Thursday, October 26, 2017

Home Again,Always Inspired

     In Iceland, our guide told us the word in their language for a dull and stupid person was one that never left home. They do have a strong Viking heritage there to go wandering and encourage their children to see other countries. Travel truly does open our eyes to the rest of the world which has much to offer. If, however, you cannot afford to take trips but are a reader, you can wander through books and learn much, even from fiction. Want to visit Cajun Country vicariously? Read nearly any of the my books, and you will experience the culture and almost taste the cooking.
     What did I learn in Iceland? Much. It is almost impossible to experience a dip in the Blue Lagoon without adjusting to full frontal nudity in the locker room as there are no changing stalls and one must shower in the buff before entering the large, warm pool, nice even on a rainy day. Just try getting a bathing suit on or out of one when wet! Well, the Japanese family I changed with didn't care, so neither did I. Other trivia: chocolate-covered licorice is great, their utility bills are only $50 a month for everything as it is all provided from geothermal power plants, though the water smells vaguely of sulfur, and hamburgers cost $24, but lamb and fish are wonderful, abundant, and cheaper. I missed out on trying puffin, but learned that marinated shark and dried whale are truly awful. Also, all the puffins leave on August 19th to spend the winter at sea, so we didn't see a one of them. Icelandic horses (never called ponies), cows,and sheep, came over with the Viking settlers and are the only breeds allowed as they are adapted to the climate and very hardy. Those Vikings also "stopped off" in Northern Scotland and Ireland to pick up some women for the colony, whether by force or purchase was not made clear, but genetically, the modern men test as 60% Scandinavian and the women as 50% Celtic. Now that might be inspiration for a romance novel.
      As usual, I met interesting people, our great guide Harpa who is also an artist, our bus  driver, Stenin, a vigorous woman who liked four pats of butter for breakfast because it is good for you along with skyr (like Greek yogurt) with cream and sugar on top. My fellow travelers included an eighty-two year-old woman who had been a child advocate most of her life, the delightful David taking a break from caring for his husband who suffers from Alzheimer's, the professor who pretended to be a vegetarian because she hates fish of which we had a lot, but then missed out on the delicious lamb and dairy desserts because they assumed vegan. She always ended up with fruit, but I did share my brownie with her one evening when she fessed up. Not so pleasant or so much fun, a hypochondriac woman who told my daughter and me to isolate ourselves at the end of the table because my kid had bronchitis and coughed a lot--even though she'd been told it wasn't contagious. Everyone asked if they'd end up in one of my books--maybe their characteristics will, but probably not on a trip to Iceland.
     Came home and left a week later for St. Louis where I caught a virus that did not allow me to enjoy the barbecue I so looked forward to. In fact, I ended up getting an IV for dehydration at an Urgent Care and living on soup for most of that short trip with my husband. However, I did get to see my two main wishes--the King Tut Exhibit at their Science Museum and the ancient Indian site of Cahokia. On my birthday I stood at the foot of the enormous Monk's Mound a little too weak to climb it, but I did enjoy the very nice museum on the site. They downplayed the human sacrifice elements of that ancient culture which always fascinates me (very large scale there), but I appreciated the many recreations of day to day life. Never know when you can use that in a book. As a consolation for not being able to eat cake, my husband did buy me a lovely pendant containing fossils and crafted by a Native American. I bought some whimsical clay wood ducks based on figures found in the area,too. I love the get my souvenirs in museum shops because it helps the site and the artists.
      Hope this hasn't bored you like the neighbors' slide show of their vacation (which I incidentally always loved as a kid). Next year--Australia!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Interview

     On Friday, October 6th, I'll be extensively interviewed on Char's RadReads.  If interested, be sure to check this out--and leave a comment or questions if you will.  Enjoy!

http://www.1rad-readerreviews.com/2017/10/here-7-pm-pst-tomorrow-lynn-shurr.html


Thursday, September 14, 2017

On the Road Again!

     After a long, hot, slow summer, Never a Sinner came out to good reviews, and all the work is done for A Place Apart for its November first release.  Great covers on both books which capture Teddy Billodeaux's joy of life, and the isolation of Jacob Day, a damaged veteran to wants nothing more than to be left alone on his deserted island which is suddenly claimed by a socialite also seeking solitude.  Sparks fly!  I've also made a start on The Heart of a Sinner, Annie Billodeaux's story, but must put it aside to satisfy my wanderlust again.
     I am off to Iceland shortly to tour the island and bathe in the Blue Lagoon and other hot springs. When I return home, I have a week's break before going to St. Louis to see the ancient mounds of Cahokia and eat good barbecue. The question recently came up as to whether I plan to site a book in Iceland.  Probably not, but I never know.  When I started writing Sister of a Sinner last year, I had no idea that my brief cruise to Cozumel and my tour of the ruins there would come to play a part in Xochi Billodeaux's story, but that is where her kidnappers take her.  Sister only came out this spring, again to good reviews, but I don't want to spoil the story for you, so no more on that. A trip to Wisconsin provided Alix Lindstrom with a home state, though it doesn't figure heavily in the story. A spring visit to Minneapolis might give me another. It is quite a vibrant, multi-ethnic city, not bland and white at all.
      I finally got the courage to write A Place Apart several years after a visit to Maine.  When out of my comfort zone of south Louisiana, I always fear getting the details wrong, but favor Road Scholar for my tours. They are dubbed Learning Adventures, and you do learn! I save reams of information they give me for future use. In Place Apart, I recreate a sloop ride on Penobscot Bay early in the book and spin off on a legend I heard there--besides eating lots of lobster, one of my favorite foods. Although a man of education and many talents, Jacob Day chooses the hard life of a lobster fisherman to avoid others. The title came from a quote I heard at the Island Institute, founded to preserve the way of life on the many coastal islands, places apart indeed. It is my first book based entirely on one of my trips. I yearn to write one about western Ireland where I went a couple of years ago, but again, the devil is in the details.
      On my Road Scholar tours, I also meet so many interesting people like a Navajo code talker, sadly now deceased, the first woman to run the Iditarod in Alaska (she lost badly but did finish the grueling race), a shaman with a sense of humor, and many glib-tongued Irish men.  My traveling companions are equally interesting, folks who have worked with NASA, a nurse who who served in World War II, people who are so talented they can learn to play a penny whistle overnight or write an limerick in minutes to amuse the group. Any of these are worthy of a book of their own.
     So, off I go again.  Undoubtedly, I will fill my Facebook page with tales of Iceland in the next month. I'm counting on my daughter, an excellent photographer, to supply the pictures. See you later!
     

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Revising

     I recently finished writing Putty in her Hands, a story about a woman who is a master plasterer and restorer of old homes. When an architect purchases an hisotric hotel she wants to revive and put up modern condos, they bump heads and other body parts.Then, I mentioned on Facebook that the next step in getting it published was the rewrite. One non-writer friend asked me why I had to rewrite my book, and I replied, "Only a fool would send in a first draft." Maybe a little too blunt, but true.
     My first drafts are usually pretty clean because I revise the pages I've written the day before prior to settling down to write the new words of the day. Also if I do a plot change, I will go back and incorporate into the book at the moment I decide to go ahead. I pay attention to Spell Check, too. So, my revisions only take about three or four days, my usual time for reading any book,
     What do I look for when revising?  Anything and everything: making sure blue eyes don't turn to gray, saying a person had been to Italy in the beginning of the book, but hadn't in the end (caught that one in Putty!), consistency of plot in case I missed one of those changes, making sure my characters stay true to their back stories, etc.  Reading the manuscript as a whole over a few days as a reader would is invaluable since it has been written in bits and pieces over three or four months, and those months might have been fragmented by a vacation, an illness, a need to do edits on another book in line for publication, or take time out to publicize a new release. Does the new story hang together and make total sense?
     Spell Check doesn't catch every error either. It is perfectly happy to allow the author to use to, too, or two anywhere you want since all are spelled correctly. When I am typing fast, hot on the trail on my story line, I often drop the second o on too. It won't save you from dropped articles. Again when working fast I tend to omit the, an, and other pesky little words my mind fills in for me, but my fingers don't pay any attention to in a writing frenzy. My editor catches lots of these since I seem to skim right over the gaps any time I read the passages.
     I always think I've ferreted out all the little glitches, but usually my editor finds a few more, and I am ashamed to say, I've caught some really awful ones in the final galley proofing. Folks, always reread every word in your galley which is the last time you see the book before it goes into print. In A Place Apart, due to be released November first, I discovered I'd changed the hero's sister's name from Jeanine to Jeanette mid-story. It wasn't a conscious change since she is mostly called Jen. If I want to change a name and am aware of it, I do a search and find and make a global change, though this can be dangerous.  At one time, I decided a man's name should be spelled Grey instead of Gray and did a global change. Suddenly, gray eyes, clouds, dogs, horses, and clothes were all spelled grey, creating a total mess during revision. Also, global changes don't account for the possessive apostrophe s unless you also do an intentional change on that, too. Fortunately, I only needed seven changes to get Jeanette back to Jeanine.  So glad she wasn't the heroine! Same book, I also called the dog salon The Pampered Pooch in the beginning of the story. Somehow, it changed to The Pampered Poodle at
the very end, only one correction required. And that is why I revise.
     Time for the advertisement.  Never a Sinner, the fourth in the Sinner's Legacy series, is coming out on August 30th. This is Teddy Billodeaux's story. Born with spina bidifa, he has been on crutches or in a wheelchair his entire life.  No, he will never be a player on the Sinners'team, but he has carved out a career as a sport announcer and writer. His life is about to be upset by the arrival of a pregnant teen and newly crippled young woman, both of whom need his help. He rises to the challenges each presents, though it isn't easy. Hope you enjoy the read.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Audio Books

     At last my publisher has given its authors a chance to get their books recorded. I really wish this had happened when my mother was still alive as I dedicated Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, one of my best, to her. By the time the book was in print she'd developed macular degeneration and could no longer read, one of her main pleasures gone. But, to be honest, she couldn't hear either and would never admit it, so an audio would have done no good at all. Still when I got the news, I put Queen at the top of my list. It's a fan favorite along with Trashy Affair and my Sinners books.
     Obviously, I couldn't choose all of my twenty books in print.  I asked my readers to help me select, and in addition to Trashy decided on the first Sinners book, Goals for a Sinner, and the second Mardi Gras book, Mardi Gras Madness. After making the selections came the contract extension on these books for seven years. No problem there. New York isn't knocking on my door. This is evidently required by ACX, Amazon's audio arm. Recently, that giant purchased Audible, a big name in audio, so one in the same now.
     Next step, to fill in an audio spec sheet. Not too hard until you get to the sample to be read by potential narrators. I misread the instructions as a maximum of 2,000 words and couldn't figure out why only a few paragraphs showed up on my form. Ah-ha! That was 2,000 characters including spaces, sort of a Tweet sample. The instructions urge you to include both dialog and description, a lot to fit in that small space. After some frustration, I expanded the teaser scenes in the front of my books a bit and went with those.
     These scenes are now put out on a call for narrator. I'd guess some are not chosen, another reason to submit four. They do a reading of the sample which is passed through the publisher to the author to accept or reject. If rejected, another narrator gets a chance. I did note my pet peeve--that of giving people in Cajun country where most of my books take place a twang or a drawl. Really, we speak standard English around here unless older and have a Cajun accent which is not easy to do. My dialog will give the narrator some hints on how to do dat, no? Forgot to tell them my last name is pronounced Sher, not Sure. Somewhere along the line, it lost its German umlaut.
     Once the narrator is contracted for presumably a percentage of the profits, we come to the hard part, listening to the whole book for corrections exactly like a galley. I write long most times. Only Goals is a short book. I can just see me now frantically writing down every mispronounced Cajun name or word in a 100,000 word book. But, that is way off in the future if any of my chosen books fly.
      If anyone out there is jealous of this opportunity, don't be. I believe any indie writer can strike up the same deal with ACX. My audio rights belong to my publisher and so must go through them. They get a cut, Amazon gets a cut, the narrator gets a cut--and I get the thrill of having my books on audio. Not being sarcastic here. I'll let you know how the rest of the process goes as it is a long one. If any of my books comes out on audio some time next year, you will definitely hear about it.
     I hope this information is useful to all who read my blog occasionally, including that one hit in Kazakhstan. I've had readers all over the world, but this is a new one. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another Contest, another Answer

     Better to this before I forget about it.  The Romance Reviews is having a Sizzling Summer Reads Party and will be giving away many books if you answer a simple question about them. I am donating  a first edition, signed paperback copy of Paradise for a Sinner which takes place on a tropic isle. Drum roll, please.  The answer to the question is American Samoa. I think my book will be up for grabs on June third. Keep an eye out for it. The party runs the whole month of June with new books every day.
     Yes, there are two Samoas, one its own nation, one an American protectorate. And possibly one a cookie-Samoans do love their coconut.  This small island provides an inordinate number of football players for it population, and they are 56% more likely to make it to the NFL than other college players. Known for their size, agility, and a cultural ethic to work as a team, they make great recruits. Adam Malala, the hero of my book, is just such a person. I hope the winner enjoys this read.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Signs of the Times

     Recently as I read the RWR magazine, I noted that there were fewer contests aimed at new authors and not as many small conferences cheaper to attend than the biggies.  Maybe it is just my imagination as I never enter contests anymore and rarely go to a conference, but it made me reflect on the demise of our RWA Chapter in Baton Rouge.
     At one time, our small group supported a contest and did its darndest to give good advice and a nice plaque to the winner.  As our group dwindled, we no longer had enough people to do the judging and could not attract big names to judge either. These contests were also fundraisers for most chapters to bring in guest speakers and agents for the group. I don't see so many anymore.
  Some people left the group or never joined because they didn't want pay the nearly $100 to join RWA. As a librarian, I always joined my professional organizations and carried this over when I began to write. I think the Romance Writers of America do look out for their members and try to elevate the profession. Much of their advice pertains to any type of writing. However, new rules that a person must prove they are writing and that officers have to turn over every so many years does hurt the small groups. I admit a few of our members simply enjoyed the company. I had no problem with that, but as rules tightened, they left. The smaller the group got, the more the internal struggle to get new officers.
      Always too small to host a conference, we did put on a very nice readers' luncheon with a great speaker, awesome gift baskets, good food, and plenty of authors to meet.  I always had nice sales there and met terrific people.  When Baton Rouge suffered severe flooding, the luncheon was postponed indefinitely.  It never returned as the group disbanded as of Christmas that year. I've noticed that two other groups in the state no long run their lovely small conferences which I did enjoy attending. New Orleans still hosts some given by individual authors, but you need a large group to keep this going. The huge RWA conference and Romantic Times seem to be thriving, but the lesser lights have faded away.  I suspect the many who rushed to indie publishing found they don't make enough money to attend. I've got a small publisher, and I sure don't,  But, the expenses can be written off on your taxes if you are published. You just have to have the upfront money to attend. I've been once to both RWA and Romantic Times, awesome but huge and exhausting. I do miss the smaller, more intimate experience.
      So, am I right or am I wrong?  Are there indeed fewer contests (not talking about the commercial ones for the published which are basically popularity contests to draw people to a site) and less state level conferences? You tell me.