Mel Sterling

Stories

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TRUEHEART COVER REVEAL!

It’s here, it’s here! I can’t tell you how excited I am to show you the nearly final draft of the ebook cover for Trueheart, which will be available in mid-January 2016. Trueheart is the first book in a new dark fantasy romance series, Portland After Dark.

Trueheart ebook cover

TRUEHEART: Book 1 of Portland After Dark

Cover design by Skyla Dawn Cameron of Indigo Chick Designs.

Here’s the back-cover copy for the print version (coming spring, 2016).

Loyalty. Desperation. Grief.

Eight months ago a mysterious drug killed Tess Gordon’s brother, and now it’s spreading through her rehab counseling clients. They all claim they’re not addicted, the drug leaves no trace except its drained victims, and the cops aren’t interested. Aching with loss, Tess vows to find the source. What she finds instead is Thomas.

Slavery. Duty. Enchantment.

Thomas, the half-fae guardian of the goblin market, has plenty of problems—and just got another one. Pressed into the service of the Unseelie Queen, all he wants is his freedom. But Tess won’t go away, and the human girl is in way over her head.

One perilous late-autumn night, the fae and human worlds collide. Tess’s and Thomas’s separate tasks are inextricably tangled. Now, a half-fae and a human rehab counselor must walk the knife-edge of obligation, love, death and transformation–with the entire Unseelie Court, including the malevolent Wild Hunt, out for their blood.

Welcome to Portland, After Dark…

You’ll be able to read the first chapter of Trueheart in a sneak peek in fellow-author Grace Draven’s newsletter later this week. Sign up for Grace’s newsletter here: Sign me up!

Back to normal.

Early this week, I did our quarterly business taxes. This meant I had some filing to do, which in turn meant I needed to move the two boxes of books that have been stacked next to my desk for … a long time. I put the two boxes in an entirely different room. I liked having the space next to me. It was an improvement.

I did not realize what a trauma this would be for Fluffy White Cat, who has used the boxes as a convenient Next-to-the-Monkey sleeping platform for months. He spent the first day of No Boxes zooming into my office, preparing to vault to the top of the boxes, where he would then get skritches and pets and lubs and purr himself to sleep. But the absence of the boxes meant that instead he looked around in sad confusion, then spent time stropping himself against my legs and wiping his cold wet nose on my bare skin (you’ve all heard the “no pants” legend of writers, yes?).

Eighteen times a day, Fluffy White Cat would come in and insist on being hoisted into my arms for a cuddle, interrupting my concentration and work flow.

After three days of this stress and drama, I couldn’t stand it anymore. This morning I put back the two boxes. It wasn’t two minutes before Fluffy White Cat came skidding in, leaped to the top of the boxes, and flopped down with a paw out to ask for skritches.

Life’s back to normal, as far as he’s concerned. I’m just glad to be able to write a page or two without having to drop everything to comfort His Floofiness.

Cats.

Spore print!

First time for everything. Yesterday, I made a spore print from a large white mushroom in our lawn. It was probably a Leucoagaricus leucothites ( http://www.mushroomexpert.com/leucoagaricus_leucothites.html ). It did share a number of characteristics of the deadly Destroying Angel mushroom, except the biome in which it grew was lawn, and there’s not an oak for a mile.

No, I did not eat it. I am not THAT confident of my fledgling wild-foraged mushroom identification skills.

If the spore print had been a little more tidy, I’d have photographed it, because those are sure nifty. I’ll try again with a different cap that’s not sodden with rain.

To make a spore print — if you’re not sure what color the spores will be, center the mushroom’s cap over a sheet of black paper half on top of a sheet of white paper. Then just wait a couple hours. You’ll begin to see the spores as they drift down. Otherwise, you can use a whole sheet of contrasting color paper, and get an interesting “fingerprint” from your mushroom. Pretty! And you can mist them with fixative and have Art. You and your munchkins could do this with any gilled or pored mushroom, such as a Portobella or porcini from the store.

In other news, looks like it’s going to be one of those days when Fluffy White Cat brings me his teddy bear (also known as Mister Bear, heavy on the Mister) all day long, wherever I am. Mister Bear has visited me once in the kitchen while I made breakfast, once here in the writing room as I answer email, and been left mournfully in the hall outside the bathroom. Closed doors, the bane of kitties everywhere.

Adventures in snippets and soundtracks

This week, friend and fellow author Grace Draven has been posting a snippet a day from my upcoming fantasy romance, Trueheart, on her Facebook page. Many thanks to Grace for the warm welcome, and to her readership for their kind and fun and supportive comments. I’ll link you here to all those posts, if you’re curious and would like to sample some of my writing.

Snippets:
Day #1 (Link to Facebook snippet day 1)
Day #2 (Link to Facebook snippet day 2)
Day #3 (Link to Facebook snippet day 3)
Day #4 (Link to Facebook snippet day 4)
Day #5 (Link to Facebook snippet day 5)

And now, on to the meat of this post! Most of my books “grow” a soundtrack. True to form, Trueheart grew one. Below I’ve listed the songs and their artists, and a link to a video or sound file where I was able to find one. The soundtracks come from my personal music collection, which is pretty eclectic. Each song is on the soundtrack for a reason, whether that’s only to help me create a mood in myself as I sit down to write that book, or to help me recapture an emotion in the book and cue me to the book visuals in my mind-movie. It’s pretty typical for me to create a CD or playlist that goes with me on walks or drives, so that I can continue to think — whether consciously or subconsciously — about that book. Words come that way!

Here’s that playlist. Enjoy!

The Glory of Love – Peter Cetera. Because every book needs a 1980s power ballad to…uh, power it. (Link to YouTube video)

Ashes and Wine – A Fine Frenzy. A moody song to set a particular tone.
(Link to YouTube video)

The Skin I’m In – Gavin Rossdale A Thomas song, since he’s not always wearing his own skin.
(Link to YouTube video)

I Can’t Make You Love Me – George Michael cover. A Tess song. She wants to be someone special, she simply doesn’t know how.
(Link to YouTube video)

The Shade of Poison Trees – Dashboard Confessional. Because every book needs a choked-up emo boy song about how awful it is to live in fairyland in the enchanted shade of poison trees.
(Link to YouTube video)

The Devil Never Sleeps – Iron and Wine. The frenzy of a goblin market.
(Link to YouTube video)

Only for Love: Theme from “The Banquet” – Tan Dun. So stunningly, swooningly, sweepingly romantic. Melancholy, weeping for lost love, and regret sound the same the world over. If you click no other link in this post, click this one, and listen to this amazing music. The movie is worth watching, too. So gorgeously filmed.
(Link to YouTube video)

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room – John Mayer. A Tess and Thomas song, about the futility of their relationship.
(Link to YouTube video)

Guardian Angel – Juno Reactor. The exciting downtown chase scene after dark.
(Link to YouTube video)

We Might As Well Be Strangers – Keane. Relationship song. Yeah, I don’t even know.
(Link to YouTube video)

Everything – Lifehouse. This song is on the soundtrack for one line of lyric and how the vocalist delivers it: How can I stand here with you, and not be moved by you? So sweetly sad.
(Link to YouTube video)

Heart of Glass – Old School Freight Train. These folks turn Blondie’s disco staple into something bittersweet and dark, simply by slowing it down and introducing a minor key. It’s bluegrass, but not as we know it, Jim. (Link to YouTube video)

Dreaming with a Broken Heart – John Mayer. So sue me, I’m a Mayer fan. Occasionally his catchy hooks really sink deep. (Link to YouTube video)

Only for Love reprise – From “The Banquet” – Tan Dun. Instrumental only. Lush flute and piano. For me, this track is a perfect example of how music communicates a true emotion, even without a human voice and lyrics. (Not that I’ve overthought this or anything!)

Gold Dust – Tori Amos. Because every book needs an orchestra to back its piano solo. And also because this song is about grabbing for something extraordinary with both hands, and finding nothing but dust by morning.
(Link to YouTube video)

Love Pirates – Paula Sinclair & Uncle Tumbleweed. The upswing at the end of the book, with just that edge of darkness that makes the brightness light. And for the Joseph Millar line, “…having stolen a truckload of roses and thrown them into the sea.” Paula’s strictly a local phenomenon and hasn’t got any tracks up on YouTube. The only link I could find requires a sign-up, and I won’t bother myself or you with that.

Autumn: It’s not just fruit ripening…

Last month it was stink bugs. Stink bugs everywhere, and it seems like all of them were loitering just outside our kitchen door. Waiting for the door to open, so they could zip inside the house and then cruise like unwieldy zeppelins through the rooms, crashing against walls, driving cats crazy, landing in my hair and making me scream like a little girl while dancing like I’m on live coals.

Today, I see six box elder bugs climbing the east side of our house. Stage Two Invasion has begun.

At least the ladybug invasion seems to have passed us by this year. Those little bugs are smelly when you upset them, no matter how good they are for gardens. For whatever reason, for three years running they congregated in our laundry room (dryer vent access? We have no idea).

And of course, the orb weavers. EVERYWHERE. This morning, no less than three of them have secured the truck to the carport with their webs. How does a spider no bigger than a pencil eraser manage to sling a 30-foot anchor cable 10 feet up in the air?

Bugs are fascinating, y’all.

Spam user registration

Hi Everybody,

Just a quick post. I’ve been getting buried with spammy user registrations for the past two weeks, so I’ve deleted every user on the site except for those of you I know in person or who have commented and revealed themselves as real people.

I’ve also disabled new registration for the moment. If you REALLY want to register for the site, just drop me an email and I’ll set up a user account for you and send you the info.

Meanwhile, I apologize, but to save my sanity and to keep the ‘bots away, I’ve had to take these steps. You can also find me on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/?q=#/mel.sterling.1 ) for more regular, silly content.

Thanks, all!
Mel

Sunday with Red Tailed Hawk

I was just musing about how eventful my life seems these days, that I’m moving from one outlandish story to the next. But I suppose that’s how everyone’s life is; it’s just that people who write find story handles on everything. In a long line at the grocery store? There’s comedy in the coupon follies two customers ahead of you, or like the time at Costco, when someone in front of me had the attendant ring up her toddler, who was wearing a pair of pants from the clothing section. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a raconteur, everything looks like a story.

I digress, though. I came here to tell you a story about a red tailed hawk.

Saturday was a blustery day here in SW Washington. Lots of blow-down everywhere; branches, leaves, fir needles, twigs. As I was headed down to The Coop to tend The Coopers Sunday morning, I had in mind opening their pen to let them out to peck and scratch and explore. But something was wrong at The Coop. Nobody was out in the annex, as we call the outdoor pen, and in fact, Eastwood the rooster was making the alarm cluck call, with falsetto backup vocals from Zorro the bantam.

I thought at first there was just a big swatch of old bark or something resting against the annex fence, but as I got closer, it looked a lot like feathers. My heart sank. I thought something bad had happened to one of my hens, so I hurried.

It wasn’t a hen. It was a hawk, tangled in the netting that surrounds the annex fence to a height of about 10 feet, to discourage the local accipiters and raptors from swooping down for a chicken dinner. (I believe firmly that humans have overly domesticated our domestic animals. Since we have bred their survival instincts out of them, it is our responsibility to assure their safety. Hence the netting. Sorry, Mr. Hawk. Our goals are in conflict.)

As I got closer, I saw the bird’s head move.

He was alive, but exhausted and wounded, and soaked through from the heavy rains. I had no way of knowing how long he’d been there. An hour? Overnight? On the ground beneath him was a very wet and very dead and very large rat, who had probably been intended for breakfast. (Yay, and thank you, Mr. Hawk.)

Rather than feed The Coopers right away, since they were rightly and obviously still disturbed by the predator hanging outside their fenced run, I went back up the hill and gathered necessary equipment. Leather gloves. A pair of blunt-tipped scissors. A grocery tote made of dark cloth to put over the bird to help calm him down and eventually carry him up to the house.

I tell you, those grocery totes are great for EVERYTHING. Even temporary hawk portage.

I got a good look at the hawk, who was thoroughly entangled in the netting. He’d been cut by it, too, and one wing stretched out and down as if he were too exhausted even to retract it. I got the scissors and began, slowly, to trim some of the net away. Once I got his feet free, I brought the open bag up beneath him in preparation for cutting enough net to let him slip into the bag. The hawk wasn’t even panting, he was so distressed and exhausted. That had me worried. Was I too late? Would it be kinder to deliver a coup-de-grace, not let him suffer? Nevertheless, I cut the last few strands, bundled the bag up over the bird, and tied the handles shut.

Then up the hill we went. The hawk didn’t move at all. In the house, I slid the bag into a kitty carrier and turned it inside out to leave the hawk free inside the carrier.

He just laid there, breathing shallowly. I snipped a few more bits of netting away, but I was afraid to do much more in case he should suddenly revive, and I didn’t want to hurt him worse. I had a healthy respect for those talons and that beak. I closed the carrier and called my spouse, asking him to cut a lodge breakfast short to come help me get the hawk to a local rescue organization (Portland Audubon Society’s Wildlife Care Center). My own county has a wildlife care center, but only for squirrels.

The people at the WCC were very kind and gentle with the red tailed hawk. The vet carefully clipped away the rest of the netting, then checked the hawk’s wings and legs for breaks and dislocations. He was sound. But clearly he’d been hurt, and he was shocky. They put him in a warm, quiet place to let him recover, and after that, they’ll see what can be done for him. He wasn’t actively bleeding, and the wetness on his feathers was only rain. His left wing did have damaged skin and feathers. He’ll need some recovery time. The staff cautioned us about something called “capture myopathy,” which is a sort of death-by-terror (if you’re a hare or other prey animal), or a death-by-handling if you’re a predator.

After we watched the vet assess the hawk and put him in the warming box, we watched her force-feed a tiny saw-whet owl a few gobbets of bloody something-or-other. One of the volunteers said the hurt owl hadn’t eaten in three days, and the vet had no choice but to poke a little protein down its gullet. In other cages were a grebe, a vulture, a kestrel, and something behind a calming privacy towel with a note that said “Flight Risk” pinned to it.

We are worried for the hawk, even though it seemed his injuries weren’t critical. But overall, Boy Scout and I felt positive about the hawk’s condition–we’d found him in time, and done the right thing in bringing him to the center for care. Let’s hope he recovers and can be returned to the wild.

I’ll keep you posted.

Honest, Officer, it wasn’t me! When fiction and reality collide.

I don’t know how many of you have ever worked retail. Show of hands?

Before we bought our bookstore, the closest I’d come was back in college, when I worked as a clinic aide. I washed a million towels, filled and cleaned hundreds of whirlpool tubs, changed miles of exam bed paper, and learned not to ask patients “So how are you today?” because they’d tell me. In great detail. Clinic work taught me a lot about people, but it didn’t prepare me for the actualities of retail. Things happen in retail that would never happen anywhere else, and let me tell you: the stories from nine years of bookselling would fill a book.

So naturally when it came time to write another romantic suspense (my book Latimer’s Law came out with Harlequin this past May–links and more at the bottom of this post), I turned to my richest source of material: our bookstore.

I skipped over the wild and wooly characters, like the young woman who, late one evening, pocketed one of our business cards and announced, “I’m going to tape a quarter to this and use it in the time-travel machine.” She said it in all seriousness. I passed on the week a squirrel lived in our drop-ceiling and drove the store cat utterly demented, while eating all the peanut butter I’d put in the humane trap and never tripping the trap’s door. Instead, I focused on things that might be suspenseful about the day-to-day of a bookstore.

My spouse, known as Boy Scout in these parts, has a number of pals in law enforcement here in the local area. When our store had some books we’d mailed to the local jail rejected and returned, we talked to our contacts and asked why. Turns out books are easily adulterated–pages saturated with illicit drugs, items slipped inside the books’ boards, the boards themselves sharpened into shivs (a knife made of cardboard. Think about it.). A little research led me to other ideas and the book, my current work-in-progress titled Wordless, was off and running.

What I didn’t expect was how, sometimes, fiction becomes reality.

Last Saturday, it was business as usual, with the added fillip of my writing partner, Lilith Saintcrow stopping by to sign store stock of her books. While Lili was there, the mailman came in with a box. But the mailman pointed out that the box had been sent from our old Main Street address, priority mail to some person in Oregon. It had been returned, and the post office dug up our four-year-old forwarding address.

The mailman said, “Is this your store? The package couldn’t be delivered in Oregon.”

I thought the return address was odd, but it’s not actually unprecedented. On occasion review copies of books sent by a publisher have come with from and to addresses both being our store address. Unusual, to be sure, but since something similar had happened before, I thought, sure, not a problem, I’ll take the box, someone’s probably just confused.

I was curious, anyway. A besetting sin and pretty much constant state of being for any writer. Curiosity is the engine that writes the books. What happens next? We’ve got to know.

Lili and I sat at the coffee table and I started working on the box, which was taped within an inch of its life. I cut it open.

Inside the box was another box, also taped. Every opening or crack, completely sealed by plastic masking tape.

This SHOULD have set off the warning bells, but I swear, I am like a terrier with a package. Besides, some booksellers are a bit over-the-top about packaging their books. Even though it wasn’t my handwriting on the label, and we don’t use that kind of shipping materials. I knew we hadn’t sent the box.

But like I said, terrier. So I got to work on the next box. Cut tape. Pulled. Finally opened the box.

Inside was a heavy mylar bag, with something round, the size of a 40 oz. coffee can inside it.

About this time, Lili said, “Maybe we should call the cops. This seems really strange.”

Now, I’m usually the conservative half in the odd couple made of Lili and me. But hell. Now I’m thinking this is a joke from someone, and I laughed and said, “I’ll bet inside this is another box, and another, and finally there won’t be anything at all. Just boxes.”

The mylar bag was taped, too. Me and my trusty scissors got it open.

Inside that was a silver can, like a paint bucket without a handle, taped once again like someone was trying to keep a demon inside. The top of the can had even been sealed down with some of that foam spray insulation, before the lid was put on.

Lili said, “Stop, Mel.”

I went and got the can opener, rather than trying to pry open the lid, and took off the bottom. Inside, double-bagged in ziplocs, was a not-insignificant amount of a stinky herbal substance, about the size and volume of a folded pair of knee-high tube socks.

At this point Lili said, firmly, “Now you have to call the cops.”

My hands were suddenly cold and shaky. Terrier or not, I’m a pretty straight arrow. Hell. I don’t even know HOW to call the cops! So I dialed 911 and explained to the operator that this was not an emergency, but that I did need the police to come and deal with a suspicious package.

The operator asked me what I meant, so I tried explaining the whole crazy scenario to her, finishing up with “…I think it’s pot in there. I mean, I don’t know what pot smells or looks like, not really, but this is definitely herbal.”

She said, “Does it smell spunky?”

At least, that’s what I heard her say. I said, “Spunky? What does spunky smell like?” and that’s when I think Lili started to lose it. Her eyes got bright and sparkly and she half turned away, covering her mouth. Laughing, the stinker. Naturally, I’m moderately terrified. I have a LARGE BAG OF POT in my store, in a box that makes it look like it was mailed from my old location, which, hey, ME AGAIN. And of course my fingerprints were all over everything.

The operator said, “No, skunky. Like the stinky animal.”

“Oh. SKUNKY. Yes, it does. A very pungent odor.” It occurs to me that 911 calls are recorded. It’s out there for posterity, y’all. I bet she turned to her cubemate and said, “You’ve GOT to hear THIS ONE.”

“We’ll send the police around.”

While I was talking with the operator, Lili went outside and called Boy Scout, who was not far away, doing whatever it is Freemasons do on a Saturday morning. Then she called her daughter, to let her know she’d be here for quite some while longer. Since Lili was my witness, and I kind of needed someone to remind me I was not the criminal here.

Boy Scout arrived not long after, and right behind him came his Mason friend Skip. (All names changed to protect the innocent Masons, haha.) Then behind Skip came Terry, and someone named Sam, and Skip’s son Bob.

I said to Boy Scout, “HOW MANY DAMNED MASONS DID YOU BRING?”

Boy Scout said, “They heard there was a problem at the bookstore. They came to help.”

They came to gawk, frankly. I’m sure Boy Scout hung up from talking with Lili and announced to the lodge room at large, “SOMEONE MAILED MEL A BOX OF WEED. GOTTA GO.” And along they all came, like the Keystone Cops, piling out of a clown car.

Somewhere in there, the nice officer arrived, and I went through the whole rigmarole again, explaining about the address label and how it was from our old location, but WE didn’t mail this box. Explaining that sometimes we got books mailed to that location by publishers who didn’t know we had moved, and the post office is nice enough to try to track us down even after 4 years, which they did in this case.

The cop stood there listening, his thumbs hooked in his Kevlar vest, rocking back on his heels. They must teach cops special body language for dealing with nervous booksellers. I explained I’d opened the box, and the box inside that, and the bag inside the box, and the can inside the bag, but that I hadn’t opened the CLEARLY HERBAL PACKAGE INSIDE THE CAN. And was it pot? I asked at last.

“Can’t you smell it?” the cop asked, like I was a doofus.

“Sure, but…I don’t know what pot smells like.” Seriously, I don’t. I’ve never even inhaled a cigarette, much less pot. Lili often laughs at how sheltered my life has been.

The cop just looked at me and stood there spraddle-legged. I could hear the unspoken, “Uh huh, riiiiiiiiight.”

A little discussion ensued, some back-and-forth between Lili and the cop. They were debating relative quantities of the herb in the box, and Lili said, “Oh yeah. Definitely more than an ounce.”

The cop narrowed his eyes and said, “I see I’ve found the expert here.”

You can’t faze Lili that easily, but I was a whole lot more nervous about this whole situation than she was. She announced, “I have KIDS, I need to KNOW these things.”

I interrupted before Lili could get us all arrested for sarcasming an officer, with “What happens next?”

The cop called back to base and got a case number, made a few notes on a pad. Asked for my identification. Wrote a few things down. Got my business card. Then he put the can inside the bag, and the bag inside the box, and the box inside the other box, and closed it up.

Then the Freemasons started in, seeing how the cheap entertainment was pretty much over with, since I wasn’t apparently going to be led away in cuffs. “So what do they have you guys carrying these days? Glock, Sig?”

“40 caliber?”

“Pretty much whatever we like. I’ve got a Sig. I like Sigs.”

There was about five minutes of gun bullshit amongst Skip, who used to work corrections, Boy Scout, and the cop, with Sam and Terry sitting with their eyes out on sticks. I finally interrupted again and said, “OK, all this gun talk is fun, but NOW what happens?”

The cop said, “Well, now I take this box with me, and we turn this over to the postal inspector, because while they could legally ship pot in-state here in Washington, they can’t send it over state lines. This is a federal matter now.”

And he left.

Then Boy Scout looked at me, grinning like a pest, and I yelled, “YOU KNOW THE BOOK I’M WRITING NOW IS ABOUT MAIL FRAUD AND A BOOKSTORE, RIGHT? WHO’S PRANKING ME???”

Boy Scout said, “Why would someone do THAT? That’s a lot of money just to prank you.”

The rest of the Masons looked confused, so I explained the general plot of Wordless, that it had started as a suspense novel about mailing adulterated books with contraband to a jail. Which got us onto book talk, and one of the Masons has written a children’s book for rude adults called “Mommy Found a Crusty Sock” (I AM NOT KIDDING YOU GUYS IT WAS AWESOME and kind of icky) and wanted Lili to look at it and hook him up with her publisher…

I just…don’t even. I really don’t. If the person who mailed the package paid with a check or credit card, the cops will find him. But it seems unlikely. Cash would be the only way to go in this instance. But the guy whose address the package was originally mailed to? HIM they might find pretty soon. So there are threads for law enforcement to pull.

And that was my Saturday. Honest. I have witnesses. You can’t make this shit up and put it in fiction. No one would believe you. But real life? It’s as fantastic as taping a coin to a business card and using it for time travel.

In case you’re curious…
Latimer's Law thumbnail
Latimer’s Law
Available May 6, 2014 (Stand-alone title, romantic suspense)
Harlequin.com
Barnes & Noble.com
Amazon.com

Suspense or Mystery?

Today is the day I start reading the current work-in-progress from top to bottom, and creating an actual synopsis, as opposed to the fake one I’ve been pretending to follow as I draft.

You see, it turns out that all this time, I’ve been writing a mystery, and not only romantic suspense. You’d think I’d have known that from the start, but you’d be wrong. Each new book teaches you how to write that book. And each new book will surprise you just when you think you have a handle on it.

Mysteries require lots of internal structure, scaffolding, logic, and clues that hang together. Romantic suspense requires action, danger, suspense, and intensely romantic elements. That’s not to say a mystery can’t be romantic, or that it can’t be suspenseful. It’s just that this particular romantic suspense has the bones of a mystery hidden inside it.

Thus, I have managed to break the book as I pantsed it.

I have another 10K words to fix it, and I can do it. But it’s time to look back and see what I’ve really done, not just what sweeping romantic scenes were in my head and might still get written. It’s got to work as an organic whole, not a series of vignettes with an edge of suspense.

I use Scrivener as my primary writing tool for most larger projects (the size of novellas and up), so its tools should facilitate this process. After the synopsis is complete, I’ll walk it through and see what’s missing, misleading, unneeded or broken, and fix that.

Meanwhile, there are those glamorous day to day chores to be done, some geese to be fed, and a couple of cats who need attention, before I head off to the day job.

On goosing: Who does it, and why?

Heloise the goose

Heloise greets the morning

Every morning I troop down the hill to feed The Coopers. Here’s Heloise the goose, looking to see what delicacies I’ve brought. (Sorry for the image quality; cell phone camera and active subject and sun glare.)

Yesterday, I brought the poultry bread, cubed into crouton-sized bites. The geese love bread more than anything else I bring the poultry, except for perhaps watermelon. They can spot a sack of bread at 100 paces, from the moment I exit the back door and start down the hill. The noise geese make when they’re excited about something is phenomenal, far louder than the “mutter mutter mutter” of the two drakes.

As I scattered the croutons, I watched the geese take turns keeping the chickens away from the bread. Bread is for geese! Not those other feathered denizens. While Heloise (my hen goose) nibbled at a couple of bread cubes, Abelard (my gander) “goosed” all comers, with snaky jabs from his bill and long neck. The hens always respond with startled squawks and hustle away with their feathery bustles … er, rustling and bustling. (Editorial aside: the longer I look at “rustle, bustle, and hustle” the more wrong their spelling seems. Some words are like that.) Then Abelard had a few bites, while Heloise assumed the guard stance and thrust a few hens away with her own beak.

That’s goosing. Yeah, I know what you thought when you first saw the title of this post. *wink*

So now you know. It’s the little things that make a day good.

In the book hopper right now: Susan Vreeland’s The Forest Lover, T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (reread), and Shannon McKenna’s Blood and Fire.

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