If you read a previous blog post, you would know that I have several projects burning a hole in my pocket. And now, finally, they are coming to completion!
My first project, “Sweet Danger,” is one that really excites me, for several reasons.
It is about bees! Honeybees, as a matter of fact. The main character is a beekeeper, and along with experiencing all the excitement of the story, you’ll perhaps learn an interesting tidbit or two about the darling little insects. Be sure to read the “about the author” blurb at the end of the story to see how I know so much about bees!
It is a novella! That means you can sit down and probably finish it in one nice long sitting. It’s a “Novel—Lite”
Sweet Danger is a mystery novella. I did want to try my hand at this genre, and it was a blast. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The main character is a girl, actually a young woman of 17 years old, so this is technically a young adult novella. But everything is clean. Except for people getting murdered mysteriously and in interesting ways. I love writing stories featuring strong, realistic females!
And this is the best of all…It’s FREE! Well, as free as I can make it. The cheapest I can make it on Kindle is for 99¢. But I can promote it by making it free 5 days out of every 90 days. So for either splurging 99¢, about the cost of a soft drink at McDonalds, you can enjoy a good read; or you can wait until I post on my pages that a free day is coming up.
I’m doing this for two reasons. One, I want to reward the people who have given my first book “Valeria & The Enemy of Time” a chance and borrowed or bought it, and then read it. And two, I’d like those who haven’t read my first book to give “Sweet Danger” a chance (FREE, or at least, really cheap), and if you like it, then you might give my other book(s) a chance!
I’m going to be putting it on my website with links for downloading when it gets finalized with Amazon, but also check back on my Facebook page!
It was really a lot of fun, being there sitting behind my books, Valeria & The Enemy of Time, plus the one I wrote as Dinah Roberts, “The Lazy Brewster,” a how-to book on brewing beer using an all-grain way, with the newer “brew-in-a-bag” method. What made it a blast was having Mel Newton with me, sharing my half of the table and selling her own books, “Go Ride Far,” and “Play any Instrument,” (pen name Orvetta Black on that one).
The Redding Writers Forum‘s “Author’s Fair” was held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Redding. We had a fairly good turnout of authors. I had some fun shopping for a handful of books to read, myself. Melinda and I got to talk about our books, something we were looking forward to practicing! We enjoyed setting up our displays also. I watched her do something that I thought only I would be doing, straightening corners, moving around little items to make everything look squared-up and neat. Looks like we work well together!
I got some ideas for future book-selling/promoting tables from visiting the other authors spaces. The way they incorporated and displayed posters, props, promo material, and candy jars was inspiring. I wonder if anyone was looking at ours and capturing ideas!
The Author’s Fair has been on hiatus for a couple years, since the club lost its location at the Shasta Mall. I’m really tickled that it has been brought back. I recently found out that the money raised from table rental is to bring back the scholarship the club offered. What a great project!
Unfortunately the foot traffic was slim, and not many people had the information to come over and check us out. I’m hoping that we can change things for next year. If a committee is formed for that, you may be seeing me on it!
I will review the books I bought at the Fair on my blog, when I read them, and give information on how to get them, if they sound interesting to you.
I haven’t been in very many vehicle accidents in my life. The school bus crash, which I described in a previous blog post was one. And the only other one I can think of is when I got rear-ended on the country road where I was stopped to make a left turn down my gravel lane. The impact shoved us forward, but there wasn’t much to see on the rear bumper of my old Suburban, as opposed to the little Honda which impaled itself onto my ball hitch.
Periodically, while on the highway, I’ve come across accidents, as we all have, but none stuck in my memory more than the cement truck, single vehicle accident I saw a few years ago in Oroville, Calif.
Perhaps you remember when the Oroville Dam spillway was self-destructing under the torrent of water flowing over it? Sections of the concrete had eroded away, allowing the water to eat away ever more, down to bedrock. Residents, all the way to Yuba City were evacuated over worry that a failure would send dangerous amounts of water down-river.
The next spring, after the rainy season was over, they started throwing cement at the problem, building back up the spillway and other structures. Trucks drove up from the cement plants to to the dam 7 days a week.
One Sunday morning I was headed south on Highway 70, from the Oroville area, and I saw a strange sight that I couldn’t make sense of. The two-lane country highway was mostly deserted; it was still too early for much traffic. About a quarter of a mile ahead of me, just to the left of the road, something was moving. Because of the dust being thrown up in the air, at first I thought it was a tractor in the field. But even from the distance I could see that the moving thing was out of control, erratic and very fast. It was big, smooth, and it disturbingly lacked features, like a vehicle should have.
By the time I got closer, I could finally satisfy my curiosity. It was a cement tank, lying just off the road ditch in a field. A short way down the road lay an upside-down truck, oddly bare, with just the cab and a long frame. A couple of cars coming from the other direction had already stopped, so I went on.
I checked on the CalTrans traffic website, Quickmap to see what had happened. From the CHP conversation, it looked as if a tire had blown out on the truck, causing the roll-over. The tank had been fully loaded with cement.
I had never thought about the possibility of the tank coming off the truck in an accident, although it seems obvious that it could. I played back in my mind the sight of the tank rolling in the dirt, having been flung off the truck at 55mph, throwing up a whirlwind of dust, its ovoid shape rolling like a football and inexorably smashing anything in front of it. To see something like thatcoming your way would be a horrifying sight. I was sad whenever I thought of the poor driver, just doing his job on a nice sunny morning, supporting his family, killed in the accident. I thought again about how strange and unexpectedly long the undercarriage of the truck looked.
When Valeria’s school bus was involved in an accident, I wanted something unusual to happen, something unexpected. I remembered the cement truck wreck, and imagined how badly that scenario could have turned out if there had been a bus full of people in the way.
And that, Dear Readers, is why the bus accident in my book, Valeria and The Enemy of Time, uses the destruction of a cement truck to cause the first chapter wreck, and to propel Valeria into her adventures.
It is hard to believe, if you are an aspiring fiction writer, that you haven’t heard of National Novel Writers Month, aka, “NaNoWriMo.” Days and months are assigned to different causes, such as Pink October, National Cupcake Day (conveniently on my birthday), Mother’s Day, Black History Month, etc. About 20 years ago someone came up with the crazy idea of assigning the month of November to novel writers.
I used to be fairly happy with writing short stories. But it happened that I was no longer satisfied with a few pages. I would read books and think, Could I do this? I do believe I could! But how? How does one start? What was my method, the one that would work for me? How was I supposed to know what to put at the beginning and the middle if I didn’t know how it ended? And all that other stuff that paralyzes people who need a lot of control in their lives. My writing was slow and careful; I edited as I went along, and then edited again. I still tend toward that, but what generally improved my capacity to write was when I discovered NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo basically says, “Just shove the blankety-blank words on to the page! Let your fingers tappety-type like mad, hauling words out of your reptile brain, scraping them through the cerebrum only long enough to lightly baste them with sentence order, and fling them onto your computer screen. Or, if you hearken back to yore, when people used quill and ink, let your Papermate fly across the spiral-bound notebook.
Now do that every day, for 30 days, the entire month of November. Until you have 50,000 words, which works out to about 200 pages. And there you have it: Welcome to your first novel! Or your 19th, if you’ve been keeping up every year.
Why is this a fun thing to do? For me, its because it breaks the rules I am trapped by with my careful writing. If the goal is to get material on the page because I can’t afford to fall behind, then I will just keep the words coming, sometimes surprising myself. More often, amusing myself with all the purple prose available to my nimble fingers.
It’s also fun because a whole lot of other people are doing it. This is the first year that I’m going to meet up with some other local participants, under a local “ML” (Municipal Liaison). Tonight we are all supposed to meet each other at a local restaurant. Writing is a very solitary activity for me. I need to be able to concentrate and get into my own head without distractions. But there is something cool about knowing that lots of other people are doing the same thing you are, separately but together. Sort of like individual events at a track meet. With cupcakes. Somehow I’m going to work cupcakes into this month.
What am I going to write about? Heck! I don’t know yet! I still have a couple days! I know I’ll get a better start if I at least come up with a scenario before the 1st, though I have started before on the first morning with just a pen and a blank piece of paper in front of me.
I’m thinking that I will spend Halloween evening coming up with something.
If I can get past the 2 week point (where I usually crash and burn) then I might share some of what I’m writing. It could be hilarious. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few previous years’ excerpts. This is one I started on a November 1st with a blank sheet (if that’s not obvious). Maybe you can see me reaching for the answer to….(cue scary music)… The Secret of Kevin.
Like waves rolling and breaking further up the sand, now drawing back, then reaching forward, consciousness slowly came to Kevin. He still felt the paralysis of deep sleep, felt like his body was encased in plaster, and he couldn’t twitch so much as a finger, but his mind was beginning to move from the night towards the day. With great effort, he managed to open his eyes halfway. They felt sticky. Bright light from an open curtain washed across his vision, and for a moment Kevin felt the room begin to spin. Or was it his body spinning? He couldn’t tell. His head ached, and his mouth felt sour. Had he overslept until his body rebelled, or did he have the biggest hangover of his young life? He moaned and heard the pitiful sound as he exhaled.
I can’t remember anything, he thought.
Kevin blinked repeatedly until his eyes cleared up and he could see that he was stretched out on a sofa. The sofa was dark green velour with a raised pattern on it that held onto his clothes as he attempted to slide up to a near sitting position. What the Hell has happened to me? he thought as he felt the rise of nausea in his stomach. He looked around.
Where am I? When is this? Who am I? Kevin felt a little panicked until he pulled his thoughts under control. My name is Kevin. I’m 20 years old. I go to school. No, wait, I did go to school, but now, what? Did I finish? It’s ok, calm down, he told himself. It will come. Something a little unusual has happened to you, and you are fine. To test that, he looked on his body and felt his head for any signs of blood or bruises. All clear. He rubbed his eyes and looked around the room.
It was a standard type living room. Sofa, recliner, TV set in the corner, one big picture window with the beige linen curtains pulled wide open, letting the hot western sun pour into the room. He felt like a stranger in someone else’s house, yet there was a niggling thought at the back of his mind that he should know more about the place than he could call to mind. A heavy thirst and a driving need for the facilities moved Kevin away from his effort of thinking and to the effort of getting up.
Bracing himself against the arm of the sofa, Kevin rose to his feet. He swayed a bit, and then the room quit spinning, and he could get his bearings. He walked past the kitchen and to the second door on the left. As he put his hand on the knob, he wondered why he knew exactly where the bathroom was if he was a stranger in the house? He swung the door open, went inside and took care of his greatest need. Then he turned to the sink to splash some cool water on his face and cupped his hands for a few sips of the water. Facing the mirror, Kevin felt a cold shock. It wasn’t the yellowing of old bruises on his face or the wild unruly blond hair that looked not to have been taken care of for weeks. And it wasn’t his bloodshot eyes or tattered, soiled shirt that made his stomach lurch. It was the coffee-colored words, written in lipstick on the mirror that said, “Go Home.”
“Café Mocha,” Kevin said softly, smearing a bit of the “G” onto his index finger and smelling it.
Along with promoting my new book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time, I have been working on several other projects. Getting back from vacation, having new flooring installed, trying to wrap up some important personal paperwork—they have slowed me down, but now I’m settling back into writing.
One of my looming projects is NaNoWriMo, the nickname of National Novel Writers Month, which is the month of November. A post on that one to come later. I have also been working on a shorter novel that I plan on releasing as a free ebook on Kindle. I won’t let it out until I’m satisfied with the quality and the story, so just because it will be free won’t mean it is junk reading! I’m also brainstorming the next Valeria adventure, and I do have some promising story ideas I’m exploring and outlining.
The project you will see next on my site is something a little different. Some years ago my mother let me interview her to create a memoir of her growing-up years in the Ozarks. She was the last of her siblings and wanted her nieces and nephews to know more about the early days of their family. She called it her “Heritage Book,” and gave out photocopies to family members at our reunions. My mother, Mildred, recently passed away, and I wanted a way to make the history more available to friends and family who wanted to read it. I also believe that her story will be interesting to others, as an American journey, from “there to here.”
Reading her story over again makes me aware of how many others have untold interesting stories of their own journeys.
I set out to make it an ebook and a paperback book. I do not plan on making a profit on either version, so if I can offer the kindle version free, I will. The paperback, through Amazon, will only cost what it takes to have it printed and handled.
I’m excited about how close we are to putting Mom’s “Ozark Heritage” book out there, and I will be putting it on my website as soon as it is live!
Good friends are a treasure, and I feel grateful that I have them in my life!
My Dear Friend Kelly told me she would like to give me a new book release party, and what fun we had! Not only that, but she presented me with a membership in the Exeter Chamber of Commerce! We had the party in the lovely little park beside the Chamber last Sunday with tea and cupcakes and props from the story in the book scattered around. I had some lovely surprises as many old friends showed up to help me celebrate. We even drew in a random stranger walking her dog by the park!
I read a couple pages from my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time, selecting something exciting that is neither part of the excerpt on on website, nor the first chapter available to read on Amazon. After the reading, we strolled down the street to the huge mural of the orange grove. I wanted a picture of me standing by the secret little girl peeping through the leaves of one of the orange trees. Exeter is well-known for its many, beautiful murals. Tourists go out of their way to Exeter to go on guided mural-walks. Check it out here.
I appreciated so much my audience’s faith in me and in my book by buying some copies! I know that books in this genre will mostly be sold in paperback, but I want to remind anyone who prefers ebooks that my book is available electronically also. You can find it not only on Amazon’s Kindle, but from many other sources. Just click on the “Buy Now” button and check them out!
And now my mind won’t stay still, roaming around, trying to find out what Valeria is up to next!
You might have noticed my little printing logo, “Yonder Tree Book House,” that I have tucked away at the foot of my website and on the cover of my book, “Valeria & The Enemy of Time” (and future books that I am planning out and working on). And you might have wondered, where in the world did that come from?
“Yonder” is one of those old-fashion words that tickles me. It fits in the same category that other words like, “folks, butter beans, rest a spell, I’ll swain, and fetch me a glass of tea,” rest in. Sometimes these words work when a more modern one won’t. Which sounds better, “I’ll swain! It’s the folks! Come rest a spell; Ma will fetch you a glass of tea while I dish you up some hot butter beans!” or “Goodness! It’s the relatives! Come and sit down; Mom will bring you some tea while I portion out some mature lima beans, cooked soft with a bit of ham.”
One of my favorite song titles is a Bill Monroe instrumental called “Come Hither to Go Yonder.” But now, let’s go to where the word really stuck in my ear.
“My Book House, In the Nursery.” That was the title of an old 1930’s nursery rhyme book my sister gave me for my kids. The illustrations are charming and the verses and tales are quaint and taken from different parts of the world. One day I came in and heard my husband singing (singing!!) a song from the book to one of the kiddos sitting on his lap. He was totally making up the tune, but it seemed to fit. It was “The Barnyard,” and it started like this:
I had a cat and the cat pleased me,
I fed my cat under yonder tree,
And my little cat went fiddle-dee-dee.
You work your way through pigs and ducks and finally to a baby, and they all get fed under yonder tree. I recently did a little search and found lots of variations. Most don’t start with a cat, but I like the idea of the One Who Feeds starting with her little kitty cat.
A couple years ago I made a few batches of mead. A bottle of mead just doesn’t look right without a cool label, so I created “Yonder Tree Meadery” and slapped cute labels on the bottles. When I decided to make a publishing logo for myself, I was still feelin’ it, so I used the ol’ Yonder Tree again.
I like to think of how a tree seems to match up to play, good times, and reading. I imagine a perfect summer day would be perched up in a comfy chair in a tree house, a cold drink at hand, a snack, and all the time in the world to read the good book in your hand, itself made from the fibers of a tree.
For all my friends and family and potential new readers of my book… my dear friend, Kelly Ross Rider of Exeter, CA is hosting a New Book Release Party for my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time!!!
This is so very exciting for me. My greatest pleasure is having lots of people read my book and enjoy the world and characters I created. I’m hoping to get the word out to as many people who might be interested in coming. There will be tea and cakes (CAKES! I’ve been dying for cake lately), I will find an exciting section to read out loud (maybe something with voices or sound effects), and I will have some books for sale there (even autographed, If you like).
It is coming up very soon. This coming Sunday afternoon, October 20th, at 1:30pm. The address is: Exeter chamber of commerce park, located behind the Chamber at 101 W Pine St, Exeter. At some point we/whoever wants will walk to the huge orange grove mural nearby and take a picture. (And if you are familiar with my book, you will understand the significance of that!)
I’m looking forward to being back in my old stomping grounds in Exeter and Lemoncove this weekend. I am going to the first ever Sequoia Union Elementary School reunion that weekend. That is a special place where I spent 9 years of my life! In fact, I have dedicated my book to all the young readers of that school. I have many fond memories of the library there (tucked into what used to be the 4th grade classroom at the time) and the monthly Scholastic Book order papers, which brought worlds of excitement and knowledge to our hot little hands, for about a quarter each.
In my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time, I use a rat as a symbol for the mysterious “enemy” that Valeria and Theo encounter. The rat that pops up here and there is also a representation of the pestilence the children go up against in medieval Italy, the Black Death. Our black rat of the book is not a nice guy.
I watched a documentary several months ago on Netflix called “Rats.” I’m not even going to try to explain it. I’ll let Wikipedia do that.
The film primarily focuses on rat infestations and exterminations, including methods such as night-patrol teams in Mumbai snapping rats’ necks and the practice of rat-baiting in England. Much of the documentary has been considered a detailing of “the ‘war’ against rats”, featuring “bashing, slicing, dissecting and poisoning”. The director also journeys to the Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India, where over 35,000 black rats are revered by devotees who believe them to be reincarnated human beings.
Release and Reception:
The documentary premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2016. The film premiered on television on October 22, 2016, airing on the Discovery Channel.
The Daily Telegraph reported on the film’s trailer for its “stomach-churning footage” and “disturbing scenes”, with writer Rebecca Hawkes noting that the trailer’s footage, which includes live rats being killed by terriers, “will likely provoke a strong response from viewers”. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the documentary “plays much like a horror film”, and in reference to the terrier scene, called it “an absolute bloodbath … with filters appropriate for a zombie apocalypse”. Wendy Ide of The Guardian wrote that the film is “gleefully exploitative in its approach, and as such, it is horribly entertaining”. Peter Debruge of Variety called the film “super-disgusting” and “[un]fair to the animals in question, who would surely view this as a grisly, “Faces of Death”-style marathon of murder”, writing that “rarely has a filmmaker more blatantly manipulated the material he has collected to game his audience”.
There you have it: Rats. But what about real rats? As in “pet rats?”
When my sister and I were younger, we had a pair of pet rats. They were young and cute. I can’t remember where we got them, but one was white with brown markings, and the other was white with black markings, which was mine. We had no idea what gender they were, but we named them “Shirley” and “Harold,” after our aunt and uncle we especially loved. I don’t know if we ever told them about our rats, but I’m sure they would have been honored to know we named our rats after them.
They lived in a cage that was really too small. We would lay down layers of newspapers, which they would promptly tear up into a huge pile of shreds and burrow around in, pooping and peeing on it. When my dad would notice the odor, he would order us to clean the cage. Only when he said that did I think, Oh! Yes, I guess it smells a little bit!
We took them out of the cage fairly often, as I recall. My favorite thing was to set a rat up on my shoulder and let it nuzzle around, weaving through my long curly hair. Several times my sister and I took our rats on expeditions. We walked up to our little elementary school just up the lane from our house, rats on shoulders. The kindergarten had a completely enclosed play yard. The wall was made of smooth, painted concrete blocks. We climbed over the wall (I’m still trying to remember exactly how we did that!) and let our rats run around while we played with them. The only place we had to keep them away from was a gate off to the corner, which they could have crawled under. Bell bottoms were coming into fashion, and sometimes our rats would decided to run under the hem and dash up our legs. The only scary thing about that was I was afraid it would crawl up so far it would get wedged in and then squished as I tried to extricate it.
Those little rats were sturdy and continued to thrive in spite of our lack of knowledge on how to care for them. Eventually, we re-homed them to someone else who wanted them.
I think a rat can be a great pet. But just like the wild dogs in my book, rats as pests are another matter. When you read my book, I hope you enjoy the creepy moments when the rat pops up in the story!
“…the dhole, the red hunting-dog of the Dekkan, was moving to kill, and the Pack knew well that even the tiger will surrender a new kill to the dhole. They drive straight through the Jungle, and what they meet they pull down and tear to pieces.”
“The Second Jungle Book”—Kipling
Yes, my timid younger self had some natural fear of strange dogs, but my imagination was able to take that and run with it when I read some of my favorite books.
When I was writing the “Oh no! Disaster!” scenes in my new book, Valeria and the Enemy of Time, I knew one of them had to include a ferocious wild dog. And why not make that two ferocious wild dogs? Because a pack of something is usually more disastrous than one. Before I let myself go in writing that scene, I had to think about the relationships people have with their dogs. Pet dogs can be a beloved family member, a hard-working companion, a child’s playmate, or a search and rescue lifesaver. Dogs have probably the closest, most personal relationship to our species than any other animal I can think of. But wild, feral dogs are another matter. If we don’t count mosquitos, next to snakes, dogs are the most deadly animals on earth, for causing human deaths. I am handily adding in rabies as a dog-death factor.
I am still uneasy around unfamiliar dogs. But when I was Valeria’s age, around 12, I was pretty fearful. I don’t remember being especially afraid of dogs when I was a lot younger. We always had dogs around the place, and the neighbors all had dogs, and nobody kept them fenced in. When my younger sister was in around the 4th grade, she got a fairly severe dog bite on her forearm. Severe to me meant that she needed stitches. Afterwards, we all went over the event in detail, back and forth, trying to figure it out, why it happened. Our dog was having an altercation with another dog, and my sister stepped between them just as our own dog lunged at the other one, and her arm got slashed by our dog’s teeth. That was the way we finally described it. I don’t remember that making me anxious around dogs, but somehow, I grew scared of them.
We used to walk to our little country school from a neighborhood lane. At the end of the lane, just across the road from the school was a ramshackle house on the corner. When I was in the 8th grade, those people got a dog. It would bark and run out at people. It terrified me. I would hang around either before or after crossing the road, just waiting for my sisters or maybe some of the neighbor kids to meander out to walk home so that I wouldn’t be alone. If someone was walking with me, I could just be cool, make sure that they were walking on the side that the dog would come running out, barking at us. If I killed time there, pretending to check the mailbox again, milling around, but no one came along to escort me home, then I had to go solo. I’d try to be quiet, but no use. My heart leaped in my chest as I’d see the black shape darting out from behind the house and tearing out after me. Sometimes I ran, but it was no use. “Seal,” the little black puppy ran faster than I could. I imagined his sharp little puppy teeth nipping my ankles, and was very afraid.
Fears and phobias don’t necessarily have anything to do with reality. I believe I have a more realistic sense of canine danger now, but I can still access that childhood imagination of the slashing teeth, rabies, the Red Dog pulling me down and tearing me apart, if ever I need it.