Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Design-Your-Cover Blog Hop!

Designing a book cover is something indie authors stress over a lot--even if they hire someone else to do the cover art. Giving the artist a clear idea of what you want (heck, even having a clear idea to begin with) in order to draw readers' interest is a big, scary thing. Designing one yourself when you aren't a graphic artist can be even more daunting, but some people like to have a basic cover design to look at, to keep them motivated while they write: thus the advent of the Design-a-Cover Blog Hop, hosted by Teralyn Rose Pilgrim at her blog (check it out to learn how to sign up).

Though I've played around with cover ideas for other books, the only one I've designed so far was for Blank Slate, so that's the one I'm entering. I get so many comments on this cover, I can't even tell you! There are bound to be lots of great entries, so go to the blog site above and vote for your favorite three.
You can vote in the linky list below: Mine is #14.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

As the world turns more and more toward social media, writers struggle to find a way to connect with people and get the word out about their latest projects, to meet others who are like us and move forward in the quickly shifting landscape of publishing. Lucky for us, there are people like Rachel Harrie, who is organizing a campaign for writers to network and make new friends--and hopefully to have some fun along the way. Over the next couple of months I'm going to join in (along with over four-hundred others, so far).

There's still time to join. The sign-up list closes tomorrow, the 31st at midnight EST and things are already rolling along, so hurry while there's still time. Pop by Rachel's blog to learn more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Awesome August Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Awesome August Blog Hop, where bloggers from all over the Internet have come together to throw a summertime party!

Every blog on this hop is offering a fun prize, and entering is quick and easy. Simply follow the instructions on each blog, leave a comment, and bop right along to the next blog. You can win multiple times, so be sure to check out all the participating blogs!

On my blog, you can win Janette Rallison's book One Wish. If you haven't read her stories before, you're missing out. She's terrific!

To enter:

1. Become a follower of my blog.

2. Go to my Facebook author page and click 'like.'

3. Leave me a comment and tell me that you've done both things. If your e-mail isn't available through your profile, I'll need you to leave that, too - I can't tell you if you've won if I can't contact you!

This blog hop runs through Wednesday night at midnight, so be sure to enter before then! The winner will be notified by e-mail.

Now that you've entered my contest, come meet all my other blog friends and see what fun things they are offering!

Awesome August Blog Hop Participants
1. Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author
2. Karen Hoover
3. Michael Young
4. Kristy Tate
5. Cindy Hogan
6. Julie Bellon
7. Margot Hovley Laurie Lewis
9. Mandi Slack
10. Melanie Jacobson
11. Joyce DiPastena
12. Renae Mackley
13. Debbi Weitzell
14. Donna Hatch
15. Carolyn Frank
16. Marsha Ward
17. Stacy Coles
18. Bonnie Harris
19. Danyelle Ferguson aka Queen of the Clan
20. Diony George
21. Lisa Asanuma
22. Susan Dayley
23. Christine Bryant @ Day Dreamer
24. Stephanie Humphreys
25. Ranee` Clark
26. Tamera Westhoff
27. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
28. Heather Justesen
29. Rebecca Talley
30. Jennifer Hurst
31. Aimee Brown
32. Cheryl Christensen
33. Rachelle Christensen
34. Imaginary Reads
35. Andrea Pearson

Learn more about Awesome August Blog Hop here.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Story Structure: Ocean Waves or Stairsteps?

I've spent quite a while mulling over one of my writing projects lately, trying to decide what wasn't working. Now don't get me wrong, the characters are terrific (if I do say so myself), the set up is good, the chemistry between all of the players is working nicely, but I still felt like something wasn't working quite right.

Then it hit me--I have plenty of conflict but it looks like ocean waves instead of a set of stairs.

You see, for conflict to push the characters to the end of the book, you have to keep upping the ante. Ocean wakes may have some nice crests, but the conflict comes back down again to a former level (or close).

Stair steps on the other hand keep building upward. One conflict stacks on top of the next until you reach the crisis at the end--and it keeps the reader riveted in their seats. If things don't continue to get worse for the character then the story stagnates.

Yeah, that means I need to do a little more tweaking to the story, but hopefully it'll help me make it the best it can be.

And there are just a couple more fun things from the end of my blog tour (yes, I know it was over a few weeks back but postal strikes, insane schedules and general procrastination abounded this past few weeks.

First check out the interview I did with Jennifer Walker at the blog "A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book."

Then, pop by Stitch-Read-Cook to check out the full book review Aislyn did on Blank Slate. Here's an excerpt: " This was such an incredible read-so poignant! I couldn't put this book down-I stayed up almost all night to finish this. I needed to find out what happened!"

Is there any higher praise? (The answer to that, of course, is no!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: YA fantasy "Key of Kilenya"

As a writer, I'm always on the lookout for great new books to read--and I try to read widely in lots of different genres and age groups, not just the ones I'm writing in at the time. So I was excited to be asked to participate in the blog tour for Andrea Pearson's book, Key of Kilenya. The story is about normal fourteen-year-old Jacob, who's biggest plans and dreams including making the high school JV and varsity basketball team--which is sure to be the starting point for his NBA hopes. Then he gets chased into the woods by some wolves and ends up in a totally different world inhabited by many different races of strange and magical creatures, in addition to humans.

Jacob has some special talents (as heros in fantasy novels are wont to do), though he has no idea what they are when the book begins. Instead, he takes off with a few new friends to find the key to Kilenya--which had been stolen years earlier and was held in a city from which no one had made it to and back alive since. The journey is filled with dangerous foes, treacherous forest and obstacles, and new friends made along the way--including a human girl named Aloren and the Fat Lady (yes, she goes by that, and no, she's not at all like the one in Harry Potter).

The story has great characters, plenty of danger and adventure and the beginning hints of possible future teen romance. And yes, definitely expect another volume, because while it comes to a satisfying conclusion, there is more than a hint of a second book on the horizon.

Key to Kilenya is available in ebook right now, and will be available in paper copies shortly. You can learn more about the author and her writing on her blog. You can purchase an electronic copy of her book by following this link.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writing Wednesday: More deleted scenes

Though I protested that the key fit the back door just fine, Honey dragged me around front.

In moments, I found myself sliding the key in the lock of the glass door at the front of the restaurant I hadn’t stepped foot into since before Grandma died over two years earlier.

I opened the squeaky door and looked at the light from the streetlamp slant across the counters in the old place. “You’re crazy,” I told her. What had she been thinking? This would be a pain to adapt into a bakery. There was too much seating, not even close to enough cupboard space, and I’d need to add new equipment—who knew, I might even need to upgrade the electrical. The building had been around forever

She nudged me forward and flipped on the florescent lights. They didn’t improve the view much. Now I could see the three-years-worth of dust stacked on the counters, the ancient appliances my grandmother had always seen as perfectly serviceable. Had my whole career ended here?

“Sure it needs some work, but you can get it ready in no time. It has gas, electricity, a walk-in cooler and freezer. It’s perfect.”

“You forgot to mention the ancient grill and deep fryer. And I need ovens for baking,” I pointed out. “And even if I am crazy enough to consider your idea, there’s no way I’ll be able to get paperwork in place soon enough to do the cake for Analesa’s wedding.” I rubbed my neck, feeling a headache growing at the base of my skull.

“I told you to use the kitchen at the store. It’ll work until you get the business licensing and health department inspection done here.”

The grocery store bakery would work, I supposed. At least for this one wedding cake. I still had serious doubts that starting a business of my own was a good idea. “This place is a dump.” The old orange plastic fast food tables, faded blue paint, and drooping plastic plants were great examples of the kind of d├ęcor I was not interested in.

Tara waved the comment off, and nudged me into the building so she could close the door behind her. Putting a hand on my back, she pushed me further into the kitchen. “No problem, you’ll fix it up in no time. Just think about what you could do with this place.”

I did. Once you got past the thick layer of dust, the greasy walls, the florescent light flickering on and off above the stainless steel workstation—at least some of the kitchen equipment was useable—you had drab. I’d have to either sell or junk the grill and fryer, but once they were gone, there was room for shelves, a stove top and a commercial oven. I crossed the room, checking the pantry area, walking through the fridge—which despite its emptiness, stank of spoiled hamburger—to the freezer in the back, which was tiny, but serviceable enough for the kind of business Tara had in mind. Space was tighter than I preferred, but it would be adequate for a couple of people.

It would be a stretch to make it work, but not impossible. The cash layout would take a major bite out of my savings, but at least I already owned the building. If I sold my condo in Chicago, I might be able to get by for a few years, even if the business didn’t take off.

“You see possibilities.”

“I see a nightmare,” I corrected. How long would it take to establish myself as the person to go to if locals wanted cakes, cupcakes and….cookies? I wasn’t sure just how far I wanted to expand—if I was crazy enough to do this. The more variety I offered, the more complex it would get, and then I’d be stuck hiring help. I so did not want to be an employer—supervising my dessert staff at the restaurant in Chicago had been bad enough. “Even if I could make it work in here, think of the business stuff: taxes, insurance, business licenses, inventory.” Inventory wasn’t really an issue, I’d done it before, but the rest of it was enough to have me backing away.

I turned to leave, but Tara stood in the way. “You’re more than up for the task.” She stepped forward, put a hand on my arms, which were crossed over my stomach. “Just consider it. See how things go with the wedding cake and think about it.”

Thinking about it was all I planned to do. I nodded, and was grateful when she turned back to the door.

“Just consider,” she added as the bell ringing as it bumped against the wooden frame. “Your commute time would be all of fifteen seconds.”

I know she hoped to get me to smile with her observation, but it wasn’t happening. I could already see stressed office workers pounding on my door at six a.m., frantic because they needed something special for the staff meeting that day.

A ridiculous thought, I realized. Who would ever be so desperate?

* * *

Tara stayed around for another hour before returning home to make sure George managed to get the kids in bed. I smiled goodbye to her, and was almost grateful to have the evening to consider her suggestion—as she’d reminded me to do before she left that night. I’d rarely been back to Silver Springs since I settled my Grandma’s bills and everything after the funeral. Tara had told me more than once that I was avoiding the pain, and I’d feel better if I faced it all instead of staying away.

I hadn’t believed her, but now I was home again—and wasn’t it funny that I’d already begun to think of Silver Springs as home?—I found the ache of losing my last parental figure wasn’t what I’d expected. The intense pain I’d felt last time had softened a great deal, though the bittersweet pain of being around Grandma’s things now made tears spring to my eyes and long to have a chat with her. I decided I’d make a trip to the cemetery to visit her tomorrow.

I took stock of her cupboards—my cupboards—and made a list of things I would need to buy. Even a couple of weeks would require some serious shopping, since what was left was more than two years old, which meant it would have to go in the trash. There wasn’t much anyway, as I’d purged the majority after the funeral.

The phone rang and I listened to Marry Me by Train play through until it went to voice mail. I was still avoiding Bronson’s calls. If I didn’t answer, just let him leave message after message, all of them pleading, none of them sincere, would he eventually stop? I wasn’t sure, but I thought I’d give it a try. The last thing I needed right now was to deal with him. He had been the one to pick the ringtone for his number, the cheating, lying jerk. I’d actually thought it was sweet at the time. Gag me.

Bronson was another hurt I’d have to deal with, and maybe it was why I’d had to come home again. Isn’t that what people did when they had wounds that needed licking? Go home? I was sure there must be some primal draw to this place, even if it hadn’t officially been home at any point in my life.

Despite the comforting surroundings, the knife of surprise at walking into Bronson’s office to find him kissing someone else still sheared through me when I let myself think about it. Though he’d been trying to get me to agree to marry him for months, I’d only accepted a few weeks ago. Apparently he got what he wanted and was ready to move on. That hurt, even as I hated myself for thinking maybe he had an excuse. Maybe, just maybe, we could make this work after all.

No. Ignoring the calls was best.

It was late when I headed to bed, still smelling the sweet sachets Grandma always stuck in with her linens. It permeated the clean sheets I’d pulled out of the cupboard earlier. It was almost as good as having her arms wrapped around me.

* * *

The next night as I played with gumpaste in the grocery store kitchen, I had three people approach me, asking if the rumor they’d heard—that I was opening a bakery—was true. I wasn’t sure who to blame—Analesa, Tara, or someone else—but it had me re-evaluating whether I could make a go of it in this small town. Then again, I knew the power of gossip might be strong enough to lure people to act as if they’d patronize my business, when in fact they would be far too cheap.

Still, at the end of the night, with the bases for my flowers started and left to dry, I decided to take a break, drive the mile to Tara’s house and have a few choice words with her.

George greeted me at the door. He’d always been a wild contrast to Tara—the tall, muscular white man compared to his tiny, feminine black wife. “Hey, Tess. I heard you’ve been busy at the store.” He waved me in past the collection of Lego blocks and some structure which was either in the middle of being built or torn down. Past the collection of shoes and socks in one corner, the princess costume and little-girl jewelry on the sofa and into the kitchen—every surface of which held food or dirty dishes. A laundry basket full of towels sat nearby; I had no idea if they were clean or dirty.

I thought of the tidy apartment of Grandma’s—everything in perfect order, with not a thing out of place. Despite the good memories, it didn’t feel nearly this cozy.

Tara smiled as I approached. “How’s it going?”

“Great.” I shoved my hands in the pockets of my jacket and rocked back on my heels. “How many people, exactly, did you inform about my hypothetical business?”

She fussed with unloading the clean dishes from the dishwasher, not meeting my gaze. “One or two . . . an hour.”

I tapped my foot. “While I was there? Because they saw me working and wondered what I was doing?”

She snuck a sideways look at me. “I was, um, averaging. For the day.”

“Tara!” I turned around to appeal to George, but he had melted back into one of the rooms. The smart man must have been able to sense the brewing storm. I looked again at my former best friend.

“Look, you belong here, and I’d be happy to help you send out advertisements and spread the word because, when you think about it, our customers and your customers won’t be the same very much. Because we don’t have any intention of doing wedding cakes and the like,” her face brightened as she took a deep breath, “unless you’d consider coming to work for us!”

“Not happening.” I do have some pride. Renting space in a grocery store bakery for a few nights while I put my life together was a far cry from being an employee there. And how stuck up did that make me sound?

“Then you need to start your own business.”

“Come on.” My cell phone rang and I pulled it out along with a paper I’d stuck in my pocket earlier, and looked at the Caller ID, though it wasn’t necessary. I considered putting it back unanswered. Bronson didn’t deserve the time of day, but maybe he had a question about the upcoming order specs I’d sent him. After taking a deep breath to steal me for the conversation ahead, I thumbed the send button, and held up a finger to indicate to Tara to wait. “Hey.”

“Can you explain this fax to me?” Bronson demanded.

I fought to keep my tone even, matter of fact, but as I spoke, I realized there was an edge to the words. “I would’ve thought you could read plain English. Those are the plans and directions for upcoming cakes. Whomever you hire should be able to follow them fine, but they’re welcome to call me for clarification.”

“I know you’re upset, and you have reason to be, but quit playing these games and get back in here. This cake for the Gooblers is only three days away.”

I studied my fingernails, as if feigning nonchalance that he couldn’t see would translate into sounding like I didn’t care. I had looked forward to that cake, dang it, but sometimes you don’t get everything you want. “Yes, the flowers are all ready, so you should be safe there, even if you have Lenny do the cake—though you’ll need to find someone else who has more experience for the long run. He’s a quick study, but he still has a lot to learn about working with gumpaste.”

“This is three days in a row you’ve missed work. Much more and there will be serious repercussions. I’m sorry you walked in on Karen and I, but the restaurant needs you. You’re a valuable part of the team.” His voice turned to wheedling. “Can you be here in half an hour? There’s still time to get some baking done tonight.”

Was he serious? I laughed. “That would take quite a feat, considering I’m in Silver Springs.”

He swore long and loud. “What are you doing there? Get back here.”

“Or what, you’ll fire me?” I made appropriate pantomimes of distress for Tara, who had to squelch the noise when she laughed. “You seem to have a short memory. I quit, remember?” While I listened to him protest and bluster, I looked at the paper in my hand, turned it, read the names and numbers of the ladies who’d spoken to me about doing a cake for them, along with the dates and a quick note to myself.

I was rarely impulsive, but in that moment I decided Tara was right. I didn’t want to go back, even though it sounded like Bronson would be happy to welcome me into the open arms of the hotel—his arms were no longer of interest to me.

So the shop flopped. What was the worst that could happen? I take a job in LA or something next spring? I broke into his whining and cajoling. “It’s no good, Bronson. You’ll have to hire someone else. I’m staying here. In fact, I’m opening a cake shop in Grandma’s old place and I already have four clients.”

There was a moment of silence. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope. Let me know if the new pastry chef needs any pointers or clarification. Ciao.” I pushed the END button and slid the phone back in my pocket.

Tara had her hands fisted tight in excitement by her chin when I looked up, and with a squeal she threw her arms around me. “I knew it! I knew you’d stay this time.”

I laughed. We hugged, did a little dance, and Tara went right back into planning mode for my new business.

When I pulled in at Grandma’s place after two o’clock that morning, I was still riding high with excitement.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Medical Monday: Man Down, Unknown Problem

Man down, unknown problem is one of the most common things we hear over the pager. Often this happens in a public setting where someone is passing through town (especially at a gas station), but sometimes we get it at a residence as well. Too often these patients have no history of medical problems, or no one around them is aware of their medical history. In my area there are a few things we automatically start thinking when we hear this. First: heart attack. Second: low blood sugar. Third: drug overdose.

Here's the thing: People tend to freak out when they find someone unconscious lying around, especially if it's a family member, so we never know if the patient is "having trouble breathing" as reported by dispatch, or is actually dead (yes, we have responded to homes where they report that the person is not breathing very well, and they've been dead for hours). So there are several things we take in with us at the scene.

First and always is the portable oxygen tank. Pretty much every patient gets oxygen--it never hurts, and often makes patients feel better even if it isn't related to the problem.

Second in this scenario is the IV kit. IV access is critical in a situation like this because chances are we're going to want to push medication of some kind. If it's a heart attack, we give heart stimulants, if it's a low blood sugar problem, we're going to want to give glucose, and if it's a drug overdose, we'll want to give Narcan. Before we start giving fluids or medications, though, the person in charge of the IV is going to get blood samples so the lab techs can get them running as soon as we arrive at the ER without having to start a new IV site. The one pictured below is fairly typical and will hold a bad of fluid and the tubing we need when we start an IV.

Third is the blood glucose tester, which will help us identify or rule out a diabetic problem. There are tons of different brands out there, but we carry a simple unit similar to this, though I don't know what brand, off hand:

Fourth is suction. We have portable suction units that are great if we have a patient who has something in their airway (like vomit or other fluids--common problems if we end up doing CPR.) There are a lot of different suction units available, this is one kind:

Fifth is the AED. AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator--this has the blood pressure cuff, an oxygen sensor for your finger tip that also give us a pulse reading, a set of five 'leads' that we put on various positions on the chest so we can get an accurate reading of heart activity, or a couple of electrode pads (aka AED or defibrillator electrode pads) that will also give us a basic heart rhythm, and can provide a shock if the person is having a heart attack. We carry a couple of different brands in our department, the one pictured below is one of them, though it's a newer model than the one we carry. Many businesses and public offices have scaled down versions that just have the shock pads.

The sixth thing we bring is the ALS kit. ALS stands for Advance Life Support. Our ALS kit is a big, heavy, yellow plastic case that holds all of our medications, plus some airway equipment in case the patient isn't breathing well on their own.

So first thing we do after we arrive is check to make sure the patient is breathing okay, and we put on the oxygen mask. The standard dosage for oxygen is 15 liters per minute for an adult. A second person is going to put on the blood pressure cuff and oxygen sensor to get some baseline information. The third person is going to do a blood sugar check.

Once we've determined the blood sugar is okay, and the heart and breathing are fine, we're going to push Narcan through the IV--this can be given through an injection into the arm (either subQ--subcutaneous, which means into the fat layer below the skin--or IM, which stands for Intra-muscular, which means into the muscle) but is much more effective when given via IV. Narcan is a narcotic antagonist--this is the generic term for any of the medications that do this job, our department carries Naloxone. What this does is neutralize or counteract any narcotics the person might have in their system.

If you give it and they don't have any narcotics in their system, it won't hurt them at all, but if they have been taking narcotics, it will counteract it, often within seconds. And if the patient just paid big money for that high, they often come out of it ready to throw punches, so we generally try to give this slowly.

Of course, we don't want to spend very long at the scene, so we try and do this as quickly as possible, but may not start giving medications until they are already in the ambulance.

If none of these things brings any improvement in the patient, the ER staff will start looking for other causes, but eliminating these three things before the patient arrives at the hospital gives the a good starting point for looking at other problems.

Remember my department runs Intermediate EMTs, which in Utah have the protocols to give IVs and medication. If your character is in a small town with only Basic EMTs, they would still get the blood pressure and oxygen levels and take the blood sugar, but would be unable to do an IV or give medications. If they lived near a bigger city a rig with Paramedics may intercept before they reach the hospital and a paramedic would jump in and start the IV and do medications. They may even arrive before the first ambulance gets the patient loaded, it just depends on location. Generally areas with fewer than 30K residents will not have Paramedics, though this can vary. If you have a question about the location you're writing about, call up the local ambulance department and find out how things work there. If your location is imaginary, call a department in the general vicinity for a community the size of the one you made up.

As always, my medical column is intended only as basic information for writers, not as medical advice for anyone. If you have a personal medical question, ask a doctor.