October 10, 2013

Shocking Revelation!

A M Jenner
Deep breath. Ready?

In the past, A M Jenner has actually been a group of three related authors all pretending to be the same person. That past is over. Some of us are making career changes, and our opportunity for working as closely together as we have been is changing. One of us is a recent college graduate, another is just finishing a long career out in the real world and is coming home to write full time, while the third has recently finished with formal education and is now pursuing a more useful informal path of education.

Rather than deal with the extensive accounting changes that would otherwise be necessary, we have decided to become separate business entities. We have all signed with the Electric Scroll, a wonderful publishing house which has agreed to re-publish our back-list under our proper names, so the credit – and the royalties – will be given where they are due. We'll be editing the books as they're republished; some will have only slight changes, while others are getting massive rewrites. They'll also be publishing our new books as we move forward. They even agreed to put up links to the old, self-published versions of the books until each is republished. Told you they were wonderful!
Natalie Peck

A M Jenner will continue to write her intense romantic suspense novels, while Natalie Peck will receive due applause for her sweet heart-felt romances, and Scott Ashby will be made to claim his wonderful SF and fantasy. And you wondered why we never put author pictures anywhere!

Please take note that we’re not angry at each other, and this isn’t some sort of a terrible break-up. Rather, it’s a changed life situation where three literary artists no longer have the opportunity to work together in the same way they have been. We still intend to proof-read for each other, and work together via email as much as possible. However, our working arrangements have taken a radical change in new directions that are very good for each of us as individuals, while at the same time resulting in a change in how we present ourselves as authors.

All three of us have signed with the Electric Scroll, and have decided that maintaining our separate author pages there will be much easier than asking poor Scott to create and maintain separate web sites for each of us. The web address is www.electric-scroll.com.
Scott Ashby

Our shared website, www.am-jenner.com, will be going away shortly, and this blog will eventually dissolve as well, though all three of us will be contributing to the Electric Scroll's blog from time to time. You'll find us there, writing about things we find interesting, and hopefully things you'll like as well.

We’d like to collectively thank you for being our good friends and loyal readers, and hope that you continue as our friends and readers into the future. Expect the same sort of good writing you’ve enjoyed in the past, and join us in wishing the best to each other as we pursue our writing with a little less help from our friends.

A M Jenner
Scott Ashby
Natalie Peck

June 14, 2013

Checking In

Contrary to all the rumors, I'm not dead, I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth, and I haven't even had the grace to have been involved in some sort of a catastrophic event.

The reason I haven't written since Mother's Day is actually rather simple and completely boring: I've been busy. That isn't to say I've forgotten my readers; I think of you daily, and I even think of writing a post to you at least a couple times a week. This hasn't been the sort of busy that means, "You are no longer my top priority and therefore I am busy." This has been the sort of busy that comes from, "I'm so busy running all over taking care of small but urgent wildfires that I have no time left for the important things in my life like writing blog posts. Or books. Or anything, really."

The truth is that I've been involved in several life-changing situations that have kept me from doing what I want to do, writing books and interacting with my readers. One thing I've been working on is a major update to my website, which I finally uploaded this morning. It's such a big change though, that until the new pages have a chance to propagate (which means spread all over the internet) you may see strange and ugly pages. Keep hitting refresh or go back later to see the pretty pages that I spent six months working on.

I've been getting ready to retire from my day job, and that's taken a lot of time, because in between running around making sure all the financial elements were healthy and in place, my boss decided that in addition to my regular duties I should write a history of our workplace. I've worked there 18 years, and know the history and have lived through more of it than anyone else there, including my now ex-boss.

My writing association talked me into being in charge of their website in January, and they assured my that once the conference was over in February, I would only be doing things for a couple of hours a week. This was true until we had some major difficulties on the site which we are now finally getting on the outside of.

I've been taking some computer classes which have used up more time than expected.

I've got very sensitive lungs, and there was a large mulch fire about thirty miles from my home which burned for the better part of a week. The evening wind shift blew the smoke directly to my home, however, which has made breathing difficult. Although the fire is now out, or at least under control enough that the smoke no longer reaches my home, I'm still coughing and trying to recover from the lungfuls I inhaled. Additionally, two weeks ago I was at the hair salon for a trim, and the place was full of acetone fumes from the nail place next door, making my breathing more difficult. I'll be fine, but it will take a while to fully recover from the fire and the other fumes. Later this month I'm going on a four-day three-night writing retreat up in the clean mountain air. I'm hoping that it will be good for my lungs, as well as being calming for my nerves and a kick-start for my writing.

And finally, I've been working on some changes that will be unveiled here in the near future. Please note that by "near" I really mean "sometime before the end of the year, if all goes well". They're changes that will mean better times ahead for me, and hopefully giving me more time to write and publish books for you to read.

On the book front, progress is still slowly being made on the suspense novel Just a Name, the sci fi novel Mindtouch, and the romantic novella Meet me Midway, all three of which I hope to publish by year's end. At least, that's the plan.


May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Every mother needs some romance in their lives, so I've made my romance, A Gigolo for Christmas, free today. You can get it here for your mom's new Kindle.

April 23, 2013

Battles, Blueberries, and Bovines

What do those have in common? They're all components in the Evertaster Series by Adam Glendon Sidwell, my guest today as he shows off the newest book in his series, The Buttersmiths' Gold. I'll let him tell you all about it:

The Buttersmiths' Gold



 Everyone knows the most coveted treasure of the Viking Age was blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins so succulent that if you sniffed just a whiff, you'd want a whole bite. If you bit a bite, you'd want a batch; if you snatched a batch, you'd stop at nothing short of going to war just to claim them all.

Young Torbjorn Trofastsonn comes from the clan that makes them. He's a Viking through and through – he's thirteen winters old, larger than most respectable rocks, and most of all, a Buttersmith. That's what he thinks anyway, until a charismatic merchant makes Torbjorn question his place among the muffin-makers. When Torbjorn lets the secret of his clan's muffin recipe slip, he calls doom and destruction down upon his peaceful village and forces his brother Storfjell and his clansmen to do the one thing they are ill-prepared to do: battle for their lives.

About The Buttersmiths' Gold

The Buttersmiths' Gold is a spin off novella in the Evertaster series that tells the story of two Viking brothers and their adventurous past. The Evertaster series (Book #1 released June 14, 2012) is about Guster Johnsonville, who goes searching for a legendary taste rumored to be the most delicious in all of history. Along the way he meets a slew of mysterious characters, including two Viking brothers Torbjorn and Storfjell. The Buttersmiths' Gold is their story. 124 pages. By Adam Glendon Sidwell. Published by Future House Publishing.

Evertaster, Book #1:

A legendary taste. Sought after for centuries. Shrouded in secrecy.

When eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother’s casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him into the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city they meet a dying pastry maker. In his last breath he entrusts them with a secret: an ancient recipe that makes the most delicious taste the world will ever know — a taste that will change the fate of humanity forever.

Forced to flee by a cult of murderous chefs, the Johnsonvilles embark on a perilous journey to ancient ruins, faraway jungles and forgotten caves. Along the way they discover the truth: Guster is an Evertaster — a kid so picky that nothing but the legendary taste itself will save him from starvation. With the sinister chefs hot on Guster’s heels and the chefs’ reign of terror spreading, Guster and his family must find the legendary taste before it’s too late.

If the video doesn't work for you, you can view it on YouTube here.
The book can be purchased here.

April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

Ebooks are considered to be more eco-friendly than print, so to celebrate Earth Day, I'm giving away my one book that is available only as an ebook, A Gigolo for Christmas. You can get it here for your Kindle.

April 16, 2013

Still Breathing

Did you ever have one of those sorts of days when you knew beyond doubt that life was out to get you? Me either. If I did, though, it might resemble the weeks I’ve been living through.

I’m being pulled in a lot of different directions right now, which is making things just as close to impossible to write anything as they can get.

I’ve started a physical fitness program with the help of the Walking for Fun website. I’m virtually walking the Chemin Le Puy trail in France. In the last month I’ve walked almost sixteen miles. I average about half a mile a day, but that’s half a mile more than I was walking before, so it’s a great improvement for me. Mom walks with me at night when it’s late enough for the mosquitoes to have gone to bed.

Dad is still working on healing his decubitus. (That’s a pressure wound, or in the common cant, a bedsore.) Part of the problem is that diabetics heal very, very slowly. What this means for me as his medical coordinator is that he has more people trying to work with him to see it, more appointments that have to be scheduled, and more rides to those appointments arranged. To make matters more complicated, his primary doctor has a problem in her office with getting paperwork processed in a reasonable amount of time, and we are therefore searching for another doctor who can handle all of Dad’s challenges, who takes his insurance, and who is taking new patients.

Mom is getting ready to retire after eighteen years of service to her current employer, and some thirty-six years of full time work throughout her lifetime, most of it as a single mother and primary supporter of the household. It often takes her a while to absorb all of the information that is dished out at high speed in various retirement meetings, and the opportunity to ask questions is often gone before they are thought of. My brain is always looking for the catch, though, and I’m a bit quicker to spot the need to have a particular question asked. I’m not saying that she’s mentally impaired in any way, mind you, just that our brains work differently. She tends to gather all of the facts and absorb them before asking questions, while I come up with questions before I have all the facts in hand. That makes us a good team!

Her pending retirement means I get to go with her to the various meetings and help make arrangements and decisions that will affect her finances for the rest of her life. It also means that a serious effort has to be expended to make her home office ready to work in, which would include filing approximately sixteen boxes of papers.

Last Monday (the 8th), while we were on our way to a retirement meeting (this one with her current employer), we were sitting in the left-most non-turning lane at a stoplight and started to smell smoke. Then we started to see it. It was coming from beneath our car’s hood. The light turned green and we dove across three lanes of traffic and into a parking lot, where we switched off the car immediately. It was smoke, not steam.

We opened the hood. A Hispanic gentlemen dressed in the t-shirt and jeans uniform of the day-laborer who had been waiting at the bus stop came running over to the car and practically pushed us out of the way. He was afraid we were going to open the radiator cap. I told him I knew better than that. He still refused to let me anywhere near the car, but told me that he was a mechanic who had once built the monster truck “Gravedigger”. I disbelieve that claim because a mechanic of the caliber to work on that truck would not be hanging out at a bus stop during regular working hours – he’d be working somewhere, even if he was not still with that race team. Additionally, no mechanic of that caliber would tell me he wanted my glass of ice cubes to pour onto the engine part that was smoking.

I refused to give him the ice, so he took a bottle of water from another man who had come over to the car, and poured it on some part, even though I was yelling at him not to touch our car. Twit.

In the end, we got rid of the volunteer “mechanic”, and managed to get a ride to the meeting (we were on time) and back to Mom’s workplace. My brother-in-law, who is a real mechanic, checked the engine over and we got it to the workshop of the mechanic we pay to work on the car. The air conditioning motor is dead, and it was an electrical almost-fire that caused all the smoke. However, we stopped the fire from bursting into flames when we shut off the car’s engine. The car will take more money to fix it than we are willing to put into it. We’re now borrowing my sister’s car, and working on getting together the money to buy a new-to-us used car that will hopefully last us a good many years.

Remember those sixteen boxes of filing? I spent a goodly chunk of today going through them looking for the title to the car. Found it, too, but not until the end of the day and the very end of the boxes, of course.

All is well, or will soon be well…and in the meantime, I’m still working like mad to get caught up on my homework, redesign my website from scratch, and squeeze out a few hours to work on my writing association’s website and get enough sleep to function each day. Yes, I know…good luck!

April 02, 2013

Idea Generation

When I was a child my friends and I played outside. I didn’t live in a particularly poor neighborhood, but it also wasn’t a wealthy one. The best “toy” we had was our imagination. We spent a lot of time pretending, and made up adventures based on our favorite television shows. Some of the time we would need more characters than we had “actors” for. In that case, we just interacted with the invisible space they would have taken up if there was a body there, and one or another of us would provide the voices for the invisible characters. Playing cowboys and indians was a lot more fun if you had an entire tribe of warriors at your command.

As I grew up, I continued to interact with invisible characters, giving them voices and personalities. It was a lot of fun. When the adults in my life let me know that having invisible friends was beneath my age level, and that I ought to grow up, I simply stopped inventing and talking to invisible characters in places where people could observe my so-called childish behavior. I would walk home from school rather than taking the bus, because it gave me more time for long conversations with invisible characters. Though walking was slower than the actual bus ride, when you added in the wait for the bus, it only took ten minutes longer for me to get home.

I never lost my imagination, and I continued to polish my skill at inventing and interacting with invisible characters.

As a writer, I simply invent a new set of characters, interact with them, interview them, and discover the most important, exciting, and pivotal moments of their life story. Then I write it down as they tell it to me. Yeah, that’s where my ideas really come from.


Happy Birthday, Mom!

In honor of my Mom's birthday, I'm giving away a free copy of my latest romance, A Gigolo for Christmas. Without Mom, I never would have become a writer. Or, actually, have been here at all. I love you, Mom! Get the book for your Kindle here.

April 01, 2013

April Fool!

A Christmas book in April? Must be April Fool's Day! Celebrate being silly by downloading my book, A Gigolo for Christmas. Free today at the other end of this link.

March 26, 2013

What is Real?

When we talk about reality, we are usually referring to the three-dimensional physical world that we live in. Anything not a part of that world is declared to be not real, or in other words, fiction. People who like to think they live out their lives only in the “real world” tend to dismiss fiction as being for children and dreamers. I’ve even heard it said that fiction is for people who can’t handle reality.

I submit that reality is for people who can’t handle fiction. An adult who enjoys reading fiction is someone who hasn’t lost their imagination. Too often we see children playing in rich imaginary worlds, and we tell them to grow up. This teaches them to be ashamed of having an imagination, and that imaginary things are only for children.

Adults who are able to hold on to their imagination are people who enjoy reading fiction. For them, the words on the page paint pictures in their mind, and the characters live out their lives in beautiful color. They see the events in the book as though they were watching a movie.

Still, even many adults who enjoy reading fiction have only managed to retain a part of their imagination. I make this statement based on the sheer number of them who ask me where I get my ideas from. Many of them don’t believe me when I tell them I just make stuff up out of my imagination. They persist in wanting to know where my ideas come from.

Where my ideas come from is a story for a different post.

The point here is that the imaginary worlds in books and movies are no less real in the minds of the consumers, the people who read the books and watch the movies. They’re also real in the minds of the writers who make them. It’s less a matter of not knowing the difference between fact and fiction, but more an acknowledgement that reality is comprised of both fact and fiction, and that there’s room enough for writers and readers to enjoy more than one kind of reality.


Just Because

Just a quick note to let you know that my book, A Gigolo For Christmas, is free for Kindle owners today. No reason, just because!

You can get it here.

March 19, 2013

Writer vs. Author

I’ve seen the terms “writer” and “author” used in so many different contexts lately that I started wondering what the difference was between a writer and an author, or whether there was a difference.

Sometimes people draw the line between people who write based on the length of their work. An author creates novel-length works, while a writer works in shorter segments.

Sometimes the line is drawn based on the content. Authors almost always deal in fiction, while non-fiction creators are writers.

Sometimes the differentiation is made based on publication status: a writer is a person who writes, an author has been published. I notice that the people who use this criteria tend to put self-published individuals with the non-published group, because their work hasn’t been approved by a traditional publishing house editorial staff.

I feel the main difference between a writer and an author is their attitude toward the work they do. A writer is someone, anyone, who writes. An author is someone who comes to their writing seriously, purposefully, and professionally. They take the time to learn how to write well. They learn the general rules of writing; they know how to construct a story arc, and they understand characterization, point of view, and the importance of research. They learn the rules of their genre, and follow them unless there’s a compelling reason to break them.

They also learn the rules of grammar. Spelling, punctuation, and proper sentence, paragraph, and chapter construction are vital for a well-written work. Grammar is the scaffolding that holds the story up. A beautiful story, badly told, is as difficult to wade through as beautifully told plotless drivel. I’ve even read badly written stories with no plot – but never for very long.

The good news is that this sort of professionalism can be learned. The rules are there, and there are many blogs and websites dedicated to good grammar, and to teaching the craft of writing. Good writers will take advantage of the free education that is available and produce good writing. They will become the authors of tomorrow.

March 12, 2013

Take a Breath!

My friend Grrly Grl recently read a blog post which contained the entire post in a single “paragraph”. She told me it was hard to read, that it was hard to focus on what the writer meant, and that it was hard to keep her place on the page. She asked me to do a post on paragraphs; what they are and how to write them properly.

I had a few ideas on what was right and wrong in the writing of paragraphs, but before publishing them, I decided to do some fact-checking. Good thing, too, as I discovered that some of my thoughts were incorrect.

Grammarly Handbook says that the general rule is to break a paragraph when it has completely developed the topic sentence. However, some topics being more complicated than others, if you need more than five or six sentences, find a logical place for a break.

About.com had some interesting things to say on what most people incorrectly believe are the rules of paragraph writing, especially as it concerns essay writing. (Essay writing is a totally different art form than research papers, nonfiction, poetry, and fiction writing, which are also distinct from each other.) One of the debunked rules is that a paragraph must contain between three and five sentences, and another is to never begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and or but. Go read the article for some eye-opening information.

I think the best advice I’ve heard on paragraph structure came from my daughter’s 7th grade teacher. “A sentence contains a thought; a paragraph contains an idea, but never write a paragraph longer than you can read aloud in a single breath.”

February 26, 2013

E-books Part Two

I wrote last week about how I disagreed with one of the statements in an article written by Don Sakers in the April edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine.

This week, I’d like to present something more from his article.

“First, here’s the simple matter of availability. In the past, most books had a short shelf life. An average SF book would be on sale at general bookstores for a few months, a year at most, before it went out of print. If you’d just discovered an author and wanted to read all of their previous books, you’d be haunting used book stores.

“E-books, however, never go out of print. Only discover an author after her twelfth book? No problem – just go online and buy the previous eleven.”

As a reader who still haunts used books stores trying to fill in gaps in my collection, I heartily agree with Mr. Sakers. This is one of the best things about ebooks. Because they do not take up valuable storage space in a warehouse while the paper gets damp and decays, they have a much longer shelf life. They can be stored indefinitely in a computer, and can stay in print as long as the publisher – or the author – choose to have them remain available. It becomes very easy to catch up with the older books you want to read.

Keeping in mind that what Mr. Sakers says about SF books applies to all genres, he goes on to proclaim, “Nearly ninety years worth of SF books have been published; authors and their agents are working furiously to put much of that into e-book format.” I’d like to add my thanks to the families and estates of deceased authors who are allowing those works to be published in electronic formats.

E-books are very convenient, as long as you keep them charged. You can carry a whole library around in your fingertips. They weigh very little. As the arthritis advances into my hands and wrists, I can no longer read any book that weighs more than a standard paperback while lying in bed at night. If I want to read a large paperback, or a hard cover book, I have to be sitting at a desk or table, and have the book on the table. I simply can’t hold that much weight in my hands.

Yet, I’ve been reading huge collections on my Nook. The Mark Twain collection is over 6,000 pages, and the H. G. Wells collection is slightly thicker. I can read books only a few decades old, as well – because adding Diane Duane’s entire Young Wizards collection added no weight to my Nook.

Overhead is significantly decreased on e-books as well, a point that Mr. Sakers does not address in his article. Although the author, editors, publishers, cover artists, and agent still must be paid, there are no storage fees. Amazon charges a shipping fee of around two cents per book to help cover bandwidth charges, and the book is delivered more or less instantly. That’s much less than the $6 super saver shipping that takes a week, on average, before the book is in your hands to read. Because of these factors, e-books are usually less expensive than the print version of the same content.

Don’t get me wrong. I love turning pages, and smelling the paper and glue scent of new books. I have more than 5,000 print books in my home and have no intention of stopping buying print books. But I also love holding my Nook in one hand while I read, and turning the page with a touch of my thumb. I love the ability to purchase eight to twelve e-books for the same $25 gift card that will get one or two print books. I love discovering new authors and catching up with old ones. And as an author, I love the ability to get my books into the hands of people who will love my characters as much as I do.

February 19, 2013

Correcting a Fallacy

Today I’d like to talk about ebooks, and specifically their impact on the publishing world. I was just reading my (electronic!) copy of Analog, which is a contradiction in terms in and of itself, if you think about it. There is an article by Don Sakers which begins on page 102, where he writes some about ebooks, then gives reviews of several books which are available in both print and e-formats. Although his article is specifically about SF, it applies to all genres of writing. Mr. Sakers says, “Another consequence of e-books is removing traditional publishers as gatekeepers of content. This has both good and bad implications for SF. On the positive side, much more good SF will be published. The age of the mass market is fading; in a sense, we’re entering the age of the niche. To be sure, some niches are larger than others. There will always be big-name authors – but now, we’ll also have medium-size names, small names, tiny names, microscopic and nano-scale names all equally available to readers.

“The bad news is that the same expansion will result in enormously more bad SF. No one reader has the time to wade through thousands of unsuitable books in search of the one or two that are suitable.”

I’ve seen this argument repeated too often to count. Go back and read that last sentence again. When he’s talking about ebooks removing traditional publishers as gatekeepers, what he actually means is self-publishing of ebooks. Mr. Sakers seems to be discounting the thousands of traditionally published ebooks that are available to the reading public. The debate here is not electronic vs. print books, but traditional vs. self-publishing. His opinion is clear: self-publishing will force readers to wade through thousands of horribly written manuscripts in order to discover the one or two gems that have been written by good (i.e. traditionally published) authors.

No matter who states it, the argument is always drawn on the same lines, there will be thousands of horrible things to wade through in order to find the rare gems. I take exception to the math used by people who parrot this argument.

First, it’s very difficult to tell, before purchase, whether a book is self or traditionally published.

Second, there are many authors who have been traditionally published for many years, who are now self-publishing alongside their traditionally published works. Does the fact they are now self-pubbing suddenly make their work inferior? Of course not.

It is very true that many authors, myself included, would not be published at all if not for the financially feasible options of print-on-demand and e-books. However, it is absolutely not true that there are thousands of bad self-published books to every two or three gems.

I read constantly. I cannot get to sleep at night without reading. I read self-published books. I read traditionally published books. I read long out-of-print books that have been restored and made available as e-books. In 2012 I read 410 works containing well over 45,000 pages. That’s pleasure reading, not the reading I do for school classes, or for other informational purposes. It’s also books, not counting magazines, blogs, and my morning cereal box.

Every once in a while I find a book that’s so badly written, or so badly edited, that I can’t bear to finish it. More often I find a book that has outrageously stupid mistakes in the writing or editing – things that should have been caught by either the writer or one of the many editors. I find this sort of mistake in both traditionally published and self-published books.

By and large, most of the things I read are good enough to finish the book. Many of them are good enough to re-read. Unless I have an atypical experience as a reader, I would say that the ratios presented in Mr. Sakers' article are exactly reversed. Readers of traditional and self-published books have the privilege of enjoying thousands of well-written, well-edited stories, while knowing that they will definitely come across the few horrible pieces, which are both self- and traditionally published.

February 15, 2013

A Glitch in the System

I posted yesterday that my sweet Christmas romance, A Gigolo for Christmas,  was free at Amazon, because I had scheduled it for a free promotion day for Valentine's Day. When I checked at the end of the day to see how many copies had been given away, I was amazed that no one seemed to want it. (I can't see who, just how many.) I looked at the book's Amazon page, and it was listed at the regular price of $3.99. Hmmm. I then looked in the area where I manage the free days, and the Valentine's Day freebie day wasn't even listed. I don't know how it disappeared between scheduling it last month and today, but somehow it did. So I did the only sensible thing...I made it free for today.
Sorry for the miscommunication yesterday. It's free today. Really. I promise. (If it isn't, let me know, and I'll have some serious words with the Amazon people.) You can get it here.


P. S. If you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free kindle reading app for your computer so you can read this fabulous romantic novella.

February 14, 2013

Have a little free romance in your life today!

Here I am, halfway through my workday, when I suddenly realize I haven't let anyone know my sweet romantic (Christmas) story is free today in honor of that overly-commercialized holiday when everyone is supposed to love each other. Show yourself a little love and grab this book while the grabbing's free! All right, it's a Christmas romance, but this being February doesn't take any of the romance out of the book.
Did I mention it's free today? You can get it here.
P. S. If you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free kindle reading app for your computer so you can read this fabulous romantic novella.

February 12, 2013

Sanity is Just Around the Corner

First, let me apologize for missing my post last week. It was a strange week that included many calls to various doctors and many visiting professionals coming into our home, all of which had to be coordinated by me. In addition, my family is facing some interesting financial changes which were in the midst of being investigated. And then we had some relatives who are high up on our favorites list suddenly go from “maybe we might be able to come down on one of these three weekends” to “we’ll be there in about four hours”.

Now the medical things are settling down, the financial decisions are made, and the family had a nice visit and have returned home. It’s time to breathe, and then get back into the “normal” crazy swirl of my life. I’ve got school lessons to catch up on and a blog to write, among other things.

In January I read 9 books, for a total of 1491 pages. I’m still working on making the chairs for my miniature book shop. They’re going rather slowly partly because the embroidery on the seats is painful for my wrist, and partly because the idea of making nine chairs is rather daunting. I think I’m going to finish just the ones for the downstairs, and let my mom finish the ones for the upstairs, since she’s supposed to be doing the upstairs anyway.

I’m doing well in my online classes, and learning a lot. So far I’ve gotten 100% on all my after-lesson quizzes. However, the only thing that actually counts toward my grade is the final exam, and even then, it’s a Pass/Fail class. You either get the certificate or not. Not that grades matter right now anyway, I’m after knowledge rather than grades.

During the last two weeks, I bought something I’ve been wanting for a long time, and finally was able to get: the complete series of MacGyver on DVD. It’s still as good as it has always been, and I’ve been really enjoying revisiting the world where most things can be cured with duct tape and a Swiss Army knife.

January 29, 2013

Life and my Chairs

It’s been a crazy week in the Jenner household. It’s been so crazy, in fact, that instead of writing my post on Friday, I’m writing it on Monday to post tomorrow.

First, my father had an appointment with his primary care doctor January 11th. This week we discovered that almost all of the referrals and prescriptions my father’s doctor said she would write for him have not been written. They told me they were waiting on the insurance to approve them, but then, they told his case manager the same thing…and he’s the person that does the approving. He has an urgent need to be seen at a wound clinic, and other somewhat urgent needs, and they are not being met. In fact, there has apparently been no attempt to meet them. I get to spend tomorrow at the doctor’s office staging a one-woman sit-in until they hand me the three prescriptions (one for blood work, two for equipment) that he needs. I will then get to run all over town hand-delivering them. Grrr!

Second, the weather all week has been cold and wet. The wet is good for the desert environment I live in, I know I’ll be drinking all this rain this summer when the temps top 100. On the other hand, cold and damp is not good for my arthritis. I’ve spent a good amount of time holed up with my electric blanket and a good book.

I recently got an email from my library, telling me about free classes I can take online. The library gives me authorization numbers, and I pay nothing. I’ve signed up for classes in InDesign and Dreamweaver, in the hope that I can improve my book interiors and ebooks (with InDesign) and my website (with Dreamweaver). I’m learning a lot, but reading the lecture, doing the follow-along practice, then completing the assignments for both classes takes large chunks out of my week.

I’m still working on edits of The Castle Project and Just a Name. I expect to get Mind Touch back from the readers in about a week, and then I can start on those final edits. I’m also doing research on a new book for the Kwennjurat series, tentatively titled The Queen is in her Counting House.

On the miniature front, I’ve replaced the round chair parts with square ones to give me more surface area for gluing. I’ve also replaced low-temp hot glue with high temp, after actually reading the directions and discovering that low temp is for paper and delicate things, and high temp is for wood and metal. I didn’t realize there was a difference in the glue or its performance; I just thought low temp was a safety measure for the fingers of klutzy people who were tired of wearing hot-glue blisters. I made one chair, painted it, and wove the seat, but when I looked at the finished project, it looked a lot shorter and squattier than I wanted. I measured and did some math and realized that if it were blown up to full size, the seat would be 30” square. That’s really huge. Most chairs of this sort have a seat 18” square. So I cut smaller pieces and made a second one. You can see the difference in the two seats. The soda can is there for scale, not because I’m a sloppy photographer. I’ve got eight more chairs cut, glued, and painted; now I just need to weave the seats and they will be done. Hopefully I’ll get them finished this week.

January 22, 2013

Chairs and Creaky Joints

As many of you already know, I have osteoarthritis throughout my entire body. This makes a lot of simple things that most people don’t think about into challenges, sometimes monumental challenges. For example, it’s now winter. Yes, I do live in Arizona, and I know that people who live with several feet of snow sneer at the idea of Arizona even calling a season winter. I used to be one of them. I would even wear shorts when we visited my grandparents for Christmas.

However, Arizona does have winter. It does get cold here, even in the desert part. The low deserts have spent the last week with a hard freeze warning. Warning is weatherman speak for “it’s happening now or going to happen”. Even the Phoenix area where I live had a freeze warning. I saw pictures taken not more than an hour’s drive through city traffic, of a volleyball net with icicles hanging from it. I haven’t seen icicles of any size since I moved from Utah.

For most of my life I have preferred cold weather to hot, because you can always put another layer on, but in taking layers off, there are certain guidelines of how much you can take off and still go out in public.

As the arthritis has attacked one joint after another, I’m finding that more of my life is being controlled by the weather. Heat feels good. Cold hurts. Even indoors in a temperature controlled environment, I hurt more on cold days and on cloudy days. When it’s cold outside my joints all ache. Moving anything hurts. Even typing hurts; the arthritis has spent much of the past year moving into my hands and wrists.

That’s the bad news. I don’t share it to evoke pity, only to let you know what is happening in my life. There’s also good news. Ibuprofen is a wonderful drug. On most days, it’s able to chase away enough pain that I can concentrate on what I’m doing. I also have both a cane and a walker I can use on really bad days. Working on my books is something I can usually do even when I don’t feel in top form, though every task demands more time and concentration.

This last week has been difficult, physically, but the weather is slowly improving and I’m really looking forward to those hundred-degree-plus days that will be here soon. From where I sit, the sooner the better.

During this week I started editing The Castle Project, bugged one of my outside editors to finish and return Just a Name, and sent Mind Touch out to beta-readers. I also looked into some methods of being able to update my website more easily, and make it look more spiffy at the same time. The program I use on my writing association's website is very easy to use for updating the site, but I found it very difficult for setting up my own site. I inherited control of the association's already set-up site. A second program which I own but had never even opened was considered, and I signed up for a free class through my library that will teach me to use it. I'm already loving it, so watch for changes on the website as I learn more about how to use the program. It's a six week class, and they won't let me work at my own pace, so those changes are coming, but don't expect them in the next day or so.

Also this week I worked on the chairs for my dollhouse project, but discovered that dowels don’t hold together well when secured by hot glue or by Elmer’s glue. At least, they don’t hold together well enough to stand any sort of strain, such as being held by one leg and painted. I got nine chairs cut out, four chair frames constructed, and watched them crumble apart as I painted them. I’m now devising a plan to make sturdier joints. If the chairs were full-size, I would simply drill holes in the uprights and make the crosspieces have pegs on the ends of them, but that doesn’t work when the entire chair is only two inches tall. I need the chairs to be able to stand enough pressure that I can take thin jute and embroider seats onto the frames, and pretend it is woven wicker. Because they all fell apart there are no pictures, but hopefully I’ll have some pictures of half-completed chairs next week.


January 15, 2013


Bookcases. Nice, aren’t they? Where else would you put a book? In my home, bookcases are not just a decorative item, they’re put to use. Every bedroom has a bookcase “for personal use”. There are bookcases in the office, the kitchen, the living room, and about 20 bookcases in the library. My official author bio isn’t kidding when it says I live with around 5,000 books. I can’t be more specific than that, because I only have about half of them cataloged. I have a lot of ebooks too, but they don’t take up nearly as much space to store, and are much easier to catalog.

Before I resume the cataloging, though, I need to finish my huge filing project – in between the time I spend on…making more books.

During this week, I released a new short story collection, Bits and Bites. More info on that is over on the “Other Books” tab at the top of the page. I also finally got back to working on my dollhouse project.

What’s my dollhouse project? It began initially with the intention of creating several photo sets which could be rearranged and decorated to make my website a photo interface. The first piece that was going to be made was a book shop with a flat above it. Designs were sketched, the walls constructed, and interior wall treatments begun. Then I realized that what I was building wasn’t going to suit my needs for the website, so that part of the idea was abandoned. However, I was having a lot of fun creating a dollhouse on a small budget, and decided to continue with it, just for fun. The bottom floor is a book store with a small office in the back, and the upper floor is a small flat with a kitchen, sitting room, and two bedrooms. The house is meant to be owned by a middle class person in a small town in rural Europe in the mid 1800’s – so the lack of indoor plumbing is deliberate in this “hundred year old building”.

At this point, I have the book store and office hardwood floor in. The book shop walls have wainscoting and a chair rail beneath a plastered surface, while the office walls are just plastered all the way up.

The next step is furniture. For a book store, that means bookcases. Lots of them. I’ve got four made so far. The picture at the top of the blog is of my book cases. The picture at the bottom is more zoomed out so you can see my computer behind them and get a sense of scale. Each bookcase is 2 1/4” wide, 4” tall, and 1/2” deep. Each of those books has been individually made, painted, and glued into the book case. I think I’m still going to need three more of them for the book shop, but this week I’m working on making chairs.

January 08, 2013

Dollars to Donuts

We’ve all heard the phrase, but where did it come from, and what, exactly, does it mean? My online friend wry me asked me about the phrase “dollars to donuts”, and I thought I’d share my research with everyone.

In searching (and re-searching) for the answer to wry’s question, I found a wonderfully entertaining and educational website called the Phrase Finder.

There, I learned that the phrase "dollars to donuts" refers to something that is certain. It’s such a sure thing that you would be willing to bet your valuable dollars against your opponent’s worthless donuts, because you are that certain you are going to win the bet and not have to fork over the money.

It’s an old phrase, from the mid-1800’s. Other phrases with the same meaning are “dollars to buttons”, “dollars to cobwebs”, and the (older) English “a pound to a penny”. Apparently the donut version has had the longest staying-power because it’s alliterative. And cute.

This week has still been busy with all the stuff that has to be done after you get out of the hospital. Of course, it was Dad in the hospital, not me, but I get to do all the follow-up stuff for him. I’ve been running all over doing various errands, sitting on the phone on hold making appointments, waiting at the pharmacy for prescriptions and so forth. I also am in charge of setting up his medications for him, and with new prescriptions, I had to take out some of his usual pills and put in the new temporary ones.

The weather in Phoenix has been colder than my body likes, and I’ve been struggling against my arthritis all week, as well. Although I only briefly succumbed to the icky sore throat stuff, I just can’t seem to get warm unless I burrow under my electric blanket. Interestingly, you don’t get much writing done from under an electric blanket.

I had a meeting with the communications director of my writing association, and she taught me “all I need to know” about the association’s web site, where I will be doing the maintenance from here on. It shouldn’t take a lot of time, at least once I get to the point that I don’t have to look up each step and refer to a cheat sheet as I go.

I had a lovely visit with new letterboxing friends Mighty Oaks of Barlow and Hot2Molly who were in town for the Fiesta Bowl and came over to my home to meet me.

Interestingly, I only got a little actual writing done this week, and that was at the store. Mom and I had gone to CVS looking for some stuff we needed for Dad. Y back started hurting very bad while we were there, so I sat down to wait while she finished the shopping. I have been trying for almost two weeks to get a certain conversation written between Bunny and Carrington in my still-unnamed book, and all of a sudden the right words flicked into my head. I carry a small notepad and pen always, for quick jotting of ideas, but it wouldn’t do for writing of dialog. However, I was at CVS. I hobbled over to the stationery department, grabbed a notebook, hobbled back to my seat, and started writing like mad. Five pages later I finished the conversation, and the chapter, just as Mom walked up to retrieve me. We paid for the notebook and were on our way to other destinations.

With luck, next week will be a little better organized, and I’ll have more time for taking care of the website, doing the updates on my website, and actually making progress on my book.

January 07, 2013

Hey Look, Chocolate!

Bits and Bites is officially published. It's my first short story collection. It's a nice big collection, holding thirty-six stories securely between the covers. Believe me, some of these stories you will want to know that they are being securely held and can't come out to get you.

Some of the stories were written as early as 1982, while others were as recent as 2010. Some of my friends may (or may not) recognize themselves in the pages. One of the stories has a small incident in the life of Lt. Jenna, who also appears in Assignment to Earth.

Find out why a bookworm is not always a good thing. Find out where the missing socks go. Find out why having an identical twin is not all it's cracked up to be. Amuse yourself when you only have a few minutes for reading. Enjoy the dying art of the short story. Adventure and answers await within the pages of Bits and Bites.

How did I come up with the name? A short story isn't a huge chunk of reading. It's like eating a box of chocolates, there's a little bit of this, and a little bite of that, but no matter what flavor is hiding under the chocolate, it's tasty on the tongue. Except for the maple nut crunch. Does anyone actually eat the maple nut crunch?

At any rate, here's hoping you enjoy my small bits and bites of stories, perfectly sized for any amount of reading time, from a few minutes to an entire evening.

You can buy Bits and Bites here:
Print: $11.99
Kindle: $2.99
Nook: $2.99
Other ebook formats: $2.99

January 01, 2013

Welcome to the Future!

Today is the first day of a new year. The year behind has closed, and the year ahead awaits, a blank slate to write upon. It can be sort of scary to contemplate a whole year, knowing that every day I will be making choices that affect the contents of the rest of the year. Choices I make in January can mandate what choices will be available to me in November. It's also a lot awesome, knowing I have the power to make those choices!

In December I read 9 books containing 1218 pages. My year-long reading total was 210 books, most of them novels, containing 45,844 pages. I have to say that before this year my only experience with "Victorian Authors" was Charles Dickens. While I had read - or tried to read, some of his works in the past, I hadn't succeeded in finishing any of them and had written of all of the authors of the era as extremely wordy, inordinately fond of long words which have now fallen out of use, and utterly boring and depressing.

This year, thanks to the wonder of ebooks, I've been able to read a goodly chunk of the works of Mark Twain and H. G. Wells. Not all Victorian authors are of the same stamp. I finally understand why Mr. Twain is called a humorist. His observations of the human race and the manner of his sentence construction had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. I love his fiction; his essays are entertaining, and his travelogues absorbing. I'm very much enjoying Mr. Wells' fiction. His guesses on where technology will take the human race in the future are entertaining. What is amazing is how many of his predictions have come true, and which things have largely not changed, as I look back on his looking forward. I'm not so fond of his political, philosophical, and religious writings (which are sometimes all mixed up in one essay), so I have to admit that I just skimmed them. He does use more words unfamiliar to me (and also unfamiliar to my nook's dictionary) than Mr. Twain does.

I didn't get a lot of work done this week, chiefly because my Dad was in the hospital from December 22-30, and our entire family's routine was disrupted as a result. However, he is home now, we had Christmas last night, and although there'll be a few more medical things for me to coordinate, things will be more or less back to normal.

My public goals for 2013 will keep me very busy this year, which hopefully will keep me out of trouble. I plan to publish seven books of my own. January should see the short story collection Bits and Bites published. I have four short novels planned that will be ebook only, whose titles will be announced later. I expect to publish the suspense novel Just a Name sometime in May, and the fantasy Mind Touch in the fall. I'm working on an updated website for myself.

In addition, I am the newsletter editor for my church congregation, and I might be working on the website for my writing association.