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Update

I trust you all had a beautiful Easter! Lovely weather here, so I planted onions and peas and beets — didn’t get to the petunias, always more to do, but no rush, the plants are still small, just like I prefer for transplanting.

Plus, I took Junior the farmer’s market and then to the vet — he was just along for the ride at the vet, but the other two dogs with me were in for vaccinations / yearly exams. I ran all six of my girls through in two days, which was a bit much, but now we are all done for the year, provided no one steps on another horrible splinter or whatever.

Junior puppy at the vet:

Naptime (Medium)

As you can see, he was tired out from the farmer’s market and not the least bit disturbed to be at the vet’s office. He hangs out with the staff behind the counter because he’s special.

Okay, update: I revised chapter 14 last night — then realized events need to happen in a different order now that the timing of certain things has been speeded up. So now that is chapter 15 and I am revising the new chapter 14, which used to be later in the book. I’m still hovering around 550 pages total, but this is an illusion: I’ve added about 40 pages in the last week, but cut about 40 pages too.

I have been dropping hints about the endgame, so if I’m wrong about how I’m going to handle that, all those hints will have to be changed, too. I hope I remember what they are if it comes to it. I am good at that, but not as good as some copy editors I have worked with.

I hope I have only about 80 pages to revise lightly, then cut a LOT, then the endgame and the finale. I’m still hoping to bring this in by the end of the month. I think it’s possible. It will help if we get a sudden burst of horrible rainy weather so that I can’t be pulled outside by Compelling Spring Gardening Chores. Alas (?), looks like beautiful weather for the next few days.

In May, I should have a lot more time for gardening and reading and yes blog posts.

In the meantime, I trust you will enjoy beautiful weather wherever you are — though I expect it’s not spring for you all.

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Loglines

A logline is an elevator pitch. Huh. I didn’t know that. Have I heard the term before and it went wooosh over my head, or have I just mostly heard people say “elevator pitch”?

If you aren’t familiar with either term, then basically an elevator pitch is a one-sentence hook for your novel that kind of goes Protagonist Needs Something But Can She Overcome Obstacle?

A while back, Nathan Bransford had a good post about writing one-sentence pitches. He basically summarizes the elevator pitch as “When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST.”

Here is Chuck Wendig’s cool recent post on loglines, which I just spotted.

The interestingness of this particular post comes in the comments, where writers present sample loglines — I’m thinking I prefer the term elevator pitch — and other commenters critique or comment.

I have tried writing elevator pitches for my books as an exercise and it is hard but interesting, plus people sure do ask you what your new book is about and believe me, that is IMPOSSIBLE to answer without boring them to tears if you try to actually describe your book. Never do that. Instead, it’s nice to have a prepared and memorized elevator pitch you can trot out for the occasion.

And you know what else? It’s a great logline that you need if you are mentioning your book or someone else’s book on Twitter. Because really, people, if you follow authors / bloggers / readers you see a whole lot of the YOU MUST BUY THIS GREAT BOOK I LOVED IT types of tweets, and first they all blur together and then they all get tuned out, unless a personal friend is tweeting about their own book or there’s some other special reason a particular comment catches your eye.

But one way to have a single book recommendation stand out from the crowd is to have exactly the right kind of logline.

I’m a sucker for superhero stories, so I like this one: “A couple of supervillains fall in love while fighting to reluctantly free a city from the tyranny of superheroes.” Nonperfect, but catchy.

Here’s one that’s very short but also catchy: “A black ops assassin atones for his brutal past by helping an alien abductee escape her fate.” I would take a second look if someone described a book to me that way.

If you have a minute, click over to Chuck’s post and let me know which potential logline, if any, would most make you take a second look at a book.

Also, this post reminds me of the long-running website QueryShark, only of course at QueryShark, Janet Reid focuses on queries. If you’ve never clicked over to that site, it can be fun to read through and interesting to see how one agent responds to specific elements of queries.

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Spring!

Well, it’s sort of spring, more or less. I suppose. Like this:

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Spring outdoors vs spring indoors: This was actually last Sunday, the snow didn’t last, but you get the idea. But by late March, I have faith in the idea of spring, thus starting seeds. These are petunias (about fifty), annual vinca (about a hundred and thirty, you can never have too much vinca), melampodium (about thirty and then I ran out of seeds, but this was a great plant for me last year, both resistant to drought and immune to deer), a handful of eggplants and peppers, and four rosemary cuttings that I started under lights last fall in case the big plant outdoors died over the winter. Which, given our winter, I expect it did.

I still want to start these little marigolds I like, with tiny single flowers, and maybe this and that, but not juuuust yet. Some annuals do better planted out when they are still tiny, like just-three-leaves tiny. Even with the petunias, I started them six weeks “late” by the book, because somehow I am expecting a cold, lingering spring and though petunias are tough, I want them small and non-flowering when I put them out, if possible. And Melampodium is not at all hardy (it says on the packet) and needs it warm, not iffy.

Meanwhile, here is a plant that has already flowered this spring:

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Anybody recognize this? At least by family?

This is a Yulan magnolia. Most magnolias flower when they are little tiny babies, but this particular tree is twenty feet tall and this is the first year it flowered. So naturally the flower buds opened and we instantly had snow and temps that dropped down to 27 F. So tedious and annoying. Pity the Yulan wants to flower so early. Even the ordinary saucer magnolia was only just barely cracking its flower buds, though it might have gotten zapped, too, I’m not too eager to walk down there and view the damage.

Well, we accept these risks when we plant magnolias, I guess. All my other magnolias are still wisely zipped up tight — the star magnolia and the stellate x loebneri cross and ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Ann’ and ‘Butterflies’ are my other spring-flowering magnolias. I hope they have the sense to wait till about mid-April.

Magnolia sieboldii, btw, flowers in midsummer, so if you are not into risks but do love magnolias, that is one to think about. Mine is still tiny, but put a handful of blossoms on last year. And of course the big southern magnolia flowers in the summer as well, but it is a Real Tree and not something to plant in a tiny yard. Plus it doesn’t really put on a big show because it opens fewer flowers and not all at once. Also, I’ve seen some young southern magnolias that died outright this winter, though I think ours is okay. It’s established and also a more cold-tolerant variety.

Next week I bet the daffodils will be flowering. That will really mean it’s spring — even if it snows again.

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Prologues?

A good post at Janet Reid’s blog.

My own take: I used to hate all prologues. Then I wrote a book with a prologue. Then I wrote another books with a prologue. Now I have to limit myself to declaring that I hate all unnecessary, infodumpy, pointless prologues.

And if I were writing a query, I would call the prologue “chapter 1”.

Good comments on this post, btw. My favorite: “I would never skip a prologue. But then, I also read the acknowledgments, dedication, author’s notes and the back of my cereal box in the morning.”

Me, I never read cereal boxes. Now that I no longer eat cereal.

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Outlining

Here’s a post about outlining — or about deciding to outline. Because apparently Stephanie Burgis has decided to take a stab at outlining her next book before she writes it:

I’m ready to try something different with the latest rewrite of my new novel – but I realized: honestly, I had no idea where to start. How do people come up with book outlines ahead of time?

Good question! I have no idea. Deciding to outline a new book just to see how it works strikes me as an interesting exercise, but . . . and with all due respect to all Stephanie’s commenters who offered suggestions and links . . . but I am still frankly baffled by the whole idea of actually outlining ahead of time.

An opening image. A scene somewhere in the middle (possibly). A notion of where you want to arrive (probably). That’s it. I could no more outline my way from one point to the next than I could . . . what is a good analogy here . . . okay, than I could bring myself to write grimdark.

The one is impossible in practical terms. The other is impossible emotionally. Both are impossible.

On the other hand, now that I am past the halfway point with my current WIP, I DO have an outline for the back half of the book. The outline changes every day, though, as I suddenly decide to add another chapter in the middle / figure out a scene that’s coming up / realize that obviously event Y needs to happen after event X.

One odd thing this time around is: I seem to be hitting the cascade of action scenes that lead up to the climax. And I’m only on pg. 230. It seems a little early to be at this point. It seems to me there are just two possibilities here: A) Things are going to stretch out as I realize I have left stuff out. B) This is going to be a short book.

A short book! Maybe even under 100,000 words! Before I even start cutting!

That would certainly be different. Interestingly, the outline I now have? It doesn’t make it any easier to guess whether this book is actually going to run short. Sure, it kind of looks like I am closing in on the end. But, my basic rule for writing is: Everything takes longer. Everything.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to know whether Stephanie Burgis can in fact decide to outline a story and then actually go ahead and outline it.

Stephanie, of course, is one new-to-me author whose book I have on my Kindle right now. Surely I will get to it in 2014. If you, like me, haven’t read anything by her yet, then just by the way, I notice that she has a free Kat Incorrigible story up for Kindle right now.

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Cookies!

Here is the platter I took to my vet and her staff today when I went in for Folly’s hip check. (Yes, I am totally bragging, but I’m proud of my cookies.)

Cookies

I always take a *big* platter of cookies to my vet at Christmas, because I trust her to go above-and-beyond for me when necessary. Of course, I sometimes feel I am personally putting her son through college, so there’s that.

Folly’s hips look fine, btw, which is nice but not (in my opinion) essential for a Cavalier. You hardly ever hear of a Cavalier who has the least bit of trouble with her hips, even if x-rays show mild dysplasia. In fact, I don’t think I have *ever* heard of a Cavalier that had clinically apparent hip issues. It’s patellas that are a concern in Cavaliers, not hips — my vet just routinely re-checks patellas ever time she sees a small dog. But I haven’t quite given up doing hips myself, yet.

Anyway! The cookies, so far this year:

Chocolate pistachio slices
Madras shortbread coookies
Chocolate almond cookies
Cranberry bites
Rosemary lemon cookies
Chocolate coconut slices
Caramel swirls
Scandinavian brown-butter cardamom cookies
Honey apricot cookies
Chocolaty double crunchers
Peppermint puffs
Tea cookies
Double chocolate ginger cookies
Almond bombes
Sesame snaps
Nutella sandwich cookies
Lavender honey shortbread
Lemon glitter cookies
Lemon bars
Cathedral window candies
Cream cheese truffles
Peanut scrunch

I’ve posted some of the best of these recipes over the past couple of years, btw, so let me point out the Best Cookies In The World tag, right? Some of the least showy cookies, like the Chocolaty Double Crunchers, are actually some of the best. A few aren’t to my taste — I don’t like peppermint, having overdosed as a small child.

I’m not quite done, either. Some of my favorites haven’t been made yet — I’d like to get to another half dozen or so types, minimum! That means the *second* platter that goes to my vet — for the other half of the staff, because they trade off here close to Christmas — will be quite different from the first.

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Trophies!

Few entries = a good chance of trophies.

But!

Both my girls got scores of 99 (out of 100) this morning! So they would have been in the running at nearly any show and totally deserved these trophies.

Those are all high-in-rally-trial ribbons. Folly beat Giedre Thursday and Friday; since they tied this morning, I’m calling the third ribbon for Geidre. I’m sure Folly won’t mind.

Plus the prizes were good — $25 gift certificates for Walmart, one for each day — that really moderates the whole cost of the weekend. Plus toys and other little stuff. So . . . way to go, girls!

I’m skipping the breed ring today, so no need to dress up to show and down again to drive home, plus I can leave much earlier, have plenty of time at home this afternoon to get Pippa ready for tomorrow. I want my Pippa to win Veterans! She hasn’t been shown in the breed ring since she was spayed four years ago, but she has nine performance titles, so she should be great when all she needs to do is stand beautifully and trot beautifully. She is beautiful and has tons of pizzazz, so I can hardly believe she won’t win over any other Veteran girl, but we’ll see. Here’s Pippa when she was three or four years old — she is seven now.

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Puppies!

In other news . . . yeah, a little distracted this weekend. Showing, you know! I’m happy to say that both my teenagers, Folly and Giedre, qualified in Rally Novice last night and this morning. Yay! I have barely worked with Giedre especially, but she’s done just fine so far, with scores of 91 today and 93 yesterday. Folly is more a natural for obedience, with clean straight sits and fast responses, so she’s earned High in Rally both days (scores of 94 both days, if I remember correctly). Once more tomorrow morning and they’ll both have their first titles! Here’s hoping I don’t walk past a sign or anything stupid like that. I’ll try to remember to have someone take a picture tomorrow, but you do focus on what you’re doing and forget other things.

Meanwhile, the breed ring awaits this afternoon! I don’t expect either youngster to do much of anything; Folly is a very young looking sixteen-month old who really needs to gain a few pounds, and though Giedre’s bite has improved, it is still under. Many judges will just send you to the back of the line for an underbite even if your puppy is otherwise outstanding — which she is.

And! Since I haven’t taken any pictures of my girls at this show, let me just add a current picture of my baby:

Honey at eight weeks

Honey looks just as nice as Giedre, except HER bite is good. Of course she does have that kiss mark down on her muzzle, but hardly any judge will care much about that. Worse, she is plainly going to show some white in her sclera in one eye. In Cavaliers, we prefer pigmented sclera in both eyes. Well, well, cosmetic failings, what can I say. Her structure looks excellent and her personality is engaging. She’ll be old enough to show this fall, I hope some judges will look past the white sclera to see her overall quality.

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Updates!

First off, I have to admit, I’ve been pullllled into my Kindle and I’m having a hard time emerging. Not by the SHIVER trilogy — I am amazed that is by Maggie Stiefvater: really? I guess this YA paranormal romance trilogy is her debut effort, like, the one that got published before she learned to do it right? No offense to anybody who is in love with that trilogy; I don’t think I was in the mood for Obsessive Teen Romance. But the worldbuilding and stuff doesn’t make sense. I can hardly believe I’m complaining about the worldbuilding in a Stiefvater story, but there you go.

No, it’s not SHIVER. The series I’ve been pulled into is the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells. Love it! More about it later, when I have finished the third book. I’m about 20% of the way through the second book now. I am SO glad I discovered Wells. Fabulous author.

Obviously my own work is on hold. I don’t feel bad about that, April is going to be crazy-busy with gardening stuff, so don’t want to get too sucked in to writing just at the moment. I did write 36 pp over spring break, bringing the total up to 98 pp, or 31,000 words. That would mean I was about a quarter to a third done if I weren’t likely to overwrite by 100 pages, which I’ve done twice, so it could certainly happen. On the other hand, I didn’t have that problem with BLACK DOG, so maybe that’s a good sign for its sequel.

I’m halfway through Chapter Four, and I actually do know what’s going to happen in the second half of the chapter, so it will be pretty easy to pick up again when I get to it. I rather think that may not be till early June, though you never know. I’ll be aiming to get it finished and through a first revision and off to my agent by the time classes start in mid-August.

Aaand — I can hardly stop without the most important update!

I turned the whelping box upside down yesterday! Now it is a den. The baby does spend a lot of time tucked away in her nice warm dark den, but as you see, she also comes out to see the wider world — and collapses into a restorative sleep after toddling around for about ten minutes. She is making definite play gestures toward her mom and her toys. Next week she will be hitting the UltraCute stage and starting to play with the other dogs. My Adora, who has had puppies of her own, can be trusted to play gently with a puppy — the teenagers will take more supervision!

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Updates!

Okay, first, I bet you saw this coming:

Look! Her eyes are open!

She’s getting cute! Also, at three weeks, she is finally pretty safe from basically everything, so long as I don’t actually drop her or anything. Last night I finally moved downstairs to the actual bedroom, leaving her on her own with her mom. She is able to toddle a little, though she certainly isn’t steady on her feet yet!

Other stuff that I’ve completed:

1) I have indeed finished starting all the seeds indoors that I’m going to. Fifty petunias, for example, and forty melampodium (creeping zinnia). A handful of little single marigolds, but those germinated so super-fast that I will start others outdoors when it’s warmer. They germinated in two days! If I were playing around with a gardening project with kids, I might use those, because I don’t know of anything faster.

I’m starting just a handful of tomatoes and peppers and eggplants this year. I attempted to start four tithonia, but only one germinated. I may try more outdoors. I’ll start celosia in peat pots a week before I want to set them out, they hate having their roots disturbed. I’ll start Phacelia and centauria and stuff outside, too, shortly. And annual vinca. Later this week I need to outline planting spaces with hoses even if I don’t sprinkle the seeds out there yet.

2) I finally wrote my guest post for Kristen’s Women in Fantasy month over at Fantasy Book Cafe ! Whew. I started about four different columns before finally settling on one and finishing it, that’s why it took so long.

3) I finished reading Merrie Haskell’s rough draft of her third book. It was really good, but I was glad to find something substantive to say when I was about 2/3 of the way through the manuscript. But I don’t think she’ll need to do much with it — honestly, it’s excellent. I’m really looking forward to A Handbook for Dragon Slayers , which is out in May. I didn’t get to read that one early, so I have no idea if it’s a fairy tale retelling or not — doesn’t offhand look like it from the Amazon description.

4) AND, yes, so far I am progressing with MY manuscript as planned. Well, not today. Today I have not even opened the file. But hey, the day is young, so I trust I will get my 5 pp (about 1800 words) written. Probably. I also want to take the two teenagers over to a hiking trail if it gets a little warmer. I must admit, freezing rain would compel me to be more productive.

Anyway! I am adding a new chapter 1 in front of the two chapters I already had. I went in knowing that the first words were going to be: “It’s a trap,” somebody said.

But it may amuse you to know that I didn’t know who was going to say this, or exactly what the trap comprised or who had set it, or who all was present in the scene, or much of anything except what the bait in the trap was going to be.

Obviously I worked that all out pretty briskly once I got going. (It was Natividad who said the line above, unless I change my mind, which I don’t think I’m going to.) Plus now I know more or less who set the trap, and what the different layers of the trap are (I think). Not sure yet how the good guys are going to spring the trap, defeat the bad guys, and get out with the bait. I expect I will find that out today. Or tomorrow at the latest.

So, lunchtime, and I still haven’t actually written a word as such. Bye, internet!

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