Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Load up that ereader or tablet! - Wander Home free through year's end with coupon code

If you have a brand-new Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other device that makes reading ebooks easy, here's a start to filling it up: my new novel Wander Home is free in multiple formats on Smashwords through the end of 2012! Just use Smashwords coupon code HG55Q on Wander Home's Smashwords page.

If you download, and read, and like the book, please tell a friend about it!

Here's a bit about the book, if you'd like to know more before clicking through:

Death is what you make it. . . .

Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander -- to search, without knowing what she sought -- drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family's loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home.

Now, they are all reunited, in an afterlife where nothing is truly lost: places once loved may be revisited, memories relived and even shared. Surely this is a place where they can understand and heal. And yet, the restlessness that shaped Eleanor's life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life -- or none of them will be at peace.

Happy reading, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nightmares, Reality, and the Unfathomable

There are so many painful thoughts, this evening. I am a mother, and I imagine -- for just an instant at a time, before I flinch away -- specific thoughts and images that might be possessing me at this moment, if one of those children had been mine.

And of course, there are the grown men and women whose families are mourning as well.

And then there is -- or was -- the killer. I was going to say that I cannot bear to put myself in the place of his mother. But of course, he killed her too. 

From what I've been reading, which may or may not prove to be accurate, the killer was 20 years old, and "socially awkward." I don't know whether he was bullied, and if so, whether the trail leads all the way back to experiences in that same school. I don't know whether he was striking out at the school, or if he attacked children because he had to do something obviously, ultimately evil and unforgivable, to put an end to the exhausting possibility of personal redemption.

I have had dreams in which I did something terrible, and gradually started to realize it, and to wonder why, and to look for some escape from having done it. I wonder whether Adam Lanza had a moment a little like that, after it was much too late. I wonder if he looked around at the blood and the little bodies, and thought it must surely be a dream, and tried to wake up.

It does no good at all, to anyone, if he had such a moment. But the possibility lets me feel a tentative and conditional sorrow for him as well. I would rather feel that than hatred. But then, I am one of the lucky ones. My children are grown and almost grown, and I've seen one tonight, and spoken to the other.

If it were otherwise, then I would hate.

But for tonight, I will allow myself the luxury of not having to hate, and of sorrow instead.

Who might like getting the Wander Home paperback for Xmas - while it's on sale

Well, the paperback of my new novel Wander Home has made it to Barnes and Noble's online store! What's more, they've put the book on sale  -- instead of the usual $10.99, it's currently $7.01. :-) The paperback should also appear on Amazon any day now.

This seems like a good time to remind people about the book, and to speculate on which readers might particularly enjoy it.

Here's the blurb:


Death is what you make it. . . .

Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander -- to search, without knowing what she sought -- drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family's loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home.

Now, they are all reunited, in an afterlife where nothing is truly lost: places once loved may be revisited, memories relived and even shared. Surely this is a place where they can understand and heal. And yet, the restlessness that shaped Eleanor's life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life -- or none of them will be at peace.


As the blurb suggests, this book may appeal to readers interested in family relationships, unfinished business, and forgiveness. And of course, if someone on your holiday gift list is fascinated by varying visions of the afterlife, I really believe they'd enjoy adding this one to their collection.

The description doesn't reveal another point of possible interest: marriage. Wander Home contains three quite different happy marriages. There's another marriage that succeeded well enough until the principals encountered the conditions of the afterlife. As the wife put it: "We don't know how much of what we do is habit and the expectations of others, until everything is different around us, and no one expects anything."

So the book has something to offer those who like exploring different ways in which marriages do and don't work.

Finally (for now), Wander Home plays around quite a bit with the idea of what it means and how it feels to be different ages. (In this afterlife, you see, one may be any age at any time, depending upon one's mood and the needs of the moment.) The book may offer amusement, or something more, to young people trying to imagine what it would be like -- and how it could be bearable -- to get older; or to mature adults, recalling or trying to recall what it felt like to be a teenager or a child.

So there's my pitch for buying this newly available paperback, at a bargain price. The ebook is also available in multiple formats (on Amazon, the Nook Store, Smashwords, iBookstore, and I've lost track of where else), for the laughably low price of $2.99.

A final caveat: the most recent proof of the paperback had too much pink in the cover (visible in the faces), although not everyone who's seen it finds the color objectionable. I have good reason to believe that the issue is with the proof, rather than with the source file or CreateSpace's overall process. However, if anyone orders the paperback and receives an excessively pink cover, I'll cheerfully replace it with an autographed copy at no charge. Several websites that include ways to contact me are mentioned in the back matter of the book.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

In praise of Scrivener

I don't exactly feel like blogging about Scrivener. I feel more like testifying, in the religious sense, with people hollering "Amen!" and "tell, it sister!" from the pews. But this will do.

Scrivener, a shareware program from Literature & Latte, is software for writers. Its purpose is to make writing anything from a novel to a screenplay to an article easier than it would be otherwise. It succeeds magnificently.

I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener for Windows for the first time at least a year ago, and found myself intimidated by all its features and options. This fall, I decided my preparation for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) would include getting comfortable with Scrivener. I went through the interactive tutorial at a manageable pace, not trying to absorb too much information at any one sitting. I kept the PDF of the manual open at the same time, and bounced back and forth frequently. By the time I'd gone through the tutorial, I felt that I understood the simpler aspects of the program -- and decided to leave the more exotic aspects for later on. In fact, I didn't use the "corkboard" view, "index cards" or "labels" until after I'd passed the 50,000 words required to "win" NaNo, and had the leisure to experiment.

Here's what I found most valuable in Scrivener:

1. It's easy to see the structure of your piece, and to change that structure with minimal difficulty or confusion.

You set up folders, titled however you like, and then put as many sub-folders or documents as you wish in each folder, again with your choice of title. The "binder," on the left of the usual screen (if you choose to display it), shows the folders in order, with or without their contents. I had one master folder containing my rough draft, and multiple sub-folders for chapters, with each scene a document in its chapter folder. The names of folders and documents are displayed in the binder.

Any time you decide that a scene should have been in a different place in your draft, you simply drag that document to its new location in the binder. If you've been numbering scenes, it's easy to rename the relocated scene and subsequent scenes to fix the numbering. You use the same procedure to insert a new scene -- add it wherever you like, and then drag it to where it belongs.

2.  Notes for use in later editing are easy to make and easy to see.

On the right of your screen, when you choose to display it, is a pane called the Inspector. It shows the name of the current folder or document, plus any label or status (I'll describe these later) associated with that folder or document. (This grows cumbersome -- I'll just say "document," generally meaning either.) If you've taken any "snapshots" of any version of the document, you have the option to display a list of those screenshots -- which will have either an automatically generated name, or a name you assigned at the time. There's a large area in the Inspector where you can add any notes that you want to see whenever you're working on that document in the future. You can also change this area to show Project notes that apply to your entire draft.

3.  You can pull all your research materials into one program and consult them with no hassle.

You can import images, documents, files, charts, or web pages into Scrivener, store them in a folder (mine was unimaginatively called "Research"), and display them as easily as you display any of the documents that make up your draft.

A related and extremely handy feature: you can view two documents-or-whatever at once, either side by side or one above the other. So, for example, if you're writing a description of a place, you can have the image in front of you while you write, without opening some imaging program. When  you're done, click and it's gone; if you reconsider and want to look at it again, click and it's back. I used this feature mainly to display my current scene next to my list of likely scenes.

You can also display a selection of documents pasted together: for example, all the scenes involving a particular minor character. This makes it easier to avoid contradictions and keep track of what you have and haven't shown or told the reader. Any change you make in the text of a scene, even when it's displayed as part of such a collection of scenes, is made in the scene itself.

Any time you feel your view is too cluttered, you can hide the binder and/or Inspector and switch back to the single-document view.

4.  It's easy (again that lovely word!) to export your work in any number of formats, for backup, submission  or publication purposes.

Scrivener auto-saves very frequently, unless you set it to do so less often (which can make sense if your program files are in "the cloud" and you're somewhere with a slow Internet connection). It also saves a backup of your project whenever you close the project or the program. (The default setting saves a zipped file to conserve space.) If you're planning to leave the program and project open for an extended period, you may want to do a manual backup now and then. Once you close the program, you can reopen it and the project from the backup file. (Scrivener has a setting for reopening recent projects where you left off, but at least in the initial trial version, this was buggy. I got a bit of a scare when I reopened the program and saw a much earlier version of my project, lacking several days' work. Fortunately, I had done manual backups, and restored my project from one of them.)

You can export the current document in any of a long list of formats, to any location on your computer, and under any name. You can also use the Compile function to export a selection of documents or your entire set of documents, again in any of a large number of formats, with a bewildering array of options. For example, you can compile your project in manuscript or screenplay format, with or without various headings; or you can turn it into a PDF, .epub or .mobi file, ebook-ready.

5. You can use labels to help you see various structural aspects of your draft.

Once I decided I was more or less finished with my rough draft, I reread the User Manual's sections on index cards and labels. Each document can be represented by an index card, and on that card one can place a small colored label -- which can be any color you choose and mean whatever you want it to mean. I chose to label my scenes according to the POV (point of view) or POV's employed in the scene. I could then use the "Corkboard" view to look at all the scenes in a chapter at once, and see immediately whether one or another of my multiple POV's dominated the chapter. The label for the scene also appears, along with the meaning of the label, in the Inspector panel.

Another similar tool is "Status." If you assign a document a "status," that status appears in the Inspector, and in the Corkboard view, the status is written in translucent text diagonally across the document's index card. Initially, the choices for "Status" had to do with the document's stage of completion: rough draft, etc. In my most recent Scrivener project, I've reset the options to show the physical setting of each scene and chapter. Going into Corkboard lets me see at a glance whether my several story threads are evenly balanced. (They weren't, but I'm getting there.)

Scrivener was a joy to use at the rough-draft phase, and I'm finding it even more useful in editing. As a NaNo 2012 "winner," I got a 50% discount on the $40.00 price, but I would have paid the full amount without hesitation.

In short, I love this program. Praise be! ("Testify!")