as well as on screen. He was the film personification of dark evil. I must say, I enjoyed staying up late just to watch these films (all of the monster movies), and earned the reputation as being "weird". Now, vampires are cool. Go figure. I think vampires, and people who get into them has finally come full circle.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
The word 'vampire' is a Romanian word meaning 'blood-drinker'. The bat who dons this name was given it by Cortez when he remembered the vampire legends of Europe.

So how was it that the term came to apply to humans? During the middle ages European nobles interbred and this led to various genetic disorders--as one can imagine. But one was hemophilia. In this case the term "Royal Blood" held more than water in this case. Among the many disorders there was one which didn't gain enough medical attention. In fact, its mysterious problems probably caused too much attention, as far as the sufferer was concerned. This decease is called erythropoietic protoporphyria (say that three times fast--just typing it was hard, and I'm not even sure it's spelled correctly). This disorder causes the body to produce too much porphyrin, which is a substance all red blood cells must have to be normal. The absence of such results in redness of the skin, eyes and teeth. Even the upper lip tends to recede. But the most bizarre thing that really made the poor soul's life hell is that they were allergic to sunlight. The skin would crack and bleed. Yeah, nice, huh? So, you can just figure that doctors who didn't know how to treat the disease came up with having the patient locked up in a dark cellar or attic during the daylight hours (to prevent bleeding), and for any loss of blood, they were given blood to drink--gak! I'm sure it was probably animal. Transfusions were not yet invented.

Just think of the rumors which must have run rampant in a small village back then! Keeping a child, or adult in a dark cellar during the day and let out at night to drink blood!

Now, back to Dracula. As we all know Bram Stoker did NOT invent the vampire. He DID invent his character "Dracula". So, where did Stoker get the idea of vampires? He was influenced heavily by a 900-page "penny dreadful" novel called, "Varny the Vampyre", which was written by James Malcolm Rymer. The story was written in 109 weekly installments in the mid-1800's. It was the first vampire novel in English, and the first vampire fiction since the original short story by John Polidori "The Vampyre".

But where these two authors bring nothing new to the whole vampire literature scene, Bram had a fantastic idea and used an historical figure who was, himself, pretty much the bloodiest psychotic of them all, bar none.

Enter Drakulya, aka The Impaler.
Dracula, Vlad Tepes (the Impaler)
First of all the names of Dracula and his father Dracul are important. Both father and son had the given name "Vlad". The names "Dracul" and "Dracula" are nicknames, and to be really confusing, these nicknames had two meanings. "Dracul" meant "devil," as it still does in Romanian today. In addition it meant "dragon."  Of course they were in the Order of the Dragon--a semi-monastic, semi-military organization dedicated to fighting the Turks. From what I've dug up is that Dracula means "son of the dragon" or "son of the devil." A most important point in this is that the words "devil" and "vampire" are interchangeable. Interesting. No?

Bram's Stoker's novel Dracula is one of the most horrifying books in English literature. Published in May of 1897, and was an immediate success, and has never been out of print, and is still a best seller.

Possibly the setting for Dracula in Transylvania was because it was, and still is, a far-away land, where anything can happen. It even sounds exotic!

Now, also there is the blatant sexual fantasies derived from the story, and those that follow it (including the films). Much of the novel's appeal comes from its hostility toward female sexuality. You've got the Oedipus complex--a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic thing going on throughout. What are we talking about? The blood-sucking? Pleeeeeze! It's core fantasy is all sexual.

Well, I see the hour is getting late, and I must leave you. If you have never picked up Bram Stoker's Dracula, you should, if you enjoy vampires. Speaking of which, I haven't opened my copy in a while. I may just have to pick it up again.

Let me leave you with a little bit from Dracula. Set up, Harker is snooping around the castle, trying to find a way out. He is being held captive. Finally he stumbles across boxes--coffins?

"There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which--for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death--and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor, and the lips were as red as ever. But there was not sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him, and tried to find any sign of life, but in vain. He could not have lain there long, for  the earthy smell would have passed away in a few hours. By the side of the box was its cover, pierced with holes here and there. I thought he might have the keys on him, but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled again up the castle wall. Regaining my own chamber, I threw myself panting upon the bed and tried to think..."