Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How Long Is It? - FAQ

Forensic portrait of Jane Austen by Melissa Dring
Q: I am afraid to ask this, but, HOW MANY WORDS did it take to finish ART'S BLOOD?

Is there a particular stopping point for you, or is the word count important?  That's a scary thought!

A: My books tend to be around 110,000 words.  I've tried to make them shorter but it just doesn't happen. In general, for fiction and for a debut novel, something around 70-80 thousand words would be a good ball park figure to keep in mind.

Yes, word count is important.  See Fiction Factor , an online magazine with good advice for writers. They have a fuller discussion and explanation of why editors like a certain word count HERE.

Q: I am presenting my book, chapter by chapter, on my web page, mainly to see if it is enjoyed and what comments I can benefit from where my reader's feedback is concerned .

I assume this isn't wise?  Now I'm worrying about the need for a copyrighted blog, and if there IS such a thing. 

A:  I referred this question to my agent and this is what she said:

"The author doesn't need to worry about copyright because the minute you create something it is automatically copyrighted.  As for an agent or editor being interested, well, if the author could claim she had 10,000 followers, that would create interest.  But if she has less than a few thousands, that's nothing to either an agent or an editor.  Is it a wise idea?  I don't think so -- why would anyone pay for a book they could read for free?  Why would an agent try to sell a book that had already been read for free?  But if you had over 10,000 readers, that would show people liked what they were reading and would indicate a wider audience could be reached.
Personally, I don't see any benefit in what she's doing -- a few chapters, okay, maybe create some interest.  But a whole book?  I don't see why it's worth doing."

Which was what I suspected.  But, you say you're hoping for useful feedback? What you want is a small  critique group, made up of knowledgeable folks interested in the genre you're writing.

Remember, I'll add this to the FAQ over on my DAY OF SMALL THINGS blog.  And if you have a writing-related question, email me or ask it in the comments.  I'll do my best to come up with an answer.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Full Disclosure

In the interests of full disclosure (this is for you, Friko,) most of the tomatoes I showed yesterday came from Justin's and Claui's amazing garden.  They have around 200 plants and were happy for me to come pick. (My thirty-some plants have been hard hit by blight and wild turkeys.)

And continuing in the disclosure mode -- when I process tomatoes, whether to can or to cook into sauce that will go into the freezer -- I don't blanch and peel my tomatoes.

If I were entering a competition at the county fair, I would.  But this is food for my family and none of us are put off by bits of tomato peel from our unsprayed tomatoes.  And I save enormous chunks of time and energy.
The way I prepare eggplant for the freezer is simplicity itself. Wash, slice, put on baking sheets with olive oil and seasoned salt, bake at 350 F till softened. I put these slices into freezer bags to resurrect for a moussaka or eggplant parmesan.  I can also chop them and add to pasta sauce. Or blend up with garlic and tahini into baba ganoush. Yum!
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Home Grown Tomatoes ...and Okra .. and Pears

Download RingtoneSend “Homegrown Tomatoes” Ringtone to Cell PhoneDownload Ringtone
Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes.
Up in the mornin', out in the garden

Get you a ripe one, don't get a hard one.

Plant `em in the spring, eat `em in the summer,
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer.
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one.

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes,
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can't buy:
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes.

You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure;
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew,
You can make your very own tomato juice.

Eat `em with eggs, eat `em with gravy,
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy.
Put `em on the side, put `em in the middle,
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I's to change this life I lead,
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs:
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see.

When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery;
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Great Chicken Masssacree - Part 1

I'm going to lull you with pretty pictures while I tell you that I spent most of yesterday butchering chickens. (Ah, the glamorous life of a writer...)
This was our first time to do this in quantity -- a dozen birds -- and it went amazingly well, due to John's advance prep. We took our time, cleaning everything after each bird with a good wipe-down of bleach and water solution and keeping everything covered to avoid attracting flies and yellow jackets.
And then in the  evening we sat on the porch, listening to an NPR report about salmonella  and the recall of a billion eggs and the not-so-great conditions on factory farms. As we listened and sipped our gin and tonics, we enjoyed the tantalizing aroma of roast chicken.

There's a web album below for those of you interested in picture of the process.  Click on the picture to view.

And here's a LINK to a website with very complete instructions, should you want to try this at home.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

FAQ - Distractions and Submissions

Q: How do you deal with distractions when you're writing?
A: Oh, boy, I'm not sure I've got a good answer for this. I'm surrounded by distractions and to some extent they feed my creativity. In summertime, the distractions are many and pressing and it's hard to get a lot done when the garden is demanding my attention.  I don't have the luxury of someone to cook and clean (though my husband helps out here) so that I can do nothing but write.  And, frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to spend all my waking hours writing.

The best I can say is that I attempt to find some chunks of time -- usually late at night because I am not good at getting up before daybreak -- and make the most of that time.  Generally, once I'm well into my story, I don't want to stop.

The  internet, of course, is another distraction, right there at your fingertips, even late at night.  One could and probably should, turn off email and stay away from Facebook, Mr. Google, and blogging.  This is a whole separate class of distractions which I think I'll talk about in another post.
 Q: How are manuscripts submitted anymore? Surely not on paper?
A: If you are submitting to an agent, you find out what their preference is. Ditto, an editor or publisher.

My first 3 or 4 books were submitted as printed out manuscripts and a disk copy.  Recently I've emailed the whole thing as an attachment and the publisher has printed it out for my editor and then the copy editor to make their marks on.

I think a lot of people still prefer the hard copy -- it's up to you to make sure you're doing your submission in the preferred form.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Miss Molly has had a bath and is mad at me so she won't look at the camera.
This ancient old dog came to us three or four years ago when Eileen, her previous person, had to go into a nursing home.

Eileen passed away last year but Molly abides.  She is arthritic -- her hips are as bad as my knees -- and seemingly stone deaf. But she responds to hand signals that mean "Get up and go outside." And when she hobbles outside and off the porch to attend to her needs, she always looks back at me and wags her tail.
Molly's a gallant old girl who still seems to enjoy her life, limited though it is. Not unlike her previous person.

I hope I'll be like Molly and Eileen.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sky Light

Morning sun boils up 
Beyond the fog-cloaked mountains . . .
A new day begins. . .
Late afternoon clouds,
Blushed with the sun's parting kiss,
Make way for the moon. . .
Floating luminous
In the still sky . . . spell caster,
Dream weaver . . . night's lamp.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

TeenTurkeys . . . and a Winner!

 June 26th -- the two turkey hens and their mingled brood of around 14 poults visit our feeder. 

Since then I've been enjoying watching them grow and they've gotten pretty used to my darting out onto the deck to take their picture.
They've been almost daily visitors  -- this was yesterday evening. You can see that they are nearly the size of their mamas -- the two  on the far right. 

There seem to be only 9 poults left -- but that's a pretty good survival rate, considering how many predators are on the mountain.
Handsome birds with elegant plumage -- and there's one pale one.  Almost all the turkey flocks we've seen on the mountain in the past include one or two near-white birds.
But here I am nattering on about turkeys when what I need to do is to announce the winner of the drawing for KILLER RECIPES -- which if you didn't win, you could always order HERE,

Remember, all  proceeds  to the American Cancer Society!  

And the winner is . . .
(Drumroll) Debra Eisert!!! And then I drew again and that second winner is NCmountainwoman!!!

I'll put those cookbooks in the mail this week -- but first I need addresses. You winners, please email me at
vicki_laneYOUKNOW WHAT TO PUT HEREmtnareaDOTnet
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Sunday, August 22, 2010


The sun rose, only to slide at once under heavy clouds... 
And the morning was full of thick fog that was at first a mist and then by mid-day became a mizzling rain.
The same morning glories that were deep purple on Friday were paler and either closed early or never opened at all.  Their tight-spiraled buds mde me think of unicorn horns.

On this gray day, the angel wing begonias shone out 'like a good deed in a naughty world.'
And it was cooler! A perfect day to deal with the morning's harvest of many-colored tomatoes. . .
As well as okra, eggplant, beans, and basil.  A perfect day for smelling summer's bounty as it simmered on the stove while the gentle rain pattered softly on the roof.

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