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Archive for the ‘Words on Writing’ Category

<SKIP THE VERBIAGE CHATTER AND GET TO BUSINESS>

As a writer, one of the tools in your self-promotion arsenal is newsletters.  I’m late on the ball on this one, mainly because of that fear I will make an idiot of myself. No one will want to read it. No one will even sign up and I’ll be sending it only to myself, or maybe to two or three people who will never even read it. If they do read it, they will think it is completely lame and stupid, rubbish. And, I’ll probably never manage to even send one out often enough for my existence to not be completely forgotten because I will never be able to think of anything to say.

Writers can be full of self-doubts.

One of the most popular mass mailers for producing newsletters is MailChimp. Whatever mailer you use it is a must to get it linked to everything you can so that potential readers discovering you can sign up for your newsletter and grow that base. Growing your newsletter base can grow your fan base and vice versa.

Blogging is another important tool, but that’s for another post. One of the most popular and easy to use blog sites is WordPress.

The bonus of them both is that if you are barely scraping by, money challenged, cheap, or simply trying to keep your author costs down because ideally your money in will some day be more than your money out, they both have a FREE VERSION available.

Here’s the crux of the problem.  MailChimp seems to be designed to work with WordPress plugins.  WordPress plugins come with the PAID upgraded versions of WordPress, not the free version.

You are supposed to be able to make it work using HTML code in a widget.  If you don’t know what a widget is, it is those menu items you can click on along the side of a blog.

MailChimp even provides you with the HTML code to copy and paste into the widget.  Now apparently everyone I could find blogging about how to do it found it a very simple matter of copy and pasting it into the text tab of a text widget and viola it works perfectly.

THIS WAS NOT MY EXPERIENCE. No. Nope. Oh for the love of everything horror in this world it was so not my experience.

Instead of something resembling this:

I got this (my author fan blog page background is black):

And, to top it off, you cannot actually enter an email address anywhere to sign up for the newsletter.

I tried deleting the extra verbiage that is clearly coming through as text supposed to be on the screen.  You can select that easily by clicking on the visual tab in the text widget.  But then I got this:

It looks better except that broken image thing, and there is still no way to actually enter an email address to sign up for the newsletter.

Clearly there is something in the simply copy and paste HTML code MailChimp provides that is meant to be removed, revised, or both. It doesn’t spell it out and neither did any blog post I could find about it. The closest I got was one describing how to do a make it yourself custom button instead. That has to be created in another program. They recommended one requiring a monthly subscription. I stopped reading there.

So, to fix the MailChimp signup in WordPress in free versions issue, I realized I have to learn a little about how to code HTML. Ugh.

Let’s get this straight; I am not a website designer or developer. Nope.  I am just a writer who would rather be writing than trying to figure this stuff out and don’t have the $$$ to hire a professional to do it for me.

Wait, I do have a fourteen year old . . . . .  No, I’m probably wiser to figure this out for when there are no fourteen year old  and friends around to ask them to do it for me.

Okay, let’s get to business.

Understanding HTML (a little) for the writer who knows nothing about coding freaking HTML:

DISCLAIMER: AS I SAID ABOVE I AM NOT A WEBSITE DESIGNER OR DEVELOPER. I AM GOING INTO THIS WITH AN EXTREMELY LOW KNOWLEDGE OF CODING HTML AND AM ACTUALLY TYPING THIS BLOG POST AS I DISCOVER AND LEARN IT FOR MYSELF TO HOPEFULLY HELP OTHER UNKNOWLEGEABLE WRITERS NOT SPEND A SLEEPLESS NIGHT IRRITATED THEY COULD NOT MAKE THE MAILCHIMP SIGN UP WORK ON THEIR FREE WORDPRESS BLOG. There, I said it.

Hell, I will probably have to go back to this blog post myself every time I have to monkey around with HTML coding. (Get it? Monkey around? MailChimp? Yeah, I’m bad with jokes. I’m not a comedy writer, I write dark fiction.)

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language.

This is the code that makes mumbo jumbo meaningless seeming letters and symbols look like this:

(This is an HTML widget on my Blogspot blog that I have neglected for far far far too long. And it WORKS! It’s a button with HTML code copy/paste provided by Facebook.)

Here are a few point-form basics from this blog (I’m basically saying what they said in different words). This blog was very helpful:

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-steps-understanding-basic-html-code/

Tags (see step one of the above article):

  • Tells it what the words in the document are supposed to look like. I.e.) bold text, underlined text, you get the idea.
  • Comes in pairs (usually) with the affected text inside
  • This example comes directly from the above article:
    • <strong> This is some bold text</strong>.
  • Take away from this:
    • <strong> is the opening tag.
    • </strong> is the closing tag (the / tells the interweb world this is a closing tag)

Empty Elements = Tags without a pair (see step one of the above article):

<p>This is a second<br>paragraph split between two lines.</p>

    • <br> is a line break. This is a formatting instruction that may or may not have a closing tag <br /> because it is not essential (notice this time the closing indicator / is after the code with a space between them).
  • Take away from this:
    • Formatting instructions like line breaks <br> do not necessarily need to have closure in their world because they are not affecting specified text that you have to mark the start and end of.

Making your Document Look Right (see step two of the above article):

  • You need certain tag codes to make your HTML document look pretty and not like my attempt at the start of this article to install a MailChimp signup into my WordPress blog.
  • Start and end codes to every HTML document (so it knows it is an HTML document):
    • Open tag: <!DOCTYPE html>
    • Close tag: </html>
    • Put these at the very start and end of the entire whole document.
  • Head <head> section:
    • Information including page title and scripts running on the page.
    • The author of the article above says this <head> comes after the initial <html> tag, but above says you close the document with </html>
    • I think they mean you put the <head> after the <!DOCTYPE html>
  • Body <body> = the body of the text.
    • This sounds easy enough. This is the text the viewer of your blog will actually see.
  • In the <body> of the text, you can make it look like you do by changing fonts, bolds, underlines, etc cetera in Microsoft Word, but by embedding code in the HTML like the bold text example earlier.
  • Hitting the “Enter” button on your keyboard to break up your HTML code may help you see the elements of your code in blocks that are easier for you to understand, but it will have no effect on what actually comes through on the visual on your blog. You have to insert a code for that.
  • This example is a screenshot copied directly from the above article:

= Defines a section of the document

<h2>   </h2>       = A header tag. Like Microsoft Word headers, the lower the header number the higher the header importance.

<p>   </p>            = Paragraph break. Browsers automatically put spaces before and after.

Images, aka you need pictures:

  • Image tag: <img>
  • Alt text = alternative text: The text that appears with the image
  • Src attribute = source: Tells it where the image is loading from (i.e. https location like your WordPress blog uploaded pictures)
  • Width and height: the size of your picture in the blog screen (number of pixels)
  • This example is copied directly from the above article (step 4):

<img src=”https://img.drphil.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/DrPhil-1280x720px-Shareimage.jpg&#8221; alt=”Dr. Phil” width=”1280″ height=”720″>

  • You see from this the source file is pulling this image file DrPhil-1280x720px-Shareimage.jpg from this spot: https://img.drphil.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/
  • Text with the image (alt) is: Phil (alt=”Dr. Phil”)
  • Image with is: 1280 (width=”1280″)
  • Image height is: 720 (height=”720″)

Links, aka links make blog posts more fun and you need to direct your readers to your sources of information (aka validation):

<a href=”https://www.google.com/&#8221; title=”Click here to search the web”>Visit Google</a>

    • <a> = open tag for the link. Note the link and its attribute and element are inserted before the end > (before “Visit Google”).
    • Href = the link. Here the link is https://www.google.com/
    • Title = words that show up when you hover over the link. Here the hover text is Click here to search the web
    • “Visit Google” would be the text that appears in your blog post article that is hyperlinked to the https link (see “17 Simple HTML Code Examples You Can Learn in 10 Minutes” below as an example). As you know, that usually automatically shows up as blue underlined text by default when you hyperlink in WordPress or Microsoft Word (like the hyperlinked example below).

Here is a link to 17 Simple HTML Code Examples You Can Learn in 10 Minutes

(this is linked to in the blog article I used for this. I didn’t get fancy trying to HTML code it. The title element aka words when you hover are the default when I hyperlinked it in Microsoft Word.).

Now here is the bad news.

Apparently, according to this article I got all this from, knowing HTML is not enough in today’s more advanced internet. Poop.

Now you have to know CCS (Cascading Style Sheets) and JavaScript.

CCS language describes how you HTML text should look. It’s the code inside the HTML code. I.e.) how your class attributes are coded to look within the HTML. (That is still kind of Greek to me).

JavaScript is what makes the webpage (or blog page) respond to the readers actions “without loading a new page every time”.

I.e.) JavaScript gives you that warning message without reloading a new page, flips through images, or asks the user/reader for input.

I am not even going to try to go into CCS and JavaScript right now.  I just want to make that freaking MailChimp signup work on my free WordPress blog.

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warren-wong-238677-unsplash

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

We’ve all experienced it in the world of relationships, first, second, or third hand; the person who distances their self from those around them. A fear of intimacy, of others getting to know them, or perhaps of revealing their deepest darkest secrets? These are possible reasons.

In your stories, you want to reveal your characters’ deepest secrets. You want the reader to uncover the story’s darkest hidden agendas. In time.

While closely guarding those, doling out hints in tantalizing little teases, you don’t want your reader to feel pushed away. It is not a bad relationship where the other party is treated like an outsider.

Distancing the readers distances them from the story and the characters. They need to feel connected to them to really care about them.

The language you use writing the story needs to invite the reader in to share the experience. Don’t put up a wall of distance, pushing the reader away, with your choice of words.

While I revisit my old friends, The McAllister Clan (they are of Celtic descent, a small tidbit revealed in one of the books), I am rediscovering things I learned through endless hours spent writing, editing, researching, editing, researching writing, editing, reading, editing, researching editing, and yes, more editing.

Third person feelings, describing the characters’ feelings as an outside observer narrating them, gives the reader a sense of distance from the feelings.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Every writing method has its place and time. But, when you want your reader drawn deeply into your character’s psyche, too much can leave the reader feeling like an outside observer too.

Writers: We learn and improve, but we don’t always see the ways we have improved until we take that in depth look back at our old selves.

Editing bits:

An unexplained coldness seeps through Michael’s veins and he felt the sudden urge to pee.

Changed to: An unexplained coldness seeps through Michael’s veins and he has the sudden urge to urinate.

– two words changed. One to draw the reader into the immediacy of the moment, the other because it’s a more mature word option and that’s the target audience.

She felt relief at the sight of him, the emotion reflecting in her expression.

Changed to: She is relieved at the sight of him, the emotion reflecting in her expression.

– two words changed to bring the reader into the character’s emotions and share them.
Writing is an adventure of continual learning and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Together, we can bring new worlds of discovery to new readers.

The McAllister Series will return better than before.

  • Where the Bodies Are
  • The McAllister Farm
  • Hunting Michael Underwood
  • Killing David McAllister (new – coming)

In the meantime, you can enjoy these:

  • The Gypsy Queen (new release)
  • Garden Grove

The Gypsy Queen:

Travis discovers his newest get rich quick scheme in an abandoned riverboat. Dreaming of the wealth and glamour she will bring, he becomes obsessed with rebuilding her.

Darius sees only rot, decay, and their ruination in the old boat. Travis’s best friend and unwilling business partner, Darius is unwilling to abandon Travis to his fate. He is committed to seeing it through, regardless of the costs to himself.

Struggling to rebuild her together, they are pitted against everyone from the Shipbuilders’ Union to the even more ruthless local casino boss, who desires to possess the Gypsy Queen himself.

As Travis and Darius’s lives become further intertwined with the Gypsy Queen, the strange accidents surrounding the boat escalate. Under the Gypsy Queen’s spell, Travis is oblivious to the sense of dread that fills those who enter the boat as she awakens with a hunger for blood. The Gypsy Queen’s dark past will not be forgotten.

Garden Grove

Garden Grove Meadows, “Where families come to live.” A new housing development promises a better future in a growing bedroom community. A project that seems to be the eye of a storm of strange events. Plagued with vandalism, the work crew poisoned, altered blueprints, and human remains intentionally planted for the crew to find.

Who is trying to stop the development?

Includes short story Old Mill Road

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Writing is about stringing words together to tell a story.

Good writing is about doing that in a way that speaks to the heart of the reader, drawing them in, and not letting go.

If you need the truth of it, it’s the massive hours spent editing that make your story come alive.

This is where you have to put on all your hats.

You edit the general story, scenes, and flow of the story itself. Pick apart the details, add and remove them, and research little things that seem unimportant but are important to the reader who knows more about it than you.

You edit for grammar and sentence structure, wondering if you could pass a fifth grade English Language Arts test.

You become a copy editor, seeking every wayward character, backwards quotation mark, and researching the proper usage of the “. . .” Character.

Most importantly is the careful picking apart and nitpicking of the little details in your choice of words.

There is something to be said for the words you use. Careful choice of words changes the meaning and tone.

Here (excerpt from Where the Bodies Are below), I changed “with” to “to”. Because, when people are gathered, eager for news, they are not really talking with someone. With implies a shared moment, not the shallow moment they are in. They would be talking to each other. Talking at each other. Any response is irrelevant unless it feeds the yearning for more juicy gossip.

“The normally empty foyer is filled with people, most of them talking animatedly or looking around eagerly for someone to talk animatedly to.”

Where the Bodies Are and the subsequent books in the series are currently in transition, being revised and edited to return better and bolder.

As a writer, you never stop seeking to improve your craft. And, what you wrote years ago is not going to meet the quality of your writing today. Given the chance, I am taking the McAllister series and putting that improved skill to work, improving on the flow and feel of these stories.

Watch for the rerelease of Where the Bodies Are.

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I’ve been with the same publisher for some years now.  Through thick and thin, and a rebranding from Second Wind Publishing to Indigo Sea Press.  They took a chance on me, a complete unknown with no experience in the world of writing and publishing.

They edited and formatted my books, while I continued to focus on writing and marketing.

Now, as the publisher is revisiting another major change with a restructuring of their business model, I found myself again with the choice of what to do now.

As an author, there is only one way to go with your writing, and that is to improve.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, there is always room to improve on yourself.

Research is key to opening the world of writing.  Researching little details in your stories to make them pop more, pulling the readers in with those tidbits and keeping them real.  Researching writing, editing, and the publishing world in whole and in parts.

The old saying “practice makes perfect” never gets old, even for someone like me who believes there is no such thing as true perfect.  It doesn’t matter how many times I edit a piece; I will always find something to change. Even if it is written by a well-known famous author, and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it.  I’ve just spent so many hours editing that my mind automatically looks for things to change and attempts to improve on whether it needs improving or not.  Art is subjective and writing is an art form, making its valuation subject to the views of each individual.

A great deal of practicing writing is, of course, a given.  Your writing talent is in a state of constant flux as you improve.  Your voice evolves.  My writing now is different from that first published book.  And from the second.  I find my voice is different with the different feel of my stories.  If I lose passion for a story, the story loses its luster and the voice falls flat.

 

So what to do when your publisher is changing their business model and you have the choice to opt in or out?  To each the choice is their own.

For me, I chose to take advantage of the opportunity to revisit old friends.  Freshen up and perhaps rewrite sections of my books. Make them better, since my writing is better.

I know, it’s not always best to keep worrying at that old bone when you need to focus on writing, editing, and sharing with the world new stories.  And I have more stories in various stages from an inkling of an idea to a full first draft than I can probably write in this lifetime.

But, they can be better.  I’ve found a new voice since writing them.  And, I’ve cringed at a few minor things during my re-exploration of these stories.

So, soon the McAllister series will vanish.  Where the Bodies Are, the McAllister Farm, and Hunting Michael Underwood.  But they will re-emerge.  Better.  Fresher.  And I must continue working to finish the final chapter, Killing David McAllister, for in all stories someone important must die.

 

But not Nathan.  Nathan lives on.  Nathan will have his own story and it will reveal the dark and twisted world of a mind even more troubled than a serial killer lost in a blurred reality between past and present with a compulsion driven by a dark secret locked in a fractured mind.

 

So, watch for the re-emergence of the McAllister series, freshened and improved with new covers.

Hunting_Michael_Unde_Cover_for_Kindle

where the bodies are

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

 

Garden Grove Cover - Amazon ebook - front cover

 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Garden Grove, a bit of a quirky and fun to write story.  The scene at the end came from an actual dream I had. A dream about the story.  There is always something in the woods, isn’t there?

 

 

 

The Gypsy Queen

 

And my newest just released, The Gypsy Queen.  This is a story I wrote years ago, and finally focused on editing that first draft to complete it.  Her dark past will not be forgotten.  And, I am already being pressed by a fellow book lover to write a sequel to this one.  I love the art for this cover.  This is an artist I definitely will use again.

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The Gypsy Queen

Coming Soon, a paranormal drama

Help.  I’m stuck.  I don’t know what to write.  My writing sucks.  How do I write better?  I hate my writing.  Nobody likes my writing.

“Help me write better.”  It is the clarion call of the writer.  It does not matter what form or words it takes.  The plea is the same and every writer has at least thought it at some point.  Many published authors still do.  How do I improve; make the reader love my story? How do I matter in the book world?

In the big picture, none of us truly matter.  Not really.  The world will go on and the reading world will fall in love with books and authors even if any one of the most famous author names never existed.

It is in the smaller picture that the author becomes something more.

It is that small moment, the brief smile on the reader’s face, the emotions they are moved to until they move on, that is what the author exists for.

We touch the lives of others in a way no one else can.  They are drawn into the worlds we create for them alone.  They feel what we tell them to feel.  Yearn for what we urge them to yearn for.  We make them laugh and cry, filling them with joy, fear, or sorrow at our whims.

How do you do this?

 

Feed your imagination.

Each moment feeds your imagination.  When you cannot put words to paper, observe how the world around you reacts to itself.  Everything is connected.  Every look, word, walk, thought… each thing matters.

Every moment touches the next and the one before.  A stranger’s mood is affected by the angry scowl or bright smile of another passing by them.

Emotions around you can be felt, as though their very scent fills the air to infect anyone near.  And perhaps it does on a level we are not aware of.

 

Allow no excuses.

“I can’t write because…”

Poppycock.  I love that word.  It’s an old out-of-use term from before my time.

Merriam-Webster defines the word as “Empty talk or writing: nonsense.”

It comes from the Dutch word pappekak, which translates to “soft dung”.

 

You make excuses because you don’t want to write.  Stop it.

  • I can’t write because I’m stuck at this place in my book.
  • I can’t write because if I write something else it will ruin what I am writing.
  • I can’t write because I can’t feel it.
  • I can’t write because I have writers’ block.

 

The list of excuses is endless and writers’ block is a self-induced syndrome of the mind.

 

You write.  Write always.

It doesn’t matter what you write.  Just write something.  No, not the grocery list.  Now you are just being silly.

There are limitless resources out there for word prompts or story prompts. If you don’t know what to write, use them.

Pick an item.  Any item in the room.  Imagine a story where it is the centerpiece of that story.  That item is the only witness to the events unfolding around it and has no voice to share what has seen except through you.

I started one with a simple single red mitten.  It ended with kidnapping and cannibalism, the single red mitten a metaphor for blood, abandonment, and loss.  Go figure.

A simple tin cup becomes a story of famine, survival, and both the terrible things people do and the goodness they hide within.

When an idea hits you, a thought for a scene, an image for a character or event, write it. It does not matter if it is for your story in progress or not.  Just write it.

There are two ways to improve your writing, just as there is to improve any other talent.  Learning and practicing.  You don’t learn to play an instrument without practice.  Only with practice can someone become a good artist.  In writing that means learning by reading good quality stories and practicing writing your own.

The more you practice writing, the better you will be.  So, write.  Always.  Write.  Write every day or as close to it as you can.

 

What you write matters.

There is no doubt about it. And if you hated playing Hot Cross Buns in music class, you are not alone.  But those few lines of music serve a purpose to teach you something important about how the song is composed.  And as lame as the song sounds, that repetition is the basis for what you will learn later.

The same goes for writing practice.

Just like those short music verses, writing short brings the point home.

Nothing teaches you to say more with less than flash fiction.  While the definition of flash fiction could be described as a story of 1000 words or less, the flash fiction E-zines take it who a whole new level where the challenge of shorter is better becomes the norm.  Flash fiction itself falls into categories from the longer stories of 1000 words or less stories, to shorter variations of micro fiction or postcard fiction.

Can you write a compelling story with relatable characters and defined plot in less than 500 words?  In less than 300?  Can you meet the 99 word challenge?

 

Short stories are the J. R. R. Tolkien of flash fiction.  Because it’s short, typically 1,000 to 7,500 words, you need to use a lot of what you learn writing flash fiction to write a compelling full-bodied short story.  Because, at over 1000 words, your readers will expect a complete story with all the elements and arcs of a novel-length story.

 

It is with the practice in the shorter stories that you will become ready to write a full-length novel that does not lag and lose your readers’ interest.

 

If the idea of writing a full-length novel scares you, start small and work into longer stories.  The more you practice, the easier it becomes.  Myself, I over write.  If my goal is 100,000 words, I will write 130,000.  Once I edit that down to 100,000, the story has become much more gripping, the reader flowing with the story without all the word clutter that always finds its way into earlier drafts.

 

Don’t be in a hurry to publish everything you write.

When that moment comes that an opportunity is there to submit a story, you don’t want to be dashing off a last minute story.  As painful as it might be, keep unpublished stories to yourself in a variety of lengths just for that reason.  If you are always writing, exploring new stories, new story matter, new genre variations, that won’t be a problem.

You will also be a much better writer for all those stories you explore.

 

The message is simple.  Write.  Always.  Write.

 

L.V. Gaudet, author of

The McAllister Series:

Where the Bodies Are

where the bodies areAre you ready to step into the twisted mind of a killer? What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

A young woman is found discarded with the trash, left for dead. More bodies begin to appear, left where they are sure to be found and cause a media frenzy.

The killer’s reality blurs between past and present with a compulsion driven by a dark secret locked in a fractured mind. Overcome by a blind rage that leaves him wallowing in remorse with the bodies of victim after victim, he is desperate to stop killing.

The search for the killer will lead to his dark secret buried in the past, something much larger than a man on a killing spree.

 

The McAllister Farm

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Take a step back into time to meet the boy who will create the killer and learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are.

William McAllister is a private and reclusive man who does not like to have attention drawn on his family. His family history is as dark as the secret hiding in the woods.

Just as he begins to bring his troubled son into the family business, a serial killer starts preying on local young women. The McAllisters quickly find themselves drawn into the spotlight when the town decides William McAllister is the killer.

The attention is a threat to both William McAllister’s profession and his family. He has no choice but to find the killer himself.

He might not like what he learns.

 

Hunting Michael Underwood

Hunting_Michael_Unde_Cover_for_KindleThe third book in the series, Hunting Michael Underwood follows on the heels of book one, Where the Bodies Are, bringing the reader back to the present after a diversion to the past in The McAllister Farm. Hunting Michael Underwood brings these two stories and their characters together as the search for the killer continues.

Step deeper into the twisted mind of a killer as he slips further into madness.

Michael Underwood has vanished and everyone is searching for him. Detective Jim McNelly is determined to not stop until he finds him. Working with the detective, Lawrence Hawkworth is still chasing the bigger story he knows is behind the bodies. Jason McAllister knows he must stop the killer he created before he goes too far. He may be the only one who can stop him.

Unable to let go of his barely remembered past and the search for his sister, the killer goes looking for Jason McAllister’s past, and his family.

 

Killing David McAllister

Killing David McAllister (Coming)

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.  He has gone by many names, but he was raised as David  McAllister, and finding what he is looking for is not enough to quiet the darkness inside him.

 

 

Other Books:

Garden Grove

Garden Grove Cover - Amazon ebook - front coverWho wants to stop construction at the new Garden Grove residential development? Everyone, it seems. Garden Grove is a hotbed of complications from costly mistakes and petty vandalism to sabotage and the poisoning of the work crew.

While the construction crew struggles to stay on schedule, they face growing problems and, with them, a growing sense of unease.

A group of local housewives drawn into the growing mystery uncovers a secret that brings Garden Grove deeper into a new mystery connecting all the suspects.

When all attempts to have the site shut down permanently fail, two long time local elderly residents step up their own efforts. Each with their own family secrets, the pair of quirky old birds are pitted against each other and their longstanding family feud is brought to the boiling point.

The mystery deepens with the discovery of old human remains that have their own dark past recently planted at the jobsite.

 

The Gypsy Queen (coming soon)

The Gypsy Queen1952

When a young man with an enthusiasm for get rich quick schemes discovers an old abandoned paddle wheel river steam boat, he has dreams of the riches and glamour she will bring.

His best friend and unwilling business partner sees only rot, decay, and their ruination in the old boat.

Struggling to rebuild her, they are pitted against everyone from the Shipbuilders’ Union to the local casino boss. Meanwhile, strange accidents and a sense of dread falls on those who enter the boat as she awakens with a hunger for her ounce of blood.

The Gypsy Queen’s dark past will not be forgotten.

 

For the middle years grades check out:

The Latchkey Kids

The_Latchkey_Kids_Cover_for_KindleWhat would you do if you came home from school alone and heard noises in the basement?

Five kids, twelve and thirteen years old and on their own before and after school, each faces their own struggle. A broken home, illness, crushes, bullying, depression, absent parents, suicidal thoughts, broken friendships, and fear of being only a kid and home alone.

There is also the strange noises houses make when they are quiet and you are alone, particularly the noises in the basement.  Something is down there.

Madison, Andrew, Kylie, Anna, and Dylan are brought together by circumstances that feel overwhelmingly out of their control.  The temptation of exploring an old abandoned brick building, loneliness, and fleeing an attempted abduction, each is drawn to the old abandoned building for different reasons.

There, they will fight for their lives, where the monsters in the basement nest.

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Check out this article when choosing to convert your image to sRGB or Adobe RGB.

Spoiler: argh wins.

https://kenrockwell.com/tech/adobe-rgb.htm

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20180210_092535Anyone who has ever experienced the family vacation knows the family vacation experience starts weeks before and ends weeks after the actual vacation.

 

This is about a family vacation experience, and about different perceptions.  Writing a story is all about the use of perception.  Twisting and focusing the reader’s perceptions, utilizing opposing perceptions, and even tricking the reader into thinking you are following a certain line of perception before revealing your true intentions.  What you do with this depends on your story and its goal.

 

Real life is drama.  Don’t shortchange your readers by forgetting that in your stories.

 

Feel free to skip to the parts that actually interest you.  I am also sick again as I write this, so please bear with me.

 

BEFORE THE VACATION

 

Of course, there are the “pre weeks” aka “the months you can’t get back”; the weeks where one of you spends a painful amount of time researching vacation possibilities (because travel agents are for wusses, people less cheap than you, and people with a different type of common sense).  They endlessly read opposing reviews, getting excited and then woefully disappointed by the same resorts, before finally taking a great intake of air, holding it indefinitely, scrunching their eyes tightly closed, and hitting send.  The vacation is booked.

 

And then once the vacation is booked it is the stressful “vacation time coordination”. Anyone with differing vacation in-house work rules will find this more difficult.  We are lucky in this.  Unlike some, we don’t have to definitively and un-irrevocably book vacation time all at once for the year and not be able to change plans.  Still, you have at least two people with different work vacation booking rules, plus kids/others, to try to book everyone off for the same week and it can be a juggling act.

 

Then it’s the preparation time.  You have to make sure you pack all of your stuff, that everyone else has theirs, and plan for every possible contingency and buy a pharmacy.

 

How you think it will go aka “the boring story” or “what your character wants” – You make your list, pack and purchase, and everything is packed nicely and easily.  Stress free.  And you happily and contentedly go to sleep looking forward to your vacation.  Your vacation is flawless. You do stuff, relax, enjoy, and come home refreshed.

 

How it really goes aka “insert drama here” – Ugh.  Let us not forget how real life can get.  You have a job, kids, dogs, and a house.  So, in between looking after all of that, you have to find the time for packing, lists, shopping, re-packing, and cleaning.  And, if your dogs are lucky enough that you have someone willing to house sit/dog sit so they don’t have to spend the week stressed and panicked in a boarding kennel, you also want the house clean when you leave.

 

Starting with the dogs, the husky, Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny, decides to pick that time right before your vacation to start blowing out her coat.  In the middle of winter and -30 to -45 wind chills.  How a dog can shed more than her weight in hair every hour is beyond me. Cue the endless vacuuming.  We call the other dog, Meeka, the “good dog”.  She does not blow out her coat, steal all your socks, or make you put her out every five minutes.

 

20180210_173118.jpgThe kids.  Anyone with kids can tell you that you really need to plan a week off kid free to clean the house for anything upcoming of importance.  This still applies when they are teens.  As fast as you try to clean, the place is unraveled around you into a bedlam of chaos and mess.  And, the virtual extra large dogs aka the Big Dumb Hair Bunnies you need to vacuum up endlessly.  You are also trying to get all the laundry done, and make futile attempts to pack your own stuff.

 

Just a quick interject – naturally, pre-vacation week you get sick (cough cough). You feel like Bill the cat from Bloom County looks. If you don’t know, look it up.  But you still must be up before six every morning, go to work, and deal with the kids, dogs, family, house, etc. every evening, plus vacation preparation.

 

Three days prior to vacation you announce to the entire household (repeatedly), “Tomorrow night I have to pack my stuff for the trip.  All my stuff.  I have nothing packed.  So let me do that or I won’t have any clothes to wear.  After I pack all my stuff, I can help you with yours.”

 

Two days prior to vacation, the “I MUST PACK ALL MY STUFF” evening, …guess what. Yes, you guessed it. Kids.  One, who is old enough to handle it in my opinion, absolutely needs your help to figure out and fill out the grade 10 course registration for next year that ABSOLUTELY MUST BE DONE THAT NIGHT OR THE WORLD WILL END.  Because it has to be handed in tomorrow, since it is due when you are gone on vacation.

 

The other kid has a mountain of homework that she absolutely cannot figure out on her own, even though she is the one going to school to learn it and knows it better than you do.  Seriously, some of these math word problems I am sure are written in some archaic ancient dead language from a planet in a far away galaxy.  Mostly I repeated the questions on the page until she started actually thinking about them and solved them herself.

 

Now, it is past bedtime for everyone, you still have laundry and cleaning to do, and have not packed a single sock.  Or maybe you did pack a sock, but the Big Dumb Bunny stole it.  At this point you are too tired and sick to know or care.

 

The Nightmare before Christmas, I mean (um), the night before vacation.  Okay, now you really need to pack.  You start your morning with slopping an entire cup of coffee on yourself minutes before you have to leave for work.  Nice.  Now you have to do laundry again because you had to pull clothes out of the stuff you washed to pack, because you don’t have enough clothes that fit.  You bust your butt at work all day making sure everything is done. You half expect at this point that your car will break down on the way home.  Somehow the stars and planets align and it does not.

 

However, and, I should have put that in all caps.  Let’s try that again.

 

HOWEVER, you get home and while you were at work the good dog puked, the toilet upstairs plugged and overflowed, and the house is a complete disaster.  The panicked teen tries to resolve the overflowing toilet by staring moodily at the toilet bowl, water flowing over its sides to flood the bathroom floor, glares at it, and starts throwing all the towels on the floor in an effort to make it all stop without asking for help, and the water continues to flood over the toilet bowl.

 

Meanwhile, on the downside, aka the kitchen, water has begun to flow from the ceiling light fixture located directly below the offending toilet.  Cue the sudden discovery by your spouse that something is wrong upstairs.  This, by the way, is next to the brown spot in the kitchen ceiling from the other kid previously trying to fill water balloons by placing them over the entire tap end, forcing the water to wash back up the space between the water pipe and the tap covering until it wets and stains the ceiling below.

 

20180210_075200.jpgIt is your last evening to pack, and you are overtired, still sick, and trying to clean, do laundry (again), deal with dramas, back up all your life’s work so you don’t risk losing it if anything happens to your laptop (because you stupidly think will all that spare time while you are up hours before everyone else every morning on vacation you will have time for writing), and attempt to pack your stuff, finally.  Only, the evening is gone before you know it, you have accomplished little if anything, the house is still a mess, you are still doing laundry, and EVERYONE HAS GONE TO BED WITHOUT YOU.

 

Oh yeah, and you still have to pack all your stuff for the week, but you can’t because everyone went to bed.

 

Vacation day!  You are not sure what time you went to bed.  Eleven?  Eleven-thirty?  You are up at two am because you are supposed to be ready to leave the house by 4 am.  Showered, dressed, and dolled up.  Your brain is mush.  You know you are forgetting a thousand things.  You have half an hour to pack.  You are constantly being interrupted despite your pleas of, “Let me pack!”  Your spouse is trying their best to help.  You gather stuff, set it down, turn, and it is gone. Your spouse packed it in their bag.  At this point you are now packing without knowing what you actually packed.  You can’t find anything because your brain is mush.  You will take stock of everything you are missing when you get there.

 

20180208_194931You will get there to find that you are missing basic essentials like deodorant, hair brush, and a toothbrush.  You will spend an exorbitant amount of money buying two of the three at the little resort store, only to find halfway through the vacation it was packed in your spouse’s suitcase.

 

After arrival and after going through the customs security screening and passing through the door of “Thou Shall Not Go Back”, the thirteen-year-old discovers she left her phone in the bathroom on the other side.  Being stupid Canadian tourists they let us through and watch in confusion as I scurry with her to retrieve the lost phone.  Later we learned how terrified our handler was that we committed such serious a faux pas, and we speculated was possibly shocked we were not arrested for it.

 

20180210_112138.jpgThe vacation.  Day one, everyone wakes up cranky.  Everyone is moody, miserable, and fighting.  The beds and pillows actually inflict pain; they are so bad.  But, once settled in, each person has the time to start living the moment instead of only reacting to a fast paced series of reactionary moments.

 

While on the drive from the airport to the resort the previous evening, you are taking in the world the local people live in through the bus window, your kids, who are sitting much closer to the front of the bus, are noticing how rude, insensitive, and disrespectful they feel some of our fellow vacationers are being towards the travel guide whose job it is to get everyone to their hotels.

 

20180209_153704.jpgWe are in a place where the local population is predominantly dark skinned.  You notice how kind and friendly all of the people working there are, how some struggle with the language barriers between them and their guests, but they still do their best to help.  Your kids, however, whose sole experience with different people in your other raced neighborhood is what they learned in school about the history of black slavery, are feeling weird and at odds over watching all these dark-skinned staff serving the predominantly white guests.  They question the appropriateness of it, not understanding it is so only because of the nature of the local population’s demographics.

 

20180210_103428(0).jpgDuring one dinner, while you are observing the strange behavior at the next table, your spouse is observing a very different scene behind you.  The table next to you, a larger group, are taking turns politely clapping each person as if each is taking a turn quietly sharing some life affirming moment.  The moment feels almost cultish to you, and you wonder if this is some sort of retreat for some group.  Your spouse reaches across the table, touches your hand to get your attention, and looks you in the eyes.

“Get ready to move fast, there is going to be a fight behind you and I think it will be ugly.”

You glance quickly at your teen sitting next to you and then at the couple quietly arguing being hind you, just at the moment the whispered argument gets louder.  The wife was very inebriated, and the husband not.

We each had a very different memory of that dinner.

 

Naturally, being a vacation of the sort we have not been on in years and may not again for years to come, everyone has to take a turn being sick.  Another wrench thrown into that perfect vacation.  Another drama, another obstacle to overcome.  I have to say, I don’t know when I felt a sickness like that.  After the vomiting the large ball of discomfort settles in to take up permanent residence in your stomach.  You are cold and hot.  Every inch of your muscles and skin hurts.  The weight of your body against the mattress is agony.  Even the feather weight of the light sheets is pain.  Luckily we packed a pharmacy.

At one point, as I lay there, my spouse thought he saw bruising.  It was only shadow.  I said I had the lividity.  That now I know what dying feels like and it hurts like hell. That I am now The Walking Dead and if I didn’t feel like such crap I would probably be eating everyone.  My spouse called me a dork.

 

20180210_075334.jpgOf course, the vacation was not all bad.  Kids and teens, being who they are, were in a constant flux between getting along and annoying each other.  Anyone with teens knows how little you see them when they start hiding in their rooms.  And, with work and kids, how little time a couple actually has together.  We had eight full days, including travel both ways, of all four of us being together 24/7, getting reacquainted with each other.  That was through good and bad, sickness (literally, with us taking turns being up all night vomiting), and health.  We still like each other.

 

20180211_144645.jpgThe trip home.  The plan was to have everything packed and cleaned up the night before and ready to go.  Everyone is up, showered, dressed, and last bit packed with lots of time to haul our stuff to the front lobby, get lunch, and hop on the bus to the airport.  Easy.  No fuss, no muss.

The reality; okay that actually did sort of work out for us.  Not so much for the other family with two small boys who were on the wrong time zone.  They missed the mandatory check out time, thus incurring the wrath of the forewarned late checkout surcharges.  The bus did wait for them while they hurriedly put their two small boys on the bus and scurried off to hastily pack all their belongings and race back to the bus.

It also presumably did not work out so well for the others who our vacation company on-site liaison, bus driver, and hotel staff were unable to locate.  They missed the bus.  All but one eventually made it to the airport, where we all looked at each other wondering what fate befell the mysterious man they kept paging over the intercom to make his way immediately to our boarding gate.

 

20180211_105331.jpgGoing through customs is its own experience.  Leaving Canada, the fourteen-year-old was randomly selected for the “sniff test”.  Yes, apparently they had to make sure a fourteen-year-old girl was not carrying or recently in contact with cocaine.  I, being the concerned parent, laughed at her plight.  The Canadian customs staff were typically Canadian, indulgent and kind about it.

And then there was the phone in the bathroom incident on arrival, which we teased the thirteen-year-old about and told her that her father would have had to contact the Canadian embassy or consular service or whatever they have there to have our government try to negotiate our release from a foreign country prison.

Coming home, we learned while in line to check our luggage that the rules for carrying going the opposite way are different.  We hastily shifted items from our carry on to our checked luggage.  On the way to security I ended up having to throw out my chapped lip stick because that apparently is illegal.  Every man woman and child went through a cursory pat down.  The Dominican customs people were all very understanding and kind while processing all of us.

On arrival in Canada, and after a slightly bumpy landing, it is time to breathe a sigh of relief.  It is over.  You are home.  Cue laughter.

We are in the back quarter of the plane.  Naturally, disembarking is done from the front to the back.  Everyone is collecting their stuff from the overhead compartments and beneath the seat in front of them, committing incredible acts of acrobatics trying to squeeze through the ten-inch aisle with their stuff to the front of the plane, and stumbling numbly down the tunnel ramp on legs and buttocks that are no longer functional after a more than six-hour flight trapped in tiny uncomfortable seats with their legs pressed to their chins.

20180211_144010.jpgLiterally, with the last of the rest of the plane passengers passing through the door at the end before us into the great terminal beyond, an airport worker hurriedly rushes to the door and closes it in our faces.  We, and our fellow back of the plane passengers, are left staring dumbly at him as he motions us to stay and runs off through the secondary set of doors.  We look at each other.  There are a few nervous chuckles.  We are literally in a dry aquarium.  A glass-walled prison with no way out except to race back to the plane, whose door is presumably closed by now, and no place to shelter.  Is there some sort of airport security event?  Should we be afraid?  But, this is Canada, so the worst it might be is that someone forgot to say please and thank you.

After some moments of the same man who locked us in and another worker looking around in confusion, the other trying his swipe card on some random card swiper at a desk through doors the rest of the plane did not disembark through, a third airport worker came along and let us through.

20180211_143714.jpgAt last, we are home.  Or at least on the last leg of home, driving home with a slight detour that involved going in completely the opposite direction of home for some distance before realizing we are going the wrong way, and made it home.

The vacation, naturally, does not end there.  Because now you have to catch up at work and do all the other post-vacation stuff.  But the real story has already ended and that stuff happens after you cut to end story.

 

And that, my friends, is how an unexciting vacation story becomes filled with obstacles and drama.  Real life throws a wrench in things and so must you when you write your story.

 

While we were all in this together through various stages, every person would have had their own unique perspective and experience.

 

There is more to the story, of course.  The monkey on the beach, the walk off-resort through a possibly sketchy area, and the salami taxi.  But that is the fine details you flesh out later in your story.

 

Now, if I were to re-write this from each person’s perspective, each would tell a very different story.

 

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You are here:  The Intangible World of the Literary Mind

This blog is about writing, being an author, and life.

 

LV Gaudet, author

This blog is for the fans of dark fiction, those stories that slither softly into your dreams in the night to turn them dark and foul.

 

 

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