Saturday, September 27, 2014

House Trauma

We've been renting the same house for 8 years. I like the house, like the neighborhood, like the school district, like the local church community. But we have been "house-poor" for all of these years. We also moved in when when we had five children. The 3 oldest have moved on so now we have this 3500 square foot home that we pretty much walk through to get from one area to another.

So as our lease is coming up at the end of September, enough is enough. I'm so tired of throwing money into a house that isn't even our own. It's time to downsize. The problem is is that our credit isn't where it needs to be. Why? Oh, could it be because all our money goes into rent instead of paying off these few lasting leftover bills from when our family was held hostage by a terminal illness? It's a vicious vicious cycle.

Here's the problem: My junior wants to stay in his high school. Can't blame him. But we're not going to stay in this cycle another two years. Just can't do it. Especially with a missionary out in the field.
But we have been getting a good rate on our house. The same models in the area are going for at least $500 more and all the houses in this area for rent at the price we can manage are 1/3 the size and barely $100 lower in rent. Wahhhhh? Really? That's not even worth it. We're going to be stuck like this forever.

So I prayed and fasted about it. A lot. For many months, worried that we were going to have to move our sons into another school district. And I was very specific because in my experience that works. So I asked for a home within the area beneath a certain price, even realizing that there was no way.

Except, there was. Unbelievable we found a rental that fits all our criteria. The same model a few houses down is renting for $400 more, but it was all painted cute. This one, holy heck, it's a mess. It seriously looks like a flop house. But it's freaking $500 less than what we are in now. That's doable for us. It's a miracle, is what it is. And it's only because the owner doesn't want to do any work into it, or possibly can't afford to, we're getting if for well below the going rate.

So I'm thinking for that much of a break, yeah, I can live with a kitchen countertop that is outdoor slabs cemented on. I can scrub the filthiest bathrooms ever known to mankind. Seriously, I don't know what kind of people lived here or what they were growing. Well since I found weed paper in the drawer I guess I do know what they were growing. And coffee filters on top of the bathroom cupboards. Um, what do you do with coffee filters in the bathroom? I'm thinking it's not for making coffee. My son looked at the tub, grimaced and said, "Can we buy a new bathtub?" It's that gross. I have pictures but hesitate to post them because I don't want a rash of vomiting. They are scrubbed clean now (with The Works toilet cleaner and Mr. Clean scrubbers, and then vinegar and bleach) and since I don't own a hazmet suit, I tossed the clothes I was wearing. Guh. All the while repeating in my head $500 less $500 less $500 less. But dang if I am not buying new toilet seats!

Then the neighbor comes over, sweet guy, and proceeds to tell me about the drug dealer, Roger, that lives on the other side of him who used to break in all the garages and cars, except now that he keeps calling the police and has installed security cameras, and R has been arrested several times, but nothing sticks, at least they no longer steal around here. Don't crap in your own sandbox, that sort of thing I hope. Sigh. This is the house I prayed for? What are we doing?

I seriously envision our family going into a dark cave and licking our wounds while we financially heal for two years. Two years, $500 less a month. We can do this.

But our landlord has allowed me to paint (at our expense of course). I was doing a real good job of it, going from a puse brown to a soft gray from the ladder slipped out from under me and now I have a sprained ankle. Man, it hurts and I have so much to do. The doctor said, "well, keep off of it." Right. I'm moving. I have so much to do.

I am grateful that it wasn't worse. The ladder (and I) didn't smack the floor, but the ends caught on the window sill so that I wrenched on the ladder. I have lovely rung-spaced bruises along my body. Joy.
ladder landing
how the ladder fell
In shock I rolled off when my friend texted seconds later, "hey, how is the painting going? Are you sure you don't need help?"

To which I texted back, "uh, since I'm flat on my back now from falling off the ladder, yeah, maybe I need some help after all." So much for being independent I can do this on my own. Now ladders scare me a little bit.

The next day my friend came over and I had my son skip for the first half of school and we knocked out the paint job in a couple of hours. One good thing about having a smaller house. The ceilings are going to have to stay a yuck yellow. Yes, I said yellow because I can't reach them. So we'll just use it as a way to determine how observant people are whether they notice the one patch of gray on the yellow ceiling or not. Do you think you would notice?






Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Interviewed for K Magazine

So I got a call from Judy, the president of the Keller Writers Association critique group, telling me about a reporter from the Star Telegram who is interested in indie-publishing and could I tell her a little bit about it.

Well, sure. I'm not one to pass up an opportunity like that. So I emailed Judy over some information. The following day the reporter gives me a call, asking if we could meet, and that she is interested in doing an article for the new K Magazine, Keller's Premier City Magazine, which is part of The local Keller Citizen, which is part of Star Telegram of the City of Fort Worth. And that the article is about National Novel Writing Month which takes place in November. You know, that crazy month where writers all over the world buckle down and try to complete a 50k novel from start to finish in a month?  Have I ever participated in that?

Why yes, yes  I have. I completed the uncompleteable novel during nanowrimo, Extracted. And I live in Keller.

Perfect. Yay, me! I fit all the criteria she was looking for.

My first BIG SHOT interview. You'd think I'd be nervous. But I wasn't for some odd reason.
Anyway, Sandra Engelland, the reporter came over to my house. She was wearing a bright happy blue outfit with cute ballet flats, has curly blond hair, and a nice smile. Very ease-putting. She also used a small notebook and pen to write everything, which for who-know-why made me all happy. Like it fit some stereotype I had in my head of how reporters should do things. Awesome. And dang, she wrote fast.
Sandra Engelland from The Star Telegram photograph


Her questions were great. I felt totally at ease and confident because we were talking on subjects I love and know what I'm talking about, so the conversation just flowed. I felt intelligent and capable and I loved it. I want to be interviewed more. Bring on the reporters!

Then as she was leaving she mentioned that she'd arrange for one of their photographers to take some pictures of me. Squeal! Okay, I didn't squeal. I'm a professional after all, but maybe just a little squeal inside.

So the following day, me and another author she interviewed named Henry met the photographer at The Book Carriage in Roanoke for about 5 minutes and had our picture taken together. Seriously, that's all it took. 5 minutes. Guy knew what he was doing. Well, I guess since that's his career he would. It was fun. I feel great about it...and slightly important and can't wait to see how it all comes turns out.

My nanowrimo book. One month to finish. A year to edit. That's what I get for speeding through it.


Extracted




Saturday, September 20, 2014

September NTRWA President's Letter

I’m moving into another house—downsizing in a big way, er, uh, a small way. Which means I have to get rid of more than half of my stuff.
Easy to part with: my fifteen year old couch that four boys played the hot lava game on and jumped over the back ripping out the heavy-duty furniture staples. You know, that couch that the bottom has been gutted out of in multiple searches for missing iPods. And yeah, that odd stitching in the back? Pirate saber wound. Don’t ask. Boys.
The couch is a goner. Buh-bye. Adios.
Multiple Tate

But then there’s the bread machine I’ve used maybe twice in the last ten years. It’s still all shiny and new looking. From non-use. As if I even have a fresh packet of yeast in the house. But I neeeeed that bread machine. What if I get a hankering for homemade bread? Which I’ll have to drive to the store for yeast so I might as well just buy the homemade loaf while I’m there… (Um, don’t look too closely at that last sentence.) But seriously I’m having a hard time parting with that.
Just like when I need to pare down the prose. Tired and clunky clich├ęs are as easy to cut out of a manuscript as getting rid of a hot lava gamed-to-death couch. No problemo. Even though they are so comfortable to slide into.
But those beautifully crafted stellar sentences that have no usefulness in a scene…except they are awesome and I amaze myself with my sheer brilliance and I’m certain I might need them later, but most likely not because then my heroine will have to drive to the store and purchase yeast packets and then wait three hours for a little loaf of bread that maybe has five slices she can get out of it…but, but, they are so shiny and new looking, how can I part with those sentences?
Kill my darlings? Really?
Of course the beauty is is that I don’t have to if I don’t want to. Sometimes I keep my darlings. Yep, you heard me and I’m officially giving you permission to keep your stellar, non-useful sentences if you want to.
Then again, sometimes I get over myself and realize that if it has no use for the scene, toss it out.  
So on that note, would anyone like a bread machine?

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making of a Book Cover: Extracted

This is the book that took 25ish years to write. It's gone through several incarnations. It began as a short story after I read Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation and became fascinated with WWII. My story was about an old war veteran who had a heart attack, traveled through the tunnel of light but was ripped out of it, his soul snatched and put into the body of a dead soldier to keep fighting in an alien world's war. I titled it Do Not Resuscitate.

I loved the concept so years later I once again resurrected the story, but this time twisted it into a teen guy displaced on an alien world. I could never quite get the plot settled comfortably in my head so let it sit while I worked on other projects. It was when I was talking about it with YA author Mari Mancusi and she said, "Why don't you make the hero into a heroine?" and something finally clicked.

So no more alien world, just good old fashioned soul snatching in a scientific way right here on planet earth.

Oh but the cover...how to bring this concept into a cover... I searched long and hard until finally I found the perfect model, mainly because she was asleep and has such an innocent quality about her.

Here's the original picture I purchased from Dreamstime.com.  Actually the original picture had a green background which I had to erase, but somewhere when my laptop died and I switched over to a new one I lost the original.

Next I enlarged and off-centered it and added words. There isn't much contrast in this cover with the white on white words, but I was going for a clean and sterile "lab" type look. Also since I was still writing the book when I found this picture I was able to base Kat's look on this model, so she is an exact look for the character. 





Pretty simple and easy. Then I really started having fun. I thought it would be cool to have her eyes open on the back cover, a kind of awakening to her situation like what happens in the book.

So I bought another stock art from Dreamstime with the same cover model.
What I did next was overlay this picture on top of the other and then erase all of it except for one eye. With a bit of enlarging and tilting I got it overlaid over the closed eye and then did a little tweaking like clone-stamping her skin tone over the dark lashes beneath her closed eye and little touches like that.
Extracted back cover

I'm actually quite impressed with myself at this point. 
Next I flipped the picture so it will be a mirror image when the book jacket is folded over and viola!!!

Paperback cover of Extracted

Available at Amazon

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter

I’ve been taking this online course called LiveYour Truth by Carol Tuttle.  It’s frighteningly accurate. It basically identifies four energy movements and then helps you learn which is your dominant type and how to live in a way that you are in harmony with how your energy flows. It’s fascinating. It accurately called how my thought processes work, what my hairstyle I wear now looks like, how I deal with everyday tasks and even what my desk looks like.
Mind blown.
What does that have to do with writing?
More than you’d think.
The movement types are the typical elements of Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. Nothing new there until you really delve into it.
As an example, a Fire person is goal oriented but also compartmental. According to Carol, a Fire’s morning might look something like this: Get up, make the bed but only partway, start the coffee, shower, start doing her hair but only partway, put on makeup but only partway, and then go back to making the bed, pouring the coffee, work on the hair, work on the makeup and then back around again until all the tasks are complete. She has the ability to work on several things at the same time and successfully achieves several tasks at once.
So how that relates to an energy movement in writing is like this: A Fire will carve out her hour but won’t write straight through that hour. She’ll compartmentalize it by writing 10 or 15 minutes and then will get up to feed the dogs or check in with her writer pals on Chatzy orTwitter and tell them where she’s at with her goal, or some other task. Then back to writing for another segment of time and up again to complete another task, then back to writing. That suits her creative energy perfectly.
For me, things like Chatzy drive me crazy. But I’m a Water. Like a slow curving river. When I’m writing, I don’t want any distractions. My course is set. (Heavy plotter.) I even write in longhand because my creative energy flows much better in the movement of swirls and continuous cursive. Like that river. The tap tap tap on a keyboard just doesn’t do it for me. I also have to work from beginning to end. No jumping from one scene to another back and forth like an Air or Fire can both do and pull it all together into something fabulous.
Speaking of Air. These writers are light and fun. I’d guess they tend to have more humor in their stories. They also have a million ideas rapid firing in their brains. They are the ones who have ten manuscripts started, yet have a difficult time finishing one before another idea lassoes their attention. Air energy people need good critique partners and deadlines to hound them to finish. These writers will also tend to be predominantly pantsers because that’s way more fun. They are also most likely the writers who love to make collages of their characters for inspiration.
Then there’s the energy of the Earth. I imagine these writers sitting at the same place every time they write with both feet flat on the floor and posture straight.  They are also the heavy thinkers and perfectionists. They think long and hard before beginning a manuscript and plot everything out and then second guess themselves as they rethink everything. They’ll edit a chapter several more times than the rest of us before it’s deemed good enough for them.  They tend to take much longer to write a full manuscript but the words are extremely powerful when they are done.
As you can tell, I’ve been enjoying learning about my true nature in a lot of aspects of my life. (And secretly trying to guess what each of yours are.)  Writing is just one aspect, but understanding my own energy movement gives me permission to not worry about writing exactly the same way as another or trying to achieve the same word count or  wonder why a process that works so well for someone else totally fizzles for me.  I enjoy my process so much more now that I better understand why I do what I do and appreciate the creative energy flow of what works well for other writers without getting frustrated trying to emulate something that won’t necessarily work for me, or even better, discovering the things that do. 
So did you recognize yourself in any of these processes? Have a little bit of all of them in you?


Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Saturday, July 12, 2014

North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter July 2014

President’s Letter July

I found the old notebook I used from the very first day I walked into an NT meeting until I ran out of pages. Early 2009. Seriously? I’ve been a member that long? Sure doesn’t seem like it. Flipping through these pages brought back tons of memories. From Wendy Watson discussing black moments and Pete the forensics guy lifting our fingerprints to Judi McCoy transfixing us with the force of her personality.  I have pages of notes on Shelley Bradley giving us the rundown on what to look for in contracts and another load of notes with Ron Campbell’s guidance into taxes.  
And who can’t remember Sally Felt’s “Screw the fear, find the fun!” philosophy?
I’ve taken notes from hypnotists, dream analyzers, librarians, bookstore CRMs, a Magician/Medical Examiner, Search and Rescue Dog Trainer, social media gurus, and Editor and Agents galore all from our little room at the side of La Hacienda restaurant.  
I also have little notes for myself stuck in there like “Give Michelle Welch, Jeannie Guzman, and Nancy Connally their PRO pins”  and “New members this month: Gloria, Jamie, Karen, Sasha, Ruby, and Juliet”.  I have names written down of people who walked into our group fresh without a first novel under their belts who are now on bestseller lists.
The funniest quote I found is from Angi Platt (back before she became Angi Morgan) dated Sept. 17, 2009.
“You do have to be present to be there.”

Um? I have no memory what she was talking about but I obviously found it hilarious enough to write down.  I can see us all having a good chuckle over that slip of words as well as Angi’s sheepish grin.
 Man, we’ve had a good time together, haven’t we?   I had no idea that first meeting just how much North Texas would enrich my life or how much I would look forward to coming each month. Or how jazzed up with creative energy I’d be each month with new ideas and techniques I didn’t know before. 
I know I’ve said this before so I hope it doesn’t sound trite, but I really do love you guys. Can’t think of one person from NT I haven’t enjoyed getting to know. You’re an extremely talented and giving bunch of people. Anyway, before the violins really start sobbing in the background, let me just end with this: Thanks for being part of NT. Thanks for always being present so you can be there.


Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Making of a Book Cover: Viking Mine

The Killion Group orginalI'm so excited about my latest book. It's totally different than what I usually write, meaning no magic or supernatural creatures mucking about. It's a straight historical, well, as far as what history can piece together on Vikings at any rate. And it was such a joy to write also. I love these characters. Anyway, more on them later. This post is about how I made the cover.

I wanted to go with that classic historical romance style. You know the ones with a couple in a clench in front of some type of historical scene, usually a castle. I just wanted readers to know exactly what it is at a glance.

So the first thing was to find the right couple. Not so easy when I'm using stock photo. First, there aren't that many blond guys. I have no idea why, but they are few and far between. I also wanted the heroine to have dark hair.  And not completely nekkid either. I couldn't find any at my usual stock photo haunt so I went over to The Killion Group and finally found the perfect couple. The leather pants definitely need to be cropped out though. Eew.
Viking ships saturated
Viking Ships original

Next up is the historical landscape behind them. Viking book. Definitely need a Viking Dragon Ship. Dreamstime had just what I needed.

Saturated it a bit to bring out more color and lighten.

Next I put them together. It took a while to get the right placement of the ships. I ended up using the 3rd ship on the right because it fit the best beneath Rovena's the heroine's hair. I also erased some of her gown. It just flared too much. Actually the dress isn't exactly authentic for the time period but with stock photos I have to pick and choose what I can live with. Notice how I cropped out those awful leather pants? And please don't tell me they are really pleather. Gag. As you can see I started playing around with title and author name placement. I thought it looked pretty good until I decided I really wanted to go with the classic historical romance look and make it look like a drawing.
Cover pulled together
 Finding an illustration program took a little bit of work until I found one in Smart Photo Editor and ran it through. It first came out like this, which I actually love, except it made the fonts less readable. It also made their hair color almost the same. What I really liked about this couple was that her dark hair opposed to his light hair.
Well, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. I played around with the light balance, even tried to slip her old non illustrated hair over this hair, until it dawned on  me to use the clone stamp tool and clone darker spots of her hair over the lighter spots. It worked pretty well although I may have gotten a little carried away. Except Rovena's hair in the book is pitch black and fascinates all the lighter haired Vikings so I wanted it as dark as I could get it.

Dragon Ships cover

Now that's some nice dark hair on her. I'd rather he was lighter but I didn't want to mess with him too much. The lightening I did made his moles stand out on his neck. You can really see them when they are enlarged. I almost went in with the clone stamp and got rid of them, but decided I could use them and go in and write a few sentences where Rovena is noticing the mole at the side of his neck and wanting to press a kiss there or some such.  The next step was getting the words to show up. With the ships, water and her dress there is a lot going on, which I didn't want to smear out just to see the words so I decided to enlarge the title and go with white for most of it. My name still gets a little lost in her dress but I can live with that, especially since Viking is the main theme I want to get across as well as this is a historical romance. I think the classic style of this cover will convey that fairly well.  So here it is! Tell me what you think.



Kindle                    Nook                    Other Devices 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NTRWA President's Letter for June

My husband was reading an article on screen plays when he asked, “Did you know you should start out and leave a scene with twenty to thirty unanswered questions?”
Scrunching my forehead, I told him I didn’t know that, thinking, “That’s weird, how are you supposed to do that?” Then within hours we watched the pilot for a new show called Believe. From the teaser commercials we didn’t know anything about it except that there is a little blond girl with some sort of powers who is somehow vital to the world as a whole.
Now don’t worry about spoilers since the show has been cancelled already.
So the first scene begins with the little blond girl, Bo, singing songs with I assume her parents, driving down a dark road in a mini van. Except Bo calls these “parents” by their first names. Another car hits them, flipping the van and the woman of that car gets out, swaying, and makes her way to the overturned van, crying and visibly upset that she caused an accident. When she sees that mom and Bo are no longer in the van, she pulls out a gun and shoots the dad. She then tracks the girl and mom and is about to shoot the mom figure when a bunch of do-gooders show up to help with the accident and the woman backs off.
At this point, I know absolutely nothing. No back story or explanations have been given, but boy-oh-boy do I have questions.
Who is Bo? What’s so special about her? Are those her parents? If not, who are they? How did they know to get Bo out of the van to run? Who is the woman after her and why?
It goes right into the next scene with a priest going into a jail cell to give last rites to a man who is going to be executed within minutes. The dead man walking (Tate) shouts that he’s innocent. The priest says he can get him out of there if Tate will agree to do something for a little girl that only he can do. Tate agrees and a special unit goes into action and breaks him out.
What? I still have no idea what’s going on. Who is Tate? Is he really a murderer? Was he framed? Is he a liar? Why is he so special that the unit needs him? Who is the priest guy? What is the unit? Are they good guys or bad buys?
Less than ten minutes in and I literally know nothing. But am I hooked? You betcha. I have to keep watching to know the answers. It’s human nature and a little bit of ego to see if what I’m guessing is right.
But that got me thinking about my own openings. Am I layering question upon question? I don’t think I have been. I’ve been focused on making sure I’m getting all my goals, conflicts, and motivations in place. I’m placing in snippets of who the characters are, where they are from, and clues about where the plot will go, but…questions? I’m supposed to be laying down a trail of questions?
I feel like Heidi Klum in that shampoo commercial where she says, “All this time, we’ve been working on the wrong end of hair!”
Heck, yeah, I want to keep readers on the edge of their seats with anticipation. I want them so curious they have to keep reading. I want them to feel satisfied when they’re right or I want them to think I’m utterly brilliant when they are surprised.
Ugh, all this time I’ve been working on the wrong end of GMC. Okay, back to the plotting notebook. My new technique: In this scene, what questions do I want my readers to ask?
As always, merry writing and have a wonderful summer. For those who will be traveling over the next couple of months, have fun, be safe, we’ll miss you and will be glad to see you upon your return.
Take care,

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May President's Letter

I was chatting with another author about some old books I dug out and was re-reading from years ago. You know, way back in the ice age when ebooks didn’t exist.


Architetto -- Blocco notes by Anonymous - Notebook (or note-block?) by Francesco 'Architetto' Rollandin.She said, “Oh, so you actually read the kind of books you write.”
That took me a bit by surprise. “Well, yeah, of course.” Um?
Sure I began to write toward a trend, but it was a trend I love, have loved for as long as I’ve been reading. But the conversation made me think.
There’s a writerly saying that goes: Write what you know.
Well, I’ve never had magical powers or have time traveled to the past, so that’s a bit out of my experience range. Plus, boring. I don’t want to read what I already know. I want the fantasy of doing things I’ve never done.
Besides, even though writing is hard work, it’s also amazingly fun.
Always Write What You Love.
And then research anything you don’t know. That’s part of the enjoyment.
Let your own joy and excitement lift off the pages of your book. Readers can feel the depth of a writer’s enjoyment, even if you are gleefully taking your enjoyment writing a deranged bad guy. They will feel it. I believe that.

So that’s my hope for all of you this month. Write What You Love. Now go forth and create in this beautiful month of May.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Fae Ring

The Fae Ring cover 

She's always been a dutiful daughter...



Janet MacLeod has spent the last ten years dedicated to her clan, acting as the Lady of the castle—at the cost of her own happiness.

She aches every time she looks at her brothers, both happy with their wives, and wants nothing more than a love of her own.

He’s a broken soldier…


Xander, a former Fae Warrior, sacrificed his wings and magic to live in the Human
Realm and became a traitor to his people.

When he finds Janet forlorn on the beach, Xander gives her a ring he’s had since childhood, not realizing it’ll reveal her as his fated mate.

The ring’s magic activates the Faery Stones, and Janet is sucked into the Fae Realm. Her life is in immediate danger, for the Fae sense—and seek to destroy—any human who dares step into their world.

Xander is the only one who can retrieve her, but he too, wears a target.

Can he rescue his soul-mate and return with her to the Human Realm or will temptation of great magic and the rebirth of his wings force him to abandon their destiny? Duncan promises to help Claire get home, even though his desire to have her wars with his vow.
Torn between familiarity of the present and what she wants in the past, can Claire help Duncan find his brother and get back to the future? Will she even want to?
The Fae Ring cover back flap

About The Author:
Displaying photo.JPGC.A SzarekC.A. is my critique partner and I love her to death. I'm thrilled to show y'all her latest book ~~ Highland style of course. She's originally from Ohio, and has made me these to-die-for buck-eye treats. nom-nom-nom. Anyway, I'm so glad she made her way out here to Texas. She is married and has a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.

She works with kids when she’s not writing.

She’s always wanted to be a writer and is overjoyed to share her stories with the world. C.A. is just an all around great sweet person and I know you'll love her and her stories as much as I do.

Visit her on her blog, orn TwitterFacebookGoodreads and website. She's everywhere!!!

C.A. Szarek is also author of Collision Force, Chance Collision, Sword's Call, Love's Call and The Tartan MP3 Player.
Twinsie Jo




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