Thursday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving

We're off to enjoy family celebrations until Monday. We hope you are, too, and that you have a splendid Thanksgiving however you choose to celebrate it. The Wranglers thank you for spending your time with us.



Wednesday, November 26

Thanksgiving Memories

I was going to write about writing but tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I started thinking about that--about the pies I have to bake tonight or tomorrow morning. The deviled eggs I'm prepping tonight.

Yeah-I know I'm getting off easy--thanks to my baby sister and her fine cooking and timing skills. 

I'm a great baker--rarely burn anything. Down below you'll find a picture of the pumpkin whoopie pies I made yesterday after finding the recipe on www.allrecipes.com.

But, don't ask me to prepare a meal for a bunch of people--even if they are family. Totally stresses me out. I want everything ready at the same time and agh! See? I  get stressed just thinking about it.
 
 My first Thanksgiving memory is from when I was six. We lived in a trailer park in Norfolk, Virginia and my dad was home from being out to sea. 

This particular Thanksgiving was memorable because we had our dinner on his aircraft carrier. I remember going down some narrow metal stairs and sitting around a long, long table.

I don't know if this Thanksgiving was memorable because my dad was actually home or because we were on his ship. Either way, it's my earliest memory of Thanksgiving.

That and The Brady Bunch Thanksgiving episode. 

This year I'm thankful that my family is safe, healthy, and for the most part, happy. Have a great Thanksgiving and I'll see you back here next Thursday.

Tuesday, November 25

Check Those Facts...It's Critical



I think I’d rather be a writer right now than in any other time in history. Publishing is in a state of sea change, it’s true, but it’s still an exciting world in which to earn a living. I’m lucky because I get to see the book world from both sides—as a writer and as an editor. It’s in interesting perspective. There are lots of mistakes I see as an editor that I vow not to make as a writer. Glaring punctuation errors, not using an oxford comma, using the wrong spelling of a word (you're vs. your; too vs. to vs. two), passive voice, mixed-up tense--the list is pretty long.

One of the things I find myself fixing frequently when I edit fiction is facts. Seriously. You’d be amazed at how many authors talk about a place or a person or an event in history, but have their facts mixed-up. Case in point, I once edited a book where the author had sent the heroine on road trip from Chicago to a hotel in downtown Indianapolis. On the way, she drove through the hills of Brown County—a very scenic area about an hour south of Indianapolis. Now all she had to do was look at a map and she’d have known that Chicago to Indy through Brown County was the long, long way around. Readers in Indiana would know immediately that the author hadn’t taken the time to check her facts. Another book included a character writing a letter to the painter Jackson Pollock in 1985. Pollock died in 1956, so unless she had discovered a way to get mail to the next plane of existence, he wasn't going to be reading it. As an editor, I always verify dates, people, places, events...it's my job to help authors sound as smart as they surely are, but I always wish they'd checked their facts before they sent me the manuscript.

When I first started reading romance, I loved historicals, especially ones that took place in the pre-Civil War South. But I once read a book, can’t remember the title or the author, where the heroine is having a huge ball. She’s getting things set up (well, her slaves were getting things set up). The venue is perfect with flowers everywhere and candles ready to fill the ballroom with light. A friend arrives and oohs and ahs over the gorgeous orchid arrangements, to which the heroine replies, “Thank you. Orchids are my favorite flower. I had them flown in from the Caribbean.” Well, okay… How exactly did she accomplish that? Carrier pigeon? A flock of hummingbirds? Each one carrying an orchid stem in its tiny beak? 

I write about a fictional town in Michigan, but I don’t live in Michigan, so I drive up every so often, spend time in the area upon which Willow Bay is based, and soak up the atmosphere. If you can’t travel to your book settings, Google is the place find detailed maps and pore over pictures of the buildings and the scenery and the people. Fictional or real, get to know your settings. Google Earth is a wonderful resource for geographical research--you can walk the streets of Paris or Rome while you're sitting at your computer. Give it a try!

Google is your best friend for all kinds of research and verification. The Summer of Second Chances, the soon-to-be-released third book in the Women of Willow Bay series needed a lot of research. So I Googled information about diving on wrecks in Lake Michigan, Roosevelt recalling gold as a currency, and even cherry season in Michigan. And I didn’t just do Internet research, I also contacted a salvage company to find out how long paper money would survive under the chilly water of the Great Lakes. I walked the beach from the lighthouse to town in the area that is my fictional town, so I could imagine my characters there. I drove from Sleeping Bear Dunes to the road that my fictional heroine lived on so I knew how long that drive would take her.

You get the picture… do your research. You don’t want some copy editor pointing out misquoted facts, or worse, a reader discovering that you didn’t bother to find out for sure how long a flatboat ride from Pittsburgh to St. Louis took in 1843.

Monday, November 24

..and whiskers on kittens...

Is that not a cool title for a blog post? And, no, it has nothing to do with anything. I just liked it. In my next life I will have a glorious voice and sing my way through the Alps.
                It grieves me to admit this, but I might have the slightest tendency toward being bossy. I shouldn’t really mind this all that much since sometimes it’s necessary to be the yes-right-now decision maker. However, if you knew how much I complained about other people being bossy, you’d know why the realization that I am makes me do a Thumper-like head drop of embarrassment. So, to those I’ve bossed, sorry.
                Sometimes, though, good things can come of...well, not
so good. From a conversation following my apology to the other Wranglers, the declaration was made that we were after all princesses; therefore, I needed me a tiara, Kristi was in for boas, Nan waved her arm wanting to bring out her magic wand (I’ve traveled with her—I think she really does carry one, but you didn’t hear that from me), and Margie started designing wings PLUS wants her own wand! It made for a fun morning.

                So I thought I’d say something about bosses. And writing.
And why I—and I’ll bet some others among you masses that visit us here—continue to stick with traditional publishing. I have said all along that I don’t “go indie” because I’m lazy and because I’m too old to want to learn new things. And that’s true. But there’s more to it.
                I don’t want, in this instance at least, to be my own boss.
Maybe this comes from being an employee my entire working life where, even though coworkers and
I made decisions on a daily basis, the buck didn’t really stop with us. I like doing the work, both then and now, and I like—sometimes—pressure to get it done in a timely manner. Like anyone else, I don’t like it when the boss—in this case the publisher—says No. I’ll argue the point, I’ll say “what if I do this?” and I’ll pout some. But   I’ll go on, and when I win the crapshoot and the boss says Yes, I’m loving it. For me, the writing is the easy part (yes, really); the revising is the fun part (Yes, really, again. You know what the boss wants. It’s great!); and the other stuff I don’t have to worry a lot about are the icing on the cake.
                I’m not including promotion in this little Pollyanna saga about having a boss. You all know that doesn’t work anymore.
                Back to being bossy. And, yes, I will happily admit this post makes no sense at all, but I’m having fun writing it. So, no I won’t go back to being bossy after all. I’ll go with questions for you. Gee, how unusual is that? just came from the peanut gallery, but Wranglers have nothing if not inquiring minds, so, yeah, we want to know:

1.       Do you want to be the boss or do you like being the employee who just loves her job?

2.       What’s your princess accessory of choice? And don’t anybody say “prince.” We are women—hear us roar.

Friday, November 21

It's Friday--Question Day!

Whoa, Friday sneaked up on us, so we've spent the morning coming up with a question and some answers. Since we are all serious writers, it seemed necessary that we have a profound question. Much brow-sweating going on...and here we go...

How do YOU cook a turkey?

Kristi (who cooks hers upside down and started this whole quest for the perfect turkey cooking method): I don't use a bag, I use a disposable roasting pan, but yeah: turkey is breast-side down for moisture and I put a tinfoil 'tent' over it for all but the last hour(that also helps with moisture). Baste every 30 minutes or so and YUM! 

Nan: When I make a turkey, I use a bag—it makes such a tender and delicious turkey, I’ve just always done it that way. My kid brines his turkey, which is interesting, but feels like a lot of work! My sister, which is where we go on Thanksgiving, puts hers in one of those big stand-alone turkey roasters. Pretty tasty, too! I’m in charge of rolls because I make killer crescent rolls, and I also bring an awesome sweet potato casserole that includes pineapple, pecans, brown sugar and butter, but no marshmallows. It’s fab!! And I also make sugar-free pies for diabetics in my family. Hubs is severely lactose-intolerant, so he’s in charge of the sugar-free pumpkin pie. He makes it with soymilk—it gets rave reviews, even from the non-diabetics. Thanksgiving at Sister’s house always includes a wine-tasting—this year it’s cabernet sauvignons. ;-)

Liz: I cook mine in a bag. I salt and pepper it and spray it with some butter or rub some lovely flavored olive oil over it. However, I am stepping down from the head of the cooking table a lot this days and enjoying it. My girls and I do join Nan in the wine-tasting tradition--however, ours looks a little more like wine-gulping from whatever bottle anyone opens.

Margie: I don't cook a turkey. I wouldn't know what to do if you sat one down in front of me. Seriously. My dad always cooked holiday dinners when I was growing up and we'd go see a movie. Or play games before we set the table.  After my dad passed away, my youngest sister,Wendy, took over the bird duties--although last year, Mom and KB's friend Daniel took a stab at it. But this year, Wendy's doing it again and I'll probably whip up some whipping cream for the pies and whatever else she asks me to bring--Olives, maybe?

For now, thanks for coming by and, before you go, please tell us how you cook your turkey--or drink your wine.