Happy & Rambunctious
Thank you for everyone who gave advice.
Pippin's upper respiratory infection was been an ongoing problem. While it still is, he has improved enough to get neutered. Before the surgery, he was tested for AIDS and leukemia and came back negative. While he was under the doctor looked in his throat and nasal cavity for any polyps and didn't find anything. Since the upper respiratory is still lingering but is improving, the doctor wants to get a little more aggressive with the medications. So another round of antibiotics and anti-viral medications. We're hoping this will knock it out for good.
But overall, he's made huge improvements the last month or so.
I talk about Pippin a bit in my facebook group if you'd like to join.
In Celebration of Independence Day!
Get Whispers of Home for .99 for a limited time.
Here's a little Excerpt from Mercury on Fire
Mercury, with an apron on over his tight T-shirt, was the stuff Eldon would jack off to in the shower. Eldon squirmed on the bar stool and tried to adjust his cock in his pants.
Mercury gave him a knowing smile and then chuckled. Of course, he would know.
“You don’t miss anything, do you?”
Mercury smirked. “Comes with being a cop. I’m glad you like the view.”
Eldon leaned on the counter and stole a green pepper from where Mercury was cutting it. “I’ve not been much into views in the past.”
Mercury lifted his eyebrows. “Why is that?”
“Guess there’s not been one I wanted to look at. Until you.” He couldn’t have said it plainer, but it was unnecessary where Mercury was concerned. Mercury was far too smart not to get it.
“I’m sure there’s more to it.”
Eldon shrugged. “I was too busy trying to survive to worry about relationships.” He’d had sex a few times, but not because he thought the guy was sexy. No one had ever been irresistible.
“That’s fair.” Mercury started cutting the green pepper into smaller chunks.
Eldon leaned forward, snatching another pepper. He had to be stealthy because Mercury’s knife skills were A+. “You’re good at that.”
“I enjoy cooking.”
“I don’t burn water, but I don’t know how to make oatmeal that doesn’t come from one of those little packets.”
“Come here and I’ll give you a lesson.”
Eldon didn’t hesitate. Whatever brought them closer.
He crowded into Mercury’s space as much as possible. “I’m ready for whatever lesson you want to give me.”
“Is that so?”
It was very much so. Eldon was tired of merely surviving. His life had been one shit show after another. He didn’t have the energy for it anymore.
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My dad called me yesterday. He doesn’t call often, but when he does, it’s usually news. Turns out it wasn’t bad news, a fact for which I am thankful. Since the pandemic, it seems as if bad news is more frequent than good.
My parents found a kitten outside their house. He was wandering around under the parked cars in their driveway. A baby, no mare than 8-12 weeks old, asked for help in the ways animals do.
They decided to do what they could for the little guy.
My parents have lived in the same house for pretty close to forty years. They live in the heart of a small town and there are a few stray cats around. I’ve seen a few as a child but I don’t live in town anymore, so I’m a little out of the loop in terms of the neighborhood strays. We’re not sure where he came from. He doesn’t have fleas and is very friendly.
His exposure to people is obvious. Whoever had him in their home might have domesticated him but they weren’t kind. He’s malnourished and has an upper respiratory infection. Between the veterinarian and I, we’re getting him healthy again.
So far I’ve learned two lessons from him. One is that we all need help now and then. Asking for it means we’re strong enough in spirit to reach out.
I think it was my niece, who had been visiting my parents who saw him first. He must have been trying to get warm under her car, but when he saw her, he made his presence known. He’s been under my care long enough for me to pick up on some of his habits, so I can just imagine the long meowing cry and that the way he looked up at her.
I suspect we’ve all had moments like my little guy where we’ve felt alone and desperate. We’ve reached out and sometimes someone lends us a hand. Other times, that hadn’t been the case. It’s the moments when someone was there that restores our faith in humanity.
The second lesson happened on the morning of day two of having him. The poor little guy could barely breathe at that point, and he slept for twenty out of twenty-four hours of the day. And he was so malnourished he appeared skeletal. But he sat on my husbands lap while watching the morning news and purred. In his short little life, humans hadn’t given him any reason to trust them, yet he feels safe with us to let his guard down.
This scene I cut because it did nothing for the structure of the book but I still think it's cute, so I wanted to share.
It's Dakota convincing himself he needs to talk to the Chief of the Pickleville Police and what happens right before he's able to...
He sat in his truck contemplating whether or not he actually wanted to go through with this. He could just leave town when Ron caught up with him. Just do what he always did to survive. What if Andrew told everyone on the farm? Was that even ethical for him to tell, being that he’s a police officer? Dakota had no idea even how much to tell, if anything.
It wasn’t as if that guy was going to become Dakota’s therapist, although that wasn’t such a bad idea if he were staying. Maybe if he talked about some of his issues with more than just his brother, Jimmy, he’d have less issues.
He looked around the parking lot, taking in his surroundings. He noticed a lady across the street at the auto-mechanics. She was talking to a dark-haired older man that he was sure he’d met once but couldn’t remember the man’s name. The older man had his arms crossed in front of his chest and the lady seemed to be flirting, if the hand she had on the man’s bicep was any indication. The man had his body turned away and looked like he wanted to throw up all over her. Dakota really wanted to tell her that her efforts weren’t working but figured she’d learn that soon enough.
Okay, that made more sense, he thought as a man with shaggy blond hair came out and put an arm around the older man’s waist. The blonde’s name was Luis, Dakota remembered him from a cookout a few months back. That was right before Owen and Neil moved away. Dakota watched as Luis kissed the older man’s cheek. He seemed to linger, making Dakota wonder if he was whispering something in the other man’s ear.
Luis came around a lot to help with Leonard’s care before he passed on to. Dakota thought it was nice to have so many people want to take care of a person the last few moments of their life. He wondered who would care besides his family if Ron did eventually kill him like he always threatened.
Dakota shuttered and opened the glove compartment, pulling out the police reports and restraining order he always carried with him. He took a deep breath and then got out of the truck. He was glad the area was open and didn’t have any hiding places, like alleyways or even one-way streets. He could see everyone around him and that put him at ease.
He walked into the station and up to the counter. The lady behind the desk didn’t look at him for several minutes or even acknowledge his presence. Finally she said, “Can I help you?” without looking away from her computer. She sounded bored.
“I’d like to see the chief of police, please.”
“You’ll have to go to his house. He doesn’t come into the station most Saturday’s. Or wait until tomorrow.”
“No, I’d like to get this over with.”
She finally looked away from the computer screen long enough to get a paper and a pen. She wrote something down and handed it to him.
He looked down at an address and said, “Thank you.” He turned to go but then turned back, asking, “Do you always give strangers the chief’s address?”
“I know who you are. You work for Travis Heath. This is a very small town, Mr. Weaver. You’ll get used to it.” She never even looked up at him the entire time she was talking.
He shuttered, scared that she’d give just anyone his address. “Please don’t ever give out my location to anyone. It doesn’t matter what they tell you.”
“It could mean my life if you did, ma’am,” he told her, whispering it even though they were the only ones in the station at the moment.
She looked up at his face then, her eyes filled with concern for the first time since he’d been in there talking to her. “I won’t.”
He nodded and smiled. “I reckon you’ll keep that promise, ma’am.”
He turned and left the station, getting back to his truck which was parked on the curb. He opened the door and got in, immediately programming the address into the GPS on his phone. He started his truck and followed the directions his phone gave him. He probably could have walked the distance. It was only a few blocks over. He pulled into the driveway of a small blue house that was well kept on the outside.
I’m all about improving. That’s really what this post is about. A willingness to learn is important for growth. Those who don’t adopt that attitude stagnate. With that in mind, one of my goals for this year (2022) is to learn all I can about story structure and plotting.
There are seven areas of fiction: plot, character, structure, scenes, dialogue, voice, and theme. These are the areas I, as well as every fiction writer, focus on when I develop a story. All seven are a continuous learning process because practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress.
Why structure and plot? I have no idea. At the beginning of this year, I wanted to start somewhere so I randomly chose those areas.
So what’s the difference between structure and plot? Plot is the series of events that make up a story. Structure is the layout of the story. Or in more basic terms, Plot is what happens, and structure is how you tell what happens.
Why am I focusing on only plotting and structure this year?
Mostly because Rome wasn’t built in a day. What I mean is, learning takes time and focus. This year I’m learning about those two areas. Next year, I’ll set learning goals in one or two different areas. It’s not a sprint.
So here’s what I’m reading and taking notes on:
What I’m revisiting:
How to Make a Living as a Writer by James Scott Bell—The title is somewhat misleading because Bell doesn’t just talk about marketing. He gives a broad view of the writing process. I revisit this book when I think I need to, especially when I’m about to focus on one area of fiction. It’s sort of like a 100-level college course.
Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
Writing from the Middle by James Scott Bell
Super Structure by James Scott Bell
Here’s what will be new information for me:
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody—I’m hoping this gives a more narrowed view of the writing process so I can brush up on it again.
Structuring You Novel by K.M. Weiland
Writing & Selling You Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron—What I’m looking for in this book is less about the selling part. I may go back and revisit this section of the book later on. I’m much more interested in the overall structure of a mystery novel.
Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen—I’m looking for the same experience from this book as I am from the Ephron’s book.
Mastering Suspense Structure & Plot by Jane K. Cleland
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
I’m also signed up for an online course and a few webinars. There are a lot of opportunities to learn from other writers who are willing to talk about what they know. I have a few things lined up for this spring but am always looking for other learning opportunities.
Also, I have a list of genre fiction books that I’m slowly working through. Most are Mysteries. I’m especially into Cozy Mysteries at the moment. I just finished The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Why Mysteries? The mystery genre is the one of the better places to go to learn from other authors. The absolute best way to learn the craft is by reading.
So, I might have a small book cover buying problem. I see one I like, and I buy it without contemplating my purchase. There are three main problems here. One is my pocketbook. Book covers cost money, and I don’t have a lot of that. I’m not destitute or anything. If I’m looking at them, then that means something, right? Still, I don’t have a lot to spare. Also, it means my impulse control is wanky. The third problem and the one I’m exploring here is that buying covers I don't need is bad for business, in more than one way.
The monetary issue goes with out saying. Still, it's worth mentioning because I’ve had financial problems in the past and couldn’t always afford to spend what I should on projects. This is a whole other set of mistakes that I can get into in another article. I’ve since rectified them and won’t repeat them.
Mainly what I have done is to fix this problem is plan ahead enough to give each project the budget it needs. If I don’t have the budget for all the projects I’d like to complete, then I don’t release them right away. Sometimes I have to wait. Simple math really. But I still feel as though, by buying stuff I don't need, I'm not honoring what I've learned from the struggles of the past.
This leads me to the next issue. It wreaks havoc on my marketing and production budget and makes reconciling my accounts difficult. I have to justify every expense. But If I’m spending money on projects I don’t have time to write than it's money I’m basically throwing away. Not to mention, I have to pull that money from somewhere. I bet you guess where it comes from. My marketing and production budget. If I don't have that money, then it delays when I can release it and throws off my whole schedule.
This brings me to the next, and probably the biggest, problem. Here's the scenario: there is a cover that sparks an idea. I buy the cover and because my creativity always goes in the direction of creating a series. I add more story and thus, more covers. All the ideas I have in my head are just sitting up there screaming at me to write them. But there's only so much time in the day.
It’s a rookie mistake in a lot of ways because I’m seven years deep into the authoring thing. I know how long a project is going to take me. I know what I’m capable of. Yet I add more onto the list which is unnecessary stress. It makes it difficult to focus and accomplish my yearly goals, largely because I keep changing them.
In the past, I’ve started one project after another, getting partly through and then not finishing because I get overwhelmed. I’ve made great strides in trying to rectify this, but buying covers makes me feel as though I haven’t gone far enough.
Again, there is an opportunity to improve and I’m treating it as such. Here’s what I’m doing differently:
1. I set goals and I follow through in accomplishing them.
This is the third year that I’ve actually set goals. I know what projects I’m working on for the year and I've accomplish every goal I've set. Why does this help? It helps me keep my focus on what's important to me.
I write the goals down on note cards and pin them to my wall so I can see them every day. The first year I started this I kept it to two goals. This year I have ten and I've already accomplished one of them.
2. I leave space open in my schedule for my muse to do its thing. I leave three months where I have nothing planned. Why three months? Well, I usually work in three month blocks of time. I'm not sure why. It's just what works for me. I know what I can accomplish for the year and have the projects pretty well set by the beginning of the year. I pick the project that feels right at the time. If that's a book in a series I haven't released yet and hadn't planned on then I can work on because I have room. I might sit on the book for a while without releasing it right away if it makes sense for me to do so.
3. I have a mission and vision statement. These usually change from year to year. They are invaluable because they give me a direction to follow while writing my goals and scheduling my time.
4. I’m prioritizing and finishing what I started.
Doing this makes marketing easier but more importantly, I'm getting the books to my readers in a timely manner. I'll have Pickleville finished and re-released by the end of this year. And I will finish writing Saint Lakes and Wingspan by the end of 2023.
It's not all bad:
The one good thing about shiny object syndrome is I have the book covers ready to go. They inspire new ideas and keep things fresh creatively speaking.
I’ve learned some things in the last few years and I’ve applied the knowledge each time. I still have a lot of growing to do, as a person and an author. It's good news because learning is a lifelong process. If I still have room for improvement, it means I’m still kicking.
Owen turned to glare at the person who spoke, intending to give them a piece of his mind. His eyes widened when he saw who it was. Mr. Bulging Biceps stood about a foot away from him. He smiled and offered Owen something.
“You can give her this. She loves them.” It looked as if he held a peppermint candy. It was a round disk-shaped thing with red and white stripes.
Owen hesitated. If he touched Mr. Bulging Biceps, he’d somehow fall into his trap. Someone that sexy had to have set a few, waiting for someone like Owen to fall into. Didn’t he?
Instead of taking the treat, Owen turned to face the man and then moved back farther into the barn. “I saw you carrying a bag of feed.”
I saw you carrying a… God, could he be more ridiculous. In his mind, he rolled his eyes at himself.
“After the diner, we had to get horse feed.” The explanation was unnecessary and a little odd. Or maybe it was his matter-of-fact tone. Something about it seemed off. And then the guy said, “Leonard said you’re staying with us. We can share my room.”
“What?” Whoa. Owen frowned.
“We can share.”
“What?” Owen had no idea what to say to that. They weren’t sharing a room because they had no other choice. Given the size of the house, Owen found that hard to believe, which led down a path that was sexy and made him hard when he pictured the smoke-show of a man on top of him. Of course, in his imagination he had working legs, which proved he was not ready for whatever Mr. Bulging Biceps had in mind.
“Why do you keep asking me that?” The question floored Owen.
“Are you serious right now? I don’t even know your name.”
“My name is Neil.”
Mr. Bulging Biceps had a name. That was good. That was fantastic. It made him a little more human and less like a demi-god.
Well, for all of three seconds. And then Neil took Owen’s hand in his and placed the candy in the center of his palm and Bam! He was in the demi-god category again.
Owen swallowed, intending to tell Neil exactly what he thought about his blunt offer to share a bed, but what he said was, “Did you fall from Olympus?”
April Kelley is an author of LGBT Romance. Her works include The Journey of Jimini Renn, which was a Rainbow Awards finalist, Whispers of Home, the Saint Lakes series, and over thirty more.