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My friends call me Elldee. And breaking the half century mark has been highly motivating: happy wife, mother, writer, teacher, day dreamer.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 11 ~ research & writing

Capuchin Catacombs of Polermo overlaid.
Do you do much research before you write?

I sure do. During and after, as well. But none more than I am doing for the book I am currently writing. It is the fifth book in the Students of Jump series, and it takes place largely in the Capuchin Catacombs of Polermo, Italy.

What makes it so much more involved than other research I have done is that the site does not allow photographs, video and the descriptions are limited to tourists' who talk mostly about how ghoulishly fun it was.

My questions are rarely answered by these very brief comments or the pictures the tourists snuck out. The research footage taken by those allowed to film is often better and occasionally there will be one picture that will after I have looked at hundreds finally supply the bit I needed.

One example is the floor of the crypt. I could tell the slabs of stone were engraved, but I could only guess what was engraved. And finally an entire year from the time I started my research (just a few days ago actually) I found someone with the presence of mind to photograph the floor. I had my answer about what was engraved in the polished stone. Names and dates of death.

Until today, I didn't know if that meant these people were buried beneath the stone or if the names are of the people mounted in the niches cut into the walls. I received my answer in a thesis paper written by Mary Buckland Rutin in 2013 for her honors program at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. Thank you, Mary. The names listed and their dates of death signify the people buried below.

One of the far more challenging questions I have answered came from gathering an accurate sense of the site as well as the buildings beside and above it. I know that the catacombs were excavated beneath the convent and the church and even a small portion of the cemetery, but how it lays beneath these buildings has taken some research on my part. So what did I do?
  • I located a map of the catacombs themselves, which just to add a little fun to my work was labeled in a language I did not recognize. It made me think of Russian. Google translate to the rescue. This first step was essential if I wanted my character to move about these catacombs, and I needed to be able to place her accurately in the halls among the different classes of mummified individuals. Each corridor is designated for a particular group of people: monks, priests, professionals, women, men and even virgins and children. 
  • So now I had a translated map. I searched for more tourists shots of the buildings and used Google Earth to help me understand how they sat in relation to each other. Also, I needed to know where they were located in terms of the exterior entrance to the catacombs.
  • I also used pictures taken by numerous individuals to garner different views of the same bit of  descending access to the catacombs. I learned there are three flights of stairs that run straight down into the monks' hall below. But above the first flight is a sharp turn that leads down from the public entrance. The tunnel has a smooth curved ceiling and tiled floor that descends to that sharp turn. This was very important evidence as you will find in my next search for information. But again thanks to Mary Rutin mentioned above, I have learned this is not the original entrance. The earlier access was damaged from bombing. There was fire damage as well which explains the wide difference in number of cadavers in the catacomb, from 2000 up to 8000. The numbers are accurate depending upon when the census was taken, before or after World War II.
  • Though I know that the catacombs were excavated beneath the church and convent, I do not know from any description or pictures how they lay beneath the ground in relation to those buildings. Hence more pictures needed to be examined.
    • Imagine how many pictures I looked at not giving a shred of value to the people smirking and pointing about. I was interested in what was behind them, in the shadows or overhead.
    • Several of the catacomb halls show that there are windows. So the upper portion of the tall corridors of the dead are above ground. Hmm.
    • The tunnels were excavated in very straight lines, and the shape is rectangular with overruns at three of the four corners.
    • The convent is rectangular.
    • The entrance to the catacombs is located in front of the extreme right of the convent (if you are standing looking at the convent).
    • Remember that sharp turn? I located a picture (two actually) that show the open outside entrance to the room one must enter to access the tunnel. There is a painting or mosaic just discernible through the door. And some kind soul took a picture of that painting, which is standing to the immediate left of the entrance to the descending tunnel. There is even a sign pointing the way. So I know that the tunnel heads off to the right parallel with the convent entrance.
    • Google Earth gives sharp images overhead.
    • Photoshop can be used to reduce the opacity of a picture. I snapped a picture of the bird's eye view of the convent, church and cemetery, and placed them in Photoshop. Then I took my copy of the outline of the catacombs and reduced its opacity. Then I overlaid my transparent outline and turned, reduced and otherwise manipulated it until the tunnel entrance was lined up with the stairs marked on the outline. What do you know? The lines fit right within the frame of the convent, the overruns lining up properly as well.
  • My current mystery is figuring out how the convent is laid out inside and if there is an entrance connecting it with the church it shares a wall with. I have found pictures of the church, so I'll be able to write a reasonable description when my character passes through it, but I've yet to find any information on the interior of the convent. I may have to see if there are other convents of the same vintage in Italy that provide some view of the interior and extrapolate a likely interior. One satisfying point is if I can't find an accurate description, there will be few who can dispute my version. Hmm. Do monks read science fiction? At least one, I imagine. There's always an odd bird in the bunch.
So do I research? Indeed I do. Better get to it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Non-writing life: Includes dogs

Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash
I mentioned in a previous post that my dogs have been keeping me rather busy. I thought I would post about that now because when I learn something new that brings about positive results in my life and those I care about I want to share it with others.

I have two Labradors, great girls who add joy to my life. One of my girls, Cagney has always suffered from skin allergies. We've managed to keep the allergies at a low itch and she's been very positive about the whole experience. Each night I say, "Time for medicine," and she trots over and sits down knowing I'm going to put a nasty tasting Claritin tablet in her mouth. Yuck! She takes it then runs for the water bowl to get the taste out of her mouth.

Some years ago (25+) I had another Labrador that used to suffer from colds on a regular basis. I started giving her a nightly chewable vitamin C. She thought it was a treat and loved them. But the best part was she stopped getting colds. Jump forward again and earlier this year I think, okay why not give Cagney Vitamin C as well. So I started that regimen (follows the Claritin tablet and much tastier). Result: less ear infections and less need to respond to indications of an ear infection starting. Allergies in low itch mode. (For those wondering about eliminating the allergy altogether: non-allergy food provided and out-door activity limited to no more than ten minutes as needed is already in the mix.)

Months pass, and suddenly Cagney is overwhelmed with allergies. She can't walk two steps without one leg or the other trying to scratch and itch. Her belly is a mass of pink dots and redness. We can barely touch her without causing legs to go into itch mode. Her hair is falling out and she has black crusty stuff oozing out her flanks. I add Benadryl to the mix (used to work well as a morning allergy pill before the vitamin C was added). No results. She is miserable. We take both girls in to the vet for yearly shots and discuss this new development.

Result: allergy shot, allergy pills to control the issue until more long-term means take affect. Long-term means: a chewable gelcap of Omega-3 fatty acid, and apple cider vinegar. It's been three weeks: hair is nearly all grown back, pink spots are gone, redness is gone, itching is gone, most of the crusty sebum (black ooze) is gone, and Cagney is comfortable again.

You might wonder what the apple cider vinegar was for. I put it in a spray bottle and I spray all the little skin irritations and such. This includes spaying her feet which have had a purple cast to them since she licks them due to the inching which causes a yeast infection which turns the fur around the feet purple. The color of her feet is now nearly normal, no more licking. The only downside to this is my house smells like I'm pickling something. I am. I pickle my dogs regularly.

Bonus: Lacey's dandruff is nearly gone. She's had dandruff all her life. Otherwise, she never has an issue, and both dogs are shedding far less.

Final allergy regimen for Cagney: one gel cap Omega-3 fatty acid, one Claritin, one chewable 500MG vitamin C, daily sprays of apple cider vinegar where needed and lots of love.

#dogs
#canineallergies

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 10 ~ Newsletter news

Buttons
What have you been doing that's writing related but not actually writing one of your books?

I'm glad you asked because I have taken the plunge and am busy putting together a newsletter subscriber system.

I'm a newbie at this particular process, so I am learning as I go. My plans include having a subscribe button on my blog, nothing overly demanding, just an option for my readers who visit my blog and read my books. Of course, anybody who accidentally drops by and would like to subscribe will be welcomed as well.

What's going to be in the newsletter?
  • Upcoming books in my series
    • Standing Stone (fantasy magic)
    • Students of Jump (time-travel scifi) 
  • Upcoming sales for my books
  • Publication of those new books
  • New series plans and publications
  • A tidbit about me and my activities in my non-writing life

I also intend to add the option to subscribe in my books, and if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I will figure out how to add the option to my Facebook page. I hope I can type with crossed fingers.

You can assume I'll also be writing these newsletters soon. Just not today. And I will not be sending them out more often than once a month as I pretty much give family, work and novel writing priority in my life. Lately, my dogs have been nabbing most of my free time (but we'll save discussion of that for another interview day, or maybe a newsletter ;)) Blogging and newsletters will run second on the must-do-soon list. But they will occur, just not more often than monthly.

And that is what I am doing writing-related but not actually writing.

#writing
#newsletter

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 9 ~ Social media and me

Do you spend a lot of time on social media?

Hmm. Not like I used to. In the past I gave a lot of time to Twitter and Google+ (made a lovely friend and joined a wonderful group). I have an account with Pinterest and Goodreads as well, but I visit rarely. I've since narrowed my activity to Facebook and keeping up this blog. I just can't be split all over the place keeping an internet presence, writing and publishing, and working the day job.

Even my efforts at keeping those two sites up are cranked down quite a bit. I visit Facebook once a day and read the two groups I like, post a comment or two and maybe visit my books page and make a post there. As for this blog, I am trying to post once a week on Saturdays. Even so, I've missed a few days here and there.

But my writing is a daily effort. I am working on the third book in the Standing Stone fantasy series and am meeting the goals I set for myself to ensure a publication in September. When I'm not writing and putting in my brief social media visits, then I'm spending time with my husband and learning to play a musical instrument.

I posted awhile back about keeping the mind sharp. One of the points I made is how much learning to play an instrument it related to maintaining memory. So I've taken the plunge and I'm learning to play the twelve hole ocarina. I won't be posting any songs online anytime in the near, and probably distant, future. I am about as novice a musician as they come. I am learning about notes and rests and treble clef, etc. It's another language to say the least.

So no time for a big social media presence. But I do have author pages at Smashwords and on Amazon for those interested in knowing me better than just what I post here.

I am working up the courage to start a newsletter. It was one of my summer goals. Summer is not over yet, but I won't promise anything. I'll have to learn how to create an email base, a newsletter, setup signup pages and add them to my books as well as this site. But it will have to wait for the completed draft of book 3 and the weeks it will be with my beta readers when I can take a short writing break.

#socialmedia
#memory

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 8 ~ losing a draft to electronic failure

Have you ever lost a manuscript or partial draft to electronic failure?

Happily, I can say no. But there is more to my answer than that. I can say no because I have several different automated backups that I use because I have had computers throw up their hands and go black screen on me. And I do panic for a couple minutes. But then I remember I have two external drives (manual system), one Dropbox (automated), one network drive (automated) and emailed copies.

When my daughter was in her senior year in high school, we went downtown and I took pictures of her. They came out amazing and I worked on them all evening. The next day my computer went black. My automated backup system was for all my writing, not for pictures or other work. I had a manual backup system with a external hard drive I used for those since they changed less frequently. I put off backing those lovely pictures up for the next day. Heartbreak.

My daughter and I went out to recreate those pictures. We ended up with other nice ones, but not the ones my memory was certain were the best I'd ever taken.

The Geek Squad came to my rescue and retrieved all the pictures and other documents. Since then I've bought a hard drive reader and when the same computer went black again, I retrieved my recent documents myself.

However, even though I had not lost any work in progress, I had feared that I lost my folder on future novel ideas. It was in a section of my drive I did not bother to back up more than once a year. Thankfully, the Geek Squad retrieved it along with my daughters pictures (which were a great as I remembered them), which in retrospect makes me quite happy as I am currently writing book three of the fantasy series that was inspired by two-pages of notes I kept in that infrequently saved folder and it would have been gone had my luck not held out.

One doesn't have to lose everything to learn a lesson: save everything!

#backup
#wip
#interview

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 7 ~ prequel to a series?


 Would you consider writing a prequel for either of your series?

Actually, I do have a prequel in mind for the Standing Stone series. It would focus on the backstory of the Wielder Wain which is an important event that occurred 16 years prior to the first book in the series. The focus characters would be Mahre Pratter (Donnel) and Tran Pratter. My daughter has suggested that I should also write about the sinister sisters and the An Faire migration mythology which is 300 years earlier than the first book. They both intrigue me. I'll let the ideas putter about awhile and see what comes to mind.

I don't think I'll be writing either anytime soon as I am currently drafting book 3 of the Standing Stone series, have murky beginnings for a book 4 in the series, have book 5 of the Students of Jump series waiting behind the door, along with a contemporary novel, an anthology of poems and another series sitting on the back burner.

So a quick answer to the question: Maybe, but breath holding is not advised.

Since this turned out to be a short post, I'll mention my current activities. I have, as I said, started writing book 3. As added incentive to new readers, I reduced the price to 99 cents for The Sharded Boy, book 1 in the series (available at all major eBook retailers).

I am also considering setting up a mailing list which would probably be a monthly newsletter combining updates for both my series and anything newsy I want to include. I'm a newby in the process, so I need to do my homework before I make it available for signup. When and if I do, I'll post the signup link here, on my Facebook page, at the end of each of my books, and perhaps on my Google and GoodReads accounts.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 6 ~ Standing Stone favorite character

Who is one of your favorite characters from the Standing Stone series?

The Mabra - cryptic old woman
When I starting thinking about my answer to this question, I knew immediately who I would name and had a pretty good idea why I was choosing him. But the more I thought about it, I realized there was a secondary character that was a strong favorite of mine, so I have chosen The Mabra.


Mabra Camlis - The Mabra is a character in book 2, The Shifter Shard. She is an enigma, oddly all knowing and thought to be functionally mad. Or as Master Clepp describes her, "The woman’s a bit odd, but it doesn’t interfere with the running of the orphanage.” 

She is so slow moving and old that she covers only inches with each step causing her guests to have to wait quite some time for her to join them even though she is very much in sight. She compensates for this slowness by yelling at the top of her lungs so that she and anyone there to visit her can carry on a conversation without having to wait for her to be seated. 

“You will come to know that much of me is old, but my lungs continue to feign youth, so I use them for all they are worth! It reduces the boredom of both my guests and myself in the interim of our coming together.” 

She has excellent hearing and a mysterious history. Jahl, one of the three main characters, hopes she can supply necessary information he needs to put things right, but though she's willing to give advice, Jahl perceives it as cryptic and possibly proof of her madness. 

 She sighed, ignoring his rising annoyance. “Even I, the eternal container of all hope, can no longer deny that some things never return.”

I enjoyed working with her character because her limitations were a natural outcome of her age while not interfering with her doing her job. And her desire and faith that she would be reunited with her lost love was as believable as it was impossible.


 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 5 ~ Students of Jump favorite character

Who is one of your favorite characters from the Students of Jump series?


That depends on what you mean by character. Human character: I would say Mick Jenkins from books 1, 2 and 3. Non-human character: Puff from book 4.

Mick Jenkins: I really like Mick because he is a good mix of the tough old bird that won't take anything from anybody and the kind fellow with a soft spot for those he cares about. (I always imagined he looked like Brian Dennehy. His face always came to mind when I thought of Mick.)
Image result for brian dennehy movies
Brian Dennehy was the inspiration for Mick Jenkins

Mick is used to being the boss, running the show, the guy with the last say. At the same time, he pays attention to people, and he has serious limitations that keep him from doing the things he wants to do, so when someone else is facing terrible loss or feeling frozen with uncertainty, Mick can sympathize. But he doesn't approach the issue soft. He hits you where it hurts so that you know where the pain is coming from and can begin to figure out what will get you through it. And he's not gentle with his own flaws either. He faces them head on. Mick and his better half, Emily, are the main characters in book 3, No-Time like the Present.


Puff - Book 4 ~ That's the Trouble with Time
 
Puff: Well, that's a critter of an entirely different type. Doesn't everyone want that secret weapon, the seemingly innocuous thingamajig that in a tough moment can turn Doberman Pinscher on trouble when you most need it. That's Puff. He's a soft white frothy furred thing that can fly, squeak, cuddle and when needed tear the eyes and brain matter out of something with claws, high speed reflexes and no interest in asking questions.

In a sense, Puff is Mick in miniature and on split-second steroid injections. And he can hold your hair back in a mean French braid, which is what he does for his best human friend Sarrah Marsh.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 4 ~ next possible genre

If your next book was not science fiction or fantasy what genre would it be in?


I'm a bit split on which it would be. I write quite a bit of poetry. I have the beginnings of a series of selections all based on pieces of heirloom china I have received from various family over the years. I also have about 18,000 words done on a contemporary women's fiction about three best friends enjoying their retirement years. One of the ladies is fashioned after my mother, a very vibrant, dramatic woman who could walk into a room full of people and make them turn at once to see who brought the exuberance into the place. She passed away this past September and I really miss her.

I'm expecting that after I finish with the Standing Stone series and the fifth book in Students of Jump that I will probably get back working on the contemporary piece Joanie and Friends. It's a standalone work. I would then move on to working on the collaboration series my husband and I are planning.

I am pretty much booked up on ideas for writing. Don't have to worry about writer's block for at least the next three years, assuming I am going to keep up my new pace of three books a year.

General plan (subject to change because life is not predictable)
Book 2 in Standing Stone (out June 2017)
Book 3 in Standing Stone (predicted out in September 2017)
Book 5 in Students of Jump (predicted out in Jan. 2018)
Book .5 in Standing Stone
Joanie and Friends
Maybe that china poetry collection would fit here
Book 1 in the Mantle Series

Of course, this ignores the fact that I have four books outlined for the Students of Jump series and another book or two wandering around the back of my mind for the Standing Stone series. Sometimes ideas leapfrog. For instance, The Sharded Boy was supposed to be a short story, but it blossomed into a book and then a series.

#genre
#writing
#series

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Stab at a Self-interview: Question 3 ~ a new series

Do you have another series planned?

My husband and I have a time travel series planned. We will not be writing on it until the Standing Stone series is complete and the fifth book in the Students of Jump series is out.

It will be written for the New Adult market. Though I don't want to get into the plotting aspects of the piece, we are thinking at this time it will involve four college students who find themselves pulled back in time after they rent a house together. At this time the location of their shift back in time will incorporate the Victorian or Elizabethan periods. Our research will determine the final decision.

In the mean time, Standing Stone book 3 is in process and Standing Stone book 2 will be ready for publication quite soon.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Stab at Self-interview: Question 2 ~ the next Students of Jump book

When is the next Students of Jump book coming out and what is it about?


Puff - manufactured pet extraordinaire.
I am planning to begin writing book 5 in the Students of Jump series in August. As soon as all three of the Standing Stone books are out, then I'll shift back to SofJ. So I could start earlier.

If you've read book 4, That's the Trouble with Time, then you've met Puff and his friend Sarra Marsh. Puff is such a great character, entertaining and protective, and so unassuming. Seriously, with a name like Puff who would imagine the little guy could go into attack mode if Sarra runs into trouble? One of my beta readers made the comment that every student of jump needs a Puff with them. That statement hung about at the back of my mind while I redrafted and edited book 4. I had to admit that having Puff there for Sarra had added to the excitement of the story. Puff certainly did help her out quite a bit when she ran into sticky situations.

A few hours of brainstorming rounded out a cast of five engineered critters that could accompany students of jump. So potentially, there could be several more books with Puff-like characters.

As a result of that brainstorm, Lizzie and Samantha joined the jump team. Unlike Sarra and Puff, Lizzie and Samantha don't get along that well, and it takes some effort on both their parts to make the partnership work. And that is the easy part of Samantha's jump into the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy, in 1703. I am hoping that At Any Given Time (tentative title of book 5) will be out by Dec. 2017 or Jan. 2018.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Thought I'd Take a Stab at Self-interviewing, a Question at a Time

When is the next Standing Stone book coming out and what is it about?

Book 2 in the Standing Stone series is in redraft right now and will be ready for the editing process very soon. I expect to have it uploaded to Amazon and my wide distributor Smashwords by the first of June.

Jahl Pratter, and siblings Donya and Rouen Marson will be off on another adventure when they travel to Carolan Faire, the city north of Chussen Faire on the main trade road that runs through town.

Now nineteen years old, Jahl has established his wielder school for boys and is recognized as the High Master Wielder of Chussen. With only three native wielders practicing, he views the title a bit sardonically. A new crop of wielders are in training, but it will be some time before they fill the ranks of practicing wielders. The honored position comes with certain demands. Master Tommlar, owner of the local chain of standing stone suppliers, informs Jahl that he must go to Carolan Faire to deal with some issues that have come up since the death of the northern city's high master.

It seems an easy task to head to Carolan and take custody of the deceased master's orphaned apprentice and close out his wielder home until the child is old enough to return. If only Tommlar hadn't left out some important details.