Things we don’t do anymore

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When I was little, there were certain things people did. Things which, in todays society, aren't done anymore.
Usually because the service we once used is no longer available.
I live in the UK, and I think fewer and fewer people have their milk delivered by a milkman.
Now, we didn't have that in Germany. Milkmen were unheard of, but I remember going up the road with my milk pail and getting fresh milk from the farmer. Butter too.
I remember being drafted in by friends when they were butchering. I've stirred my share of things people would consider completely horrible. I've trampled barefoot in a vat filled with grapes, after getting roped in to spend entire weekends helping to harvest them. Where I come from, if someone asked you around September what you were doing at the weekend — if you were smart, you told them you were busy…
Or you'd spend it like this:
But wait! There is more.
We have a town festival every year in my hometown. (Yes, I still refer to it as my hometown, even after living 20+ years in the UK.) It's called "Schaeferlauf" (Shepherds Race) It's a BIG DEAL, with millions of people visiting over the weekend.
When I still lived there, well…I had a horse. We took part.

Like this:

 

 

 

 

There are sack races. Egg and spoon races. Water bucket (Wooden, carried on the head!) races. Monks, knights, noblemen and women, shepherds — and sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

There is also the actual Shepherds Race.
Participants can only be sons or daughters of shepherds, or young shepherds. No one else is allowed to take part.
These young men and women race along the field — a cut wheat field, complete with the stubbles left — BAREFOOT. Not joking, people. They are then crowned Shepherd's King and Queen. (The prize is a high quality breeding sheep.)

But I digress.

There are other things. Trades that seem to be going the way of the Dodo.
I know people still bring handbags, belts and stuff like that to my dad to fix them, rather than throw them out. (He used to be a saddler.)
Did I mention that my lot is a very tight bunch? As in…hoarding. Oh yeah. I know a thing or two about hoarding. Swabians throw nothing away.
They say Scots are tightwads.
Where I come from, we say Scots are Swabians who were banished for being wasteful. :P

Which brings me to my duvet. (Comforter, for the Americans out there.)

Yes, you heard right. I said duvet. You may wonder what's so special about a duvet…

Well, Paul and I each have a huge, extra length, king size, goose down duvet.
They are fantastic. Warm in winter, and light enough to be comfortable in summer. They weren't cheap, but they are 20 years old now.
Most people would probably throw them out sooner or later, but you see…a new duvet (and bear in mind we'd need two of them) of this quality would be a good £400+ each.
Now, when I was little, my dad used to have a duvet cleaning machine. I remember my grandmother used to sew the coverings. Or "Inlett" as it's called in Germany.
When I moved to the UK, I missed my goose down duvet so much…I couldn't get a decent night's sleep under anything else. It was either too warm, or too cold, or clumpy, or heavy… It was just plain uncomfortable. For someone who has slept most nights of her life beneath feather covers, it's not easy to adjust. (I hate hotel covers. Loathe them.)

So anyway. Our duvets are old and need cleaning. Can I find someone to do it? I've spent a long time on search engines looking for a duvet cleaning and refilling service in the UK.
"Wash it in the washing machine" I hear you cry.
No.
In fact, make that a HELL no. Do not wash a goose down duvet in a washing machine if you aren't sure of the filling inside. Ever. You'll ruin it.
This is how you clean a goose down duvet. Sorry, it's in German.
I'll give you a very brief translation of the process. (The link opens in a new window, in case you want to follow along.)

  1. It shows the before and after of the down inside the covering.
  2. In most cases the covering has to be replaced.
  3. Ignore this point on the website, it just deals with people having the option to replace the covering.
  4. ~ The fun starts here. The covering is opened and the contents are sucked into a "Pre-cleaning" machine. It separates the broken feathers, dust, dirt etc from the usable feathers. They are then treated with UV light, which disinfects the usable contents.
    ~ Now the feathers are washed using a special feather "shampoo" and a lot of water. The shampoo removes all the dirt, but keeps the natural grease content of the feathers intact. This is important for the "fluff" ability, and also for protection against sweat and other influences.
    ~ After this they go into a "Cleaning" chamber, which is also a drying chamber. Essentially it's a big blow dryer, which gently dries the feathers and removes any left over dust or broken feather particles.
    ~ Once clean and dry, the contents are blown to a "Filling / Separation chamber" and new feathers are added and mixed in if required.
    ~ Then the entire content is weighed and returned to the existing covering (if still usable. It cannot be washed.) or a new one if needed, and sewn shut.

And that, my friends, is how you clean a down duvet (comforter)
It should be done every 5-7 years, so mine are way overdue. They are extremely high quality, so they've lasted very well, but now they are starting to get a bit…floppy.

I have finally found a company who does it…but it will take some saving up to get ours done. It's not cheap, but it's cheaper than a new one!
If I can do it, I will get Paul's done first, and then mine.

That's if the company still exists when I get around to doing it!
The way it's going…they may not be around anymore.
 

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Regurgitating stories and other mishaps

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I often see writers go "It's an old story I reworked"
Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with an old story being redone — if it's done right.
There is nothing worse than a ten year old story being "updated", because often what the writers do is nothing more than update for new technology.

What they don't do…is update the writing.

We evolve. We learn with each book we write, and improve (hopefully) our writing.
When I read things I've written ten years ago…I want to retch.
We all have those stinkers on our hard drives. Some are still great stories (writing style aside), some are complete dogs.
If you think we can't tell when you didn't put in the effort — think again. There is more to updating an old story for the current market, and most often writers get lazy. After all, they've already told this story once. They've slaved over the keyboard and poured their heart into it.

It takes more than changing the landline to a cellphone. Postal mail to email. A horse and cart to a car. Tapes / Vinyl / CD / Mp3. Stuff like that.
What most writers should do is rework the idea, not the actual written story. But that involves work, you know? It involves retyping all of it, redoing plot lines that no longer work, reworking characters who are out of date. (Speech / Phrases / Jobs etc) Locations change. That store you saw ten years ago, and which plays a major role in your story — it may not be there anymore. The whole neighborhood where you set your story may have gone into decline, and what used to be a high end area may no longer be so desirable.
Heck, the area may have been completely reshaped by a natural disaster. (Think about New Orleans after hurricane Katrina!)
Your research may be completely out of date, but if you made notes that's easy to verify. (Always make notes, and keep them!)

I've been working on a series for a good ten years. I've got a few finished books and…I'll take a hard look at them before they see publication.
If there is a lot to change to make it work — start over.
Starting over gives you a better -up to date- story and it will resonate with today's readers.
Not the ones you were aiming for ten years ago.
Starting over is also a lot less time consuming than sifting through to make sure you catch all those little peculiarities which no longer make sense.
You're bound to miss a few, but your readers probably won't.
Stories shouldn't be cast in iron, with no changes allowed after you've typed "The End".
The world moves on. Make sure your idea does too before you put it out there.

 

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Watch Me is officially available!

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Pack Justice – Book 2

 


Keep your enemies close…

Poor little Tiffy — that's how her pack members and the Alpha view her after the brutal murder of her father, and Tiffy is sick of it. She wants independence, not pity or protection. Then handsome Lycan Keric O'Neill shows up and Tiffy wouldn't mind some protection — and other things — from him.
When Keric finds himself the target of Tiffy's misguided seduction, his mission to track down his brother takes a violent turn at the hands of the Alpha — but yields some devastating revelations.
Two years later he is back. This time he will stop at nothing to avenge his brother, and even falling for Tiffy won't sway him from his goal. Unaware of her past and the links to his brother, he doesn't know his actions and heritage will crush Tiffy's fragile trust.
But danger comes in many forms, and when Keric's secrets and betrayal come to light, will revenge and vindictive pack members destroy the delicate bond between them?


 


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Giving away a copy of Howl!

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I'm currently running a give-away for a copy of Howl over on Romance Author Hotspot.

The winner will be drawn on the 2nd September 2012 to coincide with the release of Watch Me on the 3rd September.

Come on over and comment to enter the draw!

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Thinking of writing a miniseries?

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Well, any series, mini or otherwise, needs some planning.
Or so they tell me.

Howl was not intended as the beginning of a series. Watch Me is the sequel, but my publisher insisted it needed a series title. "Pack Justice" was was born.

That's not how it should happen. :)

There's a reason why it shouldn't happen this way. Several, actually.

The #1 requirement for a series is consistency.

If you don't have consistency, your readers will flounder. Worse, you will flounder.
It's not a case of just making it up as you go along. While it works for some people, most writers require far more structure.
Let's face it, we're not computer brains or have the memory of an elephant. We're human, and we forget stuff.
That's not a terrible thing–unless you write by the seat of your pants and what was established in book 1, is forgotten in book 2.
If your vampires sparkle in book 1, then they should still sparkle in book 2.

Basically, be very sure of the rules, locations and circumstances your characters have to deal with. It's a world you create, but that doesn't mean the historical family seat can suddenly move to another place in another book. If you established "Kirkwall Castle" as a 15th Century fortress with 12 towers and a fully functional moat, located in Scotland, in book 1 — then that's where it stays. It can't suddenly turn into Kirkwell Mansion and only have 5 towers, or suddenly move to Wales, in book 4.
Now that seems obvious, but I assure you…I've seen it.
The little things matter. A certain turn of phrase by a main character who shows up in other books. The name of the nanny three brothers have grown up with. It won't do if one calls her Mary, the next calls her Anne and the third claims her name was Beth.

Yes, it takes a lot of work, and you better sit down and make a ton of notes–and organize them for easy reference, because you will be referring to them. Often.
You need to world build right from the start and have a good idea of what is where, who is who, and who can do / does what.
Readers notice, and if your world becomes inconsistent, you will lose them.

I have a series I've been working on for a long, long time. I've world built for years, pared it down, ramped it up, ditched and reinvented. I know where everything is, I know the characters backward and I'm completely aware of where they fit into the scheme of things. I've built timelines, researched abilities…you name it.
None of those books are available yet, because I'm still making sure things are consistent and fit in with each other.

So if you're thinking of writing a mini series — or any series at all — then make sure you do your groundwork first.

Everything else will fall into place if the foundation is solid.

 

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Me, the Goldfish

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Don't you just hate it when you have a fantastic idea — and then you forget what it was?
I'm struggling to remember what awesome plot twist I came up with. Something that would have pulled the current book together, give it more conflict, more darkness…and I went and FORGOT it.
Very annoying.
I need to start writing things down again.
I know, that's an odd thing to say, but it's true. :)

Anyway. Caedir is written, and currently stands at 51k. I'm changing a few bits still, but on the whole…yep. Done.
Unless I remember what I was going to add in… lol. Then it might get longer.

Once it's beta read, and off to the publisher, I'll get going on the next one…

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My book buying habits

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I think it's interesting how people who were adamant nay-sayers about self publishing…suddenly self publish and tout it as the best thing since sliced bread.
I'm not against self publishing, but I am against self publishing unedited, poorly executed drivel.
There is a glut of bad books out there, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a good one amongst the rubbish.
Sales figures are no indicator of a good book either. It just means the masses aren't very discriminating.
There is a lot to be said for reviews.
I generally read them, and also look at the other books a reviewer likes.
If their tastes are the same as mine, I will likely pick up the book.
The cover plays a big role too. If it catches my eye, I'll likely take a closer look. No, I don't judge by the cover, but I definitely give it a closer look.
If I then pick up the book, and the writing isn't up to par…then I'll never pick up another by that author. You only get one shot with me. If I liked the first, I likely pick up another.
If I frequently pick up books by an author, and they start putting out stuff I don't like…I'll give them another chance. Maybe two. After that it's over, even if you get rave reviews.
Authors who start genre-hopping are also treated with extreme caution.
And then there are certain words I simply won't tolerate from a woman author and there won't be another chance to offend me.

Those are the factors that influence my book buying.

What are yours?

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