Thursday, January 31, 2019

My World War II thriller is out

Code Name Beatriz is out!.

"Wireless agents have a six-week life expectancy after they parachute into France." 

Antonia, devastated by what the war has taken from her, is numb to the warning, and willing to die working with the Resistance in France...until a special operation brings her face to face with a Canadian man who makes her want to live again. When the operation goes terribly wrong and the Nazis capture him, what will she risk to free him?

Click HERE for link to Amazon page.

For some time I've been fascinated with the female SOE agents of World War II, Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, Violette Szabo, and all the heroic women who parachuted into France to help fight the Nazis on the ground. What heroes they were! I hope here I've done them justice with my fictional Antonia, an agent code named Beatriz.

Other links will be coming as the book appears at other sites.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Living more mindfully

Excuse the rare personal post!

I move too fast. I want to move more slowly, with spaces for breathing between all I do.

While I’m not a Buddhist, I’ve read about their concept of mindfulness. You do one thing at a time, and you attend to it. In so doing, you learn more. You relax more. You enjoy chores you used to rush through because you are there, in the moment, fully present, your hands immersed in warm dishwashing water, noticing how that actually feels good (rather than mentally cursing the chore, as we so often do.)

How did I get to the decidedly unmindful place I am right now? Five years ago, when I lived in the motor home in the deserts and woods of Arizona, I was fully mindful. I was utterly relaxed. Most days were blissful. I was so at peace that birds came right up to me and sang along with me when I sat outdoors, sang and played the guitar. I’m a million miles from there today.

The problem starts with the business of being a full-time author. Amazon’s algorithms favored books that came out every 3 months back in 2016. This year, you’d better be releasing one per month to get that monster’s approval and have any chance of being discovered by readers who don’t yet know your work.

Truth: I can’t write a good book in a month. I can’t write one, revise one, edit one, proofread one, run it through more than one pro proofreader in two months, even, and be happy with the result. I don’t even count the hours--years sometimes--of research that goes into all of my books. (I like learning, so it’s not a burden, and it’s hard to convince myself to track it or count it as work, though it is.)

I could write two pretty good, pretty error-free books per year, I think. I can’t do that and remain a full-time author, of course. Amazon's rules won't let me. So the choice is between better books and paying my bills this way.

This rush then extends its ugly claws out into other realms. That kind of productivity, plus the necessity of paying attention to whatever “innovations” Amazon is up to this month that affects authors requires a lot of social time online with other authors so I can stay abreast of this gossip. Authors do each other small favors, and those take time. The online time starts to pull at you, as it will (social media is terribly addictive), and if there is anything less mindful than staring at a screen and feeling irritated a lot, I can’t imagine what that might be. (Perhaps being forced to listen to jackhammer all day comes close.)

And soon, eight hours per day is taken up, just as with any office job. (Except I have to work Saturday and Sunday as well. I almost never take a day off. That wears on a person.) And so there’s not enough time to mow the lawn, clean the house, or make really good scratch meals as I’d wish. (I’m a good cook--seems like a skill I’m wasting most days.) I end up in real in-person conversations that I wish would end so I could go back to whatever is next on my list. In another mental state, I might really enjoy those conversations.

I bought a new house last year, and the yard was a mess, and there were several broken things, and my personal to-do list has been long. I’ve nearly worked my way through it, and am on to the “improvements” list now, but instead of enjoying this work--and I could, under other circumstances--I’m still in a rush-rush-rush mode. It doesn’t make the job get done any better, and it makes me resentful while I'm doing it. Truth is, there are tasks I enjoy like scraping paint and pulling weeds that relax me to a deep level, if I’m only able to commit to a solid two to four hours at them and do them carefully and with attention and without a rigid goal that starts out "I have to...."  Weeding or sanding can be like a meditation. But not if I’m trying to rush through the list to go back to check my sales because I’m running an ad and then checking emails and dealing with the day’s pile of them again.

I should be loving my life. I should be thrilled at living the dream of being a full-time writer. But I don’t and I’m not. I sigh far too much. I enjoy the small moments far too little.

And I know the answer to this discontent. It’s to slow the heck down. :D I want a to-do list with three things on it, not three dozen, every day. I want to stop and smell the roses--or the paint, or the compost, or the red peppers frying up in the pan. I want to plunge my hands into a sink of hot sudsy water, look out the kitchen window at the birds and squirrels, and just stand there for a full minute, feeling and seeing what I’m feeling and seeing.

I know most of us feel this way during our working years. I'm not special in that sense. What's rare about me is that I get to be one of the 6,000 or so people making a living as a writer, a position I'm well aware 500,000 other writers covet deeply and would think me mad for risking by slowing down this year.

I’ll have a book coming out soon. And I’m writing another. But instead of rushing it to publication to sate the maw of Amazon, when I’m done, I’ll put it aside and let it rest for a month before picking it up for revision. I’ll enjoy the process more. It’ll be a better book for that rest. I’m not going to release five or six or seven books this year (my totals for the last three years). I’m going to release three--and one was actually written last year. Next year, maybe that’ll only be two books released. Odds are, my business will crash as a result.

I am so happy I have readers, and I write for them as well as for me. But I don’t think I’m doing any of us a favor by rushing as I have been. I often ask myself, why is Gray so much more popular than everything else I write. These books come from the same mind, the same fingers. Gray was released one book every six months and the editing and release came NINE YEARS after I first wrote it. I think that’s the answer, in part. I took more time. I revised more mindfully. I had down time during which I did other things mindfully, which made me a more balanced person when I returned to writing the book.

That’s my theory, at least. If I’m wrong, at least by slowing down and paying attention to the world, I’ll be doing myself some good, if not anyone else or my books. I won’t feel as if I’m living in a bubble, locked in a wrestling match with Amazon, with the world an irksome distraction, which is how I feel most days now. I will eat better, rest better, feel better.

The birds might even come near again. And that would be lovely.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review of 2018 + plan for 2019

It was a busy December of catching up with tasks I'd wanted to do for some time or should have done years ago, but I caught up and am proud of what that means. Soon there will be an omnibus edition of Books 1-2-3 in both the Oil Apocalypse series and the Dawn of Mammals series. (I'd do a five-book collection, but Amazon's rules about pricing makes that impossible.) They'll be out within a few weeks.

My newest novel is a World War II Spy thrilled, called Code Name Beatriz. It too will be out within a few weeks.

Because I have an older relative with vision problems, I know about the need for more large print books, so I've had Storm reformatted and made into a large print paperback. As soon as the cover is re-done for that, it'll be out too.

And finally, I revised and found a cover for a novel based on the life of my great-grandmother as a child. Her mother was so poor, she had to give her to an orphanage around the year 1900. I just released that under the pen name Rosellyn Sparks. Its name is The Long Road to Home. I drafted this in 2011, and my relatives have wanted to read it for some time, so this falls under "it's about time!" from their perspective. :D

That's a lot that came to fruition and was caught up on all at once.

I moved 1500 miles in 2018, and I bought a house for the first time in years, so the fact I got four books published last year is something of a miracle. Two were Lou Cadle novels, and one was a fantasy under the pen name LC Bard.

And now I'm in the middle of writing the 31st book I've written (I've not published all of them) in a new post-apocalyptic series. It should be out in May if all goes well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

to sign up to my mailing list

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It's that simple! I only send announcements about new releases, and I never sell or share your email address with anyone else at all. (I never did, even before the EU law changes. Lots of writers share them with Facebook. I never trusted FB as far as I could throw Zuck's vast team of lawyers!)

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Thank you for reading.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Repost: Oil Apocalypse Blogs #2

A continuing series. I answer more questions about the books and the research behind them.

What is the scariest aspect of the end of oil?

In my opinion? Food. Our just-in-time food delivery system depends entirely on petroleum. Starving people may not remain pleasant people, especially not when they live in the concentrations of today’s urban centers. England’s little glitch back 10 years ago that resulted in the “nine meals from anarchy” talk gave us a hint of what may well happen at the start of such an event.

Daniel Chase photo via Wikimedia. Before Hurricane Sandy

But food delivery isn’t the only facet of the food system that requires petroleum. Tractors and other farm machinery, tractor tires, insecticides, fertilizers...all require petroleum. Indeed, it was the industrial revolution and petroleum products as applied to farming that resulted in crop yields that caused the world population to explode from 500 million to over 7 billion in just a couple hundred years.

We need to pause from time to time and think about that. 500 million people is probably the carrying capacity of the earth absent petroleum. That is, this lovely, diverse, rare planet can support/feed only a half a billion homo sapiens. So when oil is gone, there will be at least 7 billion extra starving people (probably 15 billion or more by the time it happens, though drought or disease may have killed several billion first because we have other potential problems that stem from overpopulation).

So imagine: Fertile land and deer and fish for half a billion, with 15 billion clamoring for food. You can see what’s going to happen. People are going to starve to death...but a few will not do it quietly and politely, darn them. They will kill you to get your food, and if your food is gone, some will kill you to use you as food.

I'm working toward food self-sufficiency myself, and if a lot of people do this--including urban gardeners, who can use abandoned lots, roof gardens, median strips, and much more--that will mitigate the problem. Kudos to those who are doing just that. But of course, sufficient people will not do the work, and certain arid places (Phoenix, Las Vegas) are not in climates where that much food can be grown, and we'll end up in a bad situation at some future point.

I don't think I'll live to see it, honestly, but if I had grandkids, I would be working to teach them how to grow their own food and fish--that's for sure.

A foreign war triggers the end of oil in your books. But don’t Iran and Saudi Arabia get along really well?

Not according to what I read. I read several foreign policy papers (rather boring research for me, I confess), and of all the local neighbors who might attack Saudi Arabia for its oil in the future, Iran seemed the most likely. Again, I can’t guess at a date, but one day, surely current tensions will come to that. Its impact on oil exports? That I would not begin to try and predict in the real world. Worst case scenario for the reader more than likely, is Russia backing Iran (as they likely would) and winning and gaining control over the Saudi Arabian oil fields. The British/US invasion of Iraq was ill-considered and wasteful and got us almost no oil. Our entering this hypothetical Iran-Saudi war, if Russia is a major player, to protect our access to Saudi oil? Absolutely necessary. It’ll probably be couched in some typical lie to appease the masses--WMDs or religion or “evil” leaders or whatever--but it will be entirely about oil and, if we want to keep living as we do, if we want to keep eating, not so much a choice as an imperative.

However, much more of the US's oil comes from Canada than from the Middle East at this point, so in our real world, this wouldn't be so much of a crisis.

more next week