Fall is Coming!

September 18th, 2022

As I write this, it’s been raining and there is more rain on the way. Here’s hoping for lots more. A couple weeks ago we had brutal heat. It reached 109F/43C here at the house and that is absolutely unheard of here. I’m hoping the plants that look dead or damaged from the heat come back . . .

tl;dr: Despite everything below, Bound in Smoke is going well and I have been steadily adding words that need to be there.

What about the Writing?

Yes, I am writing. I have spent the last several weeks attempting to be honest with myself about why it’s going so slow. I have worked through my grief about family losses — where “worked through” means accepting that grief is a never ending and always transforming condition. The issue I’m grappling with now has to do with a crippling internal editor. For some reason, when I’m writing, my head fills up with every single criticism ever made about my books and all the people who are just sure that the writing process that has seen me through nearly 50 stories is wrong and if only I would change my process everything would be smooth sailing. It’s hard to write when you think your writing is terrible and you’re also doing it wrong, and I just haven’t tried hard enough with a “mature” process.

Process Process WTF and Also Shut Up.

Anyway, I am not an outliner or pre-writer. A structured approached has never ever not once resulted in me finishing a book. So it’s easy enough for me to set aside process doubts. Besides, I’m fairly certain those doubts are tightly connected to the writing doubts, a side-effect of which is this: no one but me can criticize what I don’t publish. Entertaining process doubts sends me down rabbit holes of “writing” that doesn’t actually put words into a chapter. Verrrry convenient there, subconscious. Fortunately, I know that’s baloney. The bigger obstacle has been what feels like a disconnect between the joy of writing and the actual writing when all I can think is this is terrible terrible terrible. And I spend my time re-crafting sentences etc or just distracting myself with anything that’s not writing and maybe when I come back to it, I will see it’s not that bad. I know this typically means there is something wrong with my story concept–more to the point, I haven’t found the spark between the characters that drives the story.

It’s helped a lot that over the last year or so ideas about the story have come to be more and more often instead of hardly ever.

Sparky!

I had a private conversation with myself about the world I want for Bound in Smoke, and the books I want to write before I am too old and decrepit to write.  I told myself, fine. That is the world I will actually write, and that decision was freeing. And now the spark I need is showing up.

 

 

Share

Two Movies I Loved

August 13th, 2022

I recently watched two movies that I absolutely loved. One of them I have watched four times. I’m planning a re-watch of the other.

Caves and Water: Thirteen Lives

The first one I watched was Thirteen Lives, directed by Ron Howard and starring Viggo Mortensen and Collin Ferrel in the main roles. This one is about the Thai soccer team that was trapped in a flooded cave. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it because I’ve never been much of a Viggo fan and I hate scenes where people are trapped in water. But I knew the movie would have a happy ending, so I decided to watch but was prepared to bail. I read a review of it that suggested it was just okay, and to that reviewer I say: WTF is wrong with you?  He literally missed the entire point of the movie in order to complain about the sound of air tanks scraping against cave walls.

This movie was just wonderful. Mortensen was amazing as was Ferrel and everyone else, to be honest. It hit every note I need these days: a happy ending, experts convincing skeptics that their expertise is real, overcoming life or death obstacles, and, the most important for me in these times, a reminder that people do come together for something more important than themselves. Everyone ends up being a better version of themselves.

As a technical matter, I thought Howard very deftly moved the movie along without getting bogged down in details. We see Rick being doubtful and skeptical about going to Thailand and then bam. In the next scene, the two men arrive at the cave.I loved that the movie spent time showing us the efforts of other people, from Thai locals and nationals to people from all over the world.

Two thumbs up. I’ve watched four times so far because I need that reminder that people can be good and selfless. And the story of how those boys were rescued is just a triumph of our best selves.

Women Who Don’t Need Your Fucking Help Thank you: Prey

I heard others talking about this movie, including a fine gentleman who complained about the main character (a woman) acting like a man and all the men being dufuses and how he didn’t think women could be competent at anything beside what he thinks is girl stuff. So yeah, I was in based on that alone. Besides I like some horror when it’s well done so I decided to watch Prey, a prequel to the Predator movies. I have never seen any of the Predator movies so I can safely represent that it’s not necessary to have seen any of them in order to enjoy this movie.

Trying to avoid spoilers here. Prey is set in early Colonial North America when an alien arrives to prove its mettle against the apex predators of North America. Naru, a young (female) Comanche realizes there is something out there and it’s dangerous. No one listens to her. There are some French trappers who also know there’s something out there. She does have a brother who believes in her. Naru is smart and observant: so so smart. She’s shown perfecting the physical skills she will be using as the movie progresses so she is not a Mary Sue as some a**holes have claimed.

I loved this movie. It’s cinematically beautiful and I loved, loved, loved Naru’s sheer competence and intelligence as she tracks and then encounters the predator in various situations.

Amber Midthunder is Naru and every second she’s on screen is enthralling. This movie may not be for everyone. If you don’t like scary, tense movies with some gore, then definitely not for you. But if you like horror/SciFi this is a near perfect example of the genre with stellar casting and action. Two major thumbs up. I intend to rewatch.

What movies have you recently seen that you loved?

 

Share

Getting Organized Has Unexpected Benefits

July 24th, 2022

As you may know from an earlier post, in late June of this year, my website host disappeared from the web. I was able to recover everything on my main site thank goodness. The site I use to maintain evergreen links wasn’t quite so easy to recover, which I admit was totally my fault. But I was able to get the service up (YOURLS) and running and now I have a local database-driven system for keeping track of all manner of information about my books. Being forced to get organized has both expected and unexpected benefits. I am totally thrilled!

If you are an author and want some help with something like this, especially YOURLS, let me know. I’m happy to help.

Screenshot of a portion of a MySQL GUI. No, I'm not showing anyone the actual name of the database. Doh.

MySQL GUI screenshot

Benefits!

Now I have a book database that will generate all the links I need for a new book which is super handy. While I was at it, I added in tables for all my ISBNs and various required info when books get uploaded to the various vendors, and now all this stuff is essentially automated and is going to save me so much time I’m practically giddy. I hadn’t realized what a mental burden the inefficiencies were.

Don’t worry! All this was, at most and in total, maybe a day and a half of work. I do database work for a living so I know now to build and populate a database.

Technical Details for Nerds

Once I had the link service database up and running, the next challenge was to recreate the short links and load them into the database. Trying to rebuild them manually would have been an utter nightmare and likely months of work. Instead, I built a local database designed to generate the flat files needed for a mass-upload plugin available for the service. My internal system for naming the short links meant I already knew the vast majority of the short links I needed to make and only needed to get the vendor URLS, which I already had in a spreadsheet. Once that was done, it only took a second (literally) to generate the csv files required for the plugin. It took way longer to upload the files via the plugin than it did to generate a file of hundreds of links. After that, all I needed to do was manually enter a handful of short links I’d made that didn’t conform to the standard.

This work uncovered a situation with two books where a vendor URL had inexplicably changed at the vendor and/or disappeared from the vendor site. I was able to fix both those, in one case with the assistance of the vendor’s tech support.

This weekend I installed MySQL locally, restored a backup of my short links database, and started building and testing the queries to do some direct backend updates related to cleaning up a test upload and doing future updates. SQL Server syntax is just different enough from MySQL syntax that I had to keep googling for the MySQL syntax but this morning I issued two of my backend updates.

Now I have the pieces in place to test my planned batch update process, and I’m actually pretty excited about having that capability since YOURLS isn’t set up to deal with the kind of short link system an author is likely to need; the ability to batch update a vendor URL from the pre on-sale URL to the on-sale URL, for example, across multiple short urls. I did have a plugin that was supposed to do this, but it was clunkier than I liked, and this is going to be way faster and less prone to error because I can test everything locally first.

And, of course, always backup the database first!

Share

News About My Wicked Enemy

July 6th, 2022

At long, long last, the rights to My Wicked Enemy, the first book in the My Immortals series, have reverted to me. The second book in the series (My Forbidden Desire) should revert n December. There seems to be little point in publishing my preferred version of My Wicked Enemy until I also have Book 2 back, but I am now finishing up the re-edit of the book with the intention of smoothing out the story problems created by a very, very difficult and emotionally destructive (for me) editorial relationship. She was not the right editor for me or the series I was writing. She did not like me or my books, that was quite plain. I did learn that including chapters or passages I knew she’d hate distracted her from the chapters I wanted to make sure stayed in. In the main, she didn’t story edit, she just reacted to her dislike of my writing. I asked my agent several times to try to get me moved to a different editor, but, alas, this never happened.

I don’t typically rewrite a reverted book, but I was so deeply unhappy with what happened to My Wicked Enemy that I am making an exception. I will get new covers for the first two books in the series and get the two books out shortly after book 2 reverts. Then, FINALLY!!! I will be able to properly market the series.

 

Share

Hello May! What’s Up at Jewel HQ

May 20th, 2022

Just a quick post to say hello and give an update on life and writing. Bound in Smoke is going pretty well. I’m at about 50K new words with most of the updated rejiggered story in place. The usual self-doubt is there, of course. I can’t speak for all writers, but I know time and again I hear writers say that they feel that every book will expose them as a fraud or that this is the book they will be unable to write. It’s always been that way for me, and I’ve long had coping strategies for dealing with that. That self-doubt has been supercharged as of late. But I am working through that, just more slowly. I feel like that entire world is more emotionally fragile these days!

At any rate, I am currently working most on the chapters that introduce the story and the world because that absolutely needs to be in place before I start editing and fleshing out the rest of the chapters. So, to be clear, the book is not in early stages. It’s just a bit past two thirds … the point where once I nail down the world and the characters place in it, everything else will start going really fast.

I hope all of you are staying safe, healthy, and happy!

Share

March Progress Report

March 6th, 2022

I hope everyone is managing 2022 as well as possible in these stressful and trying times. Don’t forget to take time for yourself and your inner peace.

I wanted to update everyone on my writing. Bound in Smoke is going very well. I’m in a spot where word count isn’t increasing very fast but the story is taking on shape and vibe that I really like. For me, a story is typically essentially done at about 50K words, with the remaining word count coming from polishing and expanding on themes and plot. I’m not quite there yet, but will be soon, I think.

Self Doubt and the Inner Critic

My primary challenge right now is what the header suggests. Self doubt and a loud inner critic, both of which love to remind me that previous versions of this book were not done when I thought they were. For me, self doubt and my inner critic play a crucial role in producing a story I love. I need them, but I also need to be able to rise above them, and that’s been a slowly improving situation.

Another element I have noticed is one that I think can be particularly toxic to everyone, and that’s the idea that it’s not just OK to power through difficulties without regard to the personal toll, but virtuous to do so. I call bullshit on that. Hard and regular work, yes, but not without respect to the creative well. As Susan Elizabeth Philips has said, “Protect the writing.” You can’t do that if you’re only making withdrawals from your emotional well-being.

So What’s the Progress Report?

Story sparks have been coming to me more and more often, which is an encouraging return to normalcy. I think it’s because I’ve been telling myself, “F***, it, just write what you want to put on the page. I am writing. I am getting my story told.

Share

Update on My Immortals Series

January 18th, 2022

For years I have been trying to get reversions for the first two books in the My Immortals series (My Wicked Enemy and My Forbidden Desire) but have had no luck. My publisher has refused to entertain any buy-back offers even though the books make them no money. They have earned my undying resentment for refusing to revert the rights to me. The hang up is that the reversion clause says the books don’t revert until the licenses for foreign rights expire.

The existing license for My Wicked Enemy ends June 18, 2022. The one for My Forbidden Desire expires December 17, 2022. The books should revert to me on those dates.

It’s always been my intention to return My Wicked Enemy to something more like what I originally wrote.I expect I’ll release both books in December, but by then, at long, long, last, I will be able to properly market and manage this series. Expect to see proposed covers soon, and come December, what I’m calling the Author’s Cut of the books.

Share

Holiday Movies

December 23rd, 2021

Here at Jewel HQ we have been watching holiday movies as one does at this time of year. Here are the movies we’ve watched so far, and a quick rating. They’re in no particular order. We watched on Netflix.

A California Christmas, City Lights. This is a sequel to A California Christmas. The sequel was as delightful as the original and totally fun. I would watch an entire movie centered on Manny, who has a secondary romance. He lights of the screen in every scene. This movie is set in Petaluma, CA and directed by a local, so we get extra enjoyment out of seeing downtown Petaluma and the ranches/countryside to the west. We also got a kick out of seeing some of downtown Petaluma standing in for San Francisco. They filmed during the summer so you won’t see the breathtaking green hills of winter in Sonoma County. Two thumbs up.

A Castle for Christmas. This stars Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes. She’s an author, he’s a duke. They meet-cute at his castle. This was loads of fun, and it was lovely to see a diverse cast and an older couple. Two thumbs up.

A Cinderella Story, Christmas Wish. One of us hated this so much we bailed. I suspect there’s no actual plot or not enough so they stretched it out with musical montages and bad lip syncing. Personally, I would have watched it all by fast forwarding through the music for the minutes of story. Cinderella stories are my jam. I think it would have taken 20-30 minutes. The male lead is the guy who’s cast as Rand Al’Thor in The Wheel of Time. Half a Thumbs up. I might go speed watch it.

Father Christmas is Back. I was bored out of my mind and bailed. My sister watched the whole thing. I didn’t care about any of the characters and couldn’t get past the stupidity. If someone takes your car (a Rolls!) and makes it the prize in a contest, the solution to getting back your car is not to attempt to win the contest. Hated. It. No thumbs. If you like English-style narratives, you might like this.

Christmas Break In. A riff on Home Alone only with a girl and at a school and a totally undeveloped plot line. This could have been awesome. Danny Glover was in it and he was worth watching. It was childish and dumb, but that’s the whole point. It was mildly amusing and totally predictable. One lazy thumb up.

A Christmas Prince, The Royal Baby. Set somewhere in Europe. At least this time they had a more diverse cast than the previous story set in this mythical country. It was enjoyable enough, and it was unintentionally comic to watch the Queen, who was in end-stage labor, magically able to solve and explain a mystery in between pushing. One and a half thumbs up.

Holidate. This was a strange one. Two gorgeous people decide they will escape holiday questions about their relationship lives by pretending to be a couple on holidays. It starts and ends at Christmas. It was OK. One and a half thumbs up.

Single All the Way. We loved this. It’s cute, adorable, and corny. Roomates to lovers. I wasn’t at all sure for the first 5-10 minutes but then the chemistry kicked in between the two guys, and I was on board. There are lots of Awww moments. Two thumbs up.

Have you watched any holiday movies? Which ones, and which are your favorites?

Share

Happy Going into the Holidays!

November 26th, 2021

I hope all is well with everyone and that those who celebrated US Thanksgiving had a safe and wonderful day.

Per Jewel HQ tradition, now that it’s after Thanksgiving, we can appropriately procrastinate preparations for the holidays. The weather here has been about as wintery as the North Bay gets. This year there is a bumper crop of mushrooms. A few of them are enormous and can be seen from quite far away. I enjoy going out to look at the mushrooms.

Now that we have fish in the pond, we’ve had visits from both herons and egrets . . . beautiful, majestic birds who don’t normally come anywhere near the house. Goldfish are good at hiding, but we’re fairly certain the netting has done it’s job and we still have all six.

Bound In Smoke continues to go well. I have some time off and hope to get a lot of words down.

Stay safe, everyone. What are you reading these days? I’m re-reading R. Lee Smith’s Land of the Beautiful Dead.

Below is a picture of a mushroom.

 

Share

Spooky Greetings from Jewel HQ!

October 30th, 2021

As I write this post, tomorrow is the U.S. celebration of Halloween, a holiday beloved by many here, so spooky greetings to all! Here is a picture of my happily transplanted pitcher plants. They will soon be dormant for winter, but right now they’re very pretty.

Close of of Pitcher plants. They are slender green tubes that widen to a magenta and white opening with a curved top above the pitcher.
Pitcher Plants. Photo by Carolyn Jewel

They happily consume garden pests, so yay! And, as I have learned, California has native species of pitcher plants so they do extremely well here.

Writing News

My writing continues to go well. Bound in Smoke is really shaping up. My new approach to getting more sleep is about 80% effective, I’d say, which means I am getting a lot more sleep these says. It’s probably no coincidence that my creative headspace is a happier place these days. To all my readers, I am writing every single day, taking care of myself, and putting together a story I love.

Take care, everyone!

Share