About Me

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I received teaching and engineering degrees and have traveled extensively, living ten years outside the US. I moved from the big city of Houston to a small sleepy community in North Carolina, which has been a tremendous change and a great inspiration for my novels, full of the local color. My time has been filled with writing and helping to physically construct three additions to our former farmhouse. I have a great view of the mountains ten miles away across the broad valley and the sunsets are breathtaking. I am an avid reader of all kinds of mystery and contemporary fiction.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing New Novel

Writing New Novel

I have finally begun writing my next novel. After getting my novel "Murder by the Clock" published, it took about a month before I finally had the plot for my next book finalized. By finalized, I mean the major plot line completed. All of the minute details of the plot are still being formulated as I write the book.

As you can guess, I prefer to have the plot done before I start writing. Many writers begin writing and their plot develops as they progress in their writing of their novel. My mind does not work that way. I need to formulate my plot and the story line before I start writing. That way, when I do start writing, my novel progresses at a fast rate, without getting writer's block. I still find that a few of the major points in my plot require tweaking, but that is an enhancement that I make as I go.

I once saw a Hercules Poirot story where an author wrote Hercules asking him to figure out the ending. Hercules finally and grudgingly solved the author's problem, but most of us don't have Poirot to call upon. I always need an ending to my novel or, at least, two endings before I begin.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Writing Style

I never thought much about my writing style being similar to anyone's. After receiving a review of my book "Murder by the Clock" on Amazon, I was amazed. A reader said that my book was "Definitely on an equal with a good Michael Connelly book." I was shocked. Of course, I had heard of Michael Connelly. Who hasn't? Especially those of us who aspire to be mystery writers. Sam Spade popped into my mind when I re-read my book.

Maybe I shouldn't mention it, but I had never read a Michael Connelly book. Yesterday I bought one. I have read about a ten of it so far and I can see many similarities in our writing styles. A major difference is my main character is a female detective. I read a paragraph from Michael Connelly and asked him where it came from. He said, "I don't know. Is that your new book?"

I am a quarter of the way through writing my next book and hope I receive as favorable a response to it as I did on my first book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Girls Should Enter Engineering

Why Girls Should Enter Engineering

When I was a senior in college, I was asked to talk to a group of high school girls about career possibilities in engineering. I jumped at the opportunity. I had returned to college to pursue an engineering degree after I had received my degree in education. I was so happy to see so many young women listening and asking questions about engineering. However, several months ago, the girl scouts in my area had to cancel a workshop for girls about opportunities in engineering. No interest existed. This was sad.

I think part of the problem has to do with the image of engineers. People don’t understand us. They don’t know what we do. When I told people I was a mechanical engineer, they thought I worked on cars. And somebody once said, “I couldn’t do engineering because I don’t like to get my hands dirty.” On rare occasions, I did get my hands dirty, but only from walking through the refinery and touching a pipe or beam which happened to be dirty. On a routine day, I got no dirtier than I would walking in my front yard.

Much of my work involved sitting at my desk planning my projects and designing my equipment. It’s great to develop a plan and design all the equipment, then watch it all come together as dozens of crafts people get out the welding torches and build it. I’ve always enjoyed planning. I think women are especially good at planning and it is a major part of project engineering and project management. A large amount of my time included walking through the unit, checking locations for new equipment and piping. I designed that equipment and piping and needed to make sure that it would fit in the spaces available. In addition, I spent time in meetings and classes. On one project in Saudi Arabia, I was called upon to design an eastern style toilet in which the direction that the toilets pointed was essential. If I had pointed them the wrong way, they would have torn it down and started over. That certainly required thinking out of the box and certainly nothing my engineering education had provided for it. On most of my projects my education provided a theoretical background and some practical knowledge. But, by no means enough. However, in all cases, the main thing I learned in college was how to learn. And I had to use that knowledge on all of my projects.

In conclusion, getting your hands dirty is not necessarily a part of the engineering job. There are mechanics, construction workers and others who get their hands dirty. As an engineer, you have to know how to think and how to solve problems. A good engineer is not one who knows everything. A good engineer is one who can figure out how to solve the problems of industry.

Why should girls enter the engineering field? We’re good at it, for one thing. We get paid well and we have a high degree of job satisfaction and employment security. We should encourage girls to consider engineering as a profession because the nation needs engineers and because it’s a great profession. And we need to encourage them at an early age. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Final Editing of Novel for CreateSpace

I finally received my book "Murder by the Clock" from CreateSpace. I read through it again. Much to my amazement, I still had mistakes. The hopes I had of a mistake-free book was shot.

I had read and re-read my novel in hopes of catching my mistakes. I had a friend to edit my novel, too. He also found a few mistakes. After he read the novel, I re-read carefully and found a few more mistakes. Now, after the book was put into print, I read it again and, lo and behold, I found more mistakes. However, the mistakes this time around were mainly punctuation mistakes. But mistakes, nonetheless. All of these re-reads were done via the computer.

What lesson does this teach me? No matter how thorough I was in editing my book, more mistakes existed. Nothing beats reading the actual paper version of a book in order to catch mistakes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wine Review - Nuits St. Georges

Nuits Saint Georges, Les Cailles, Bouchard Pere and Fils, 2009

I have tasted and have consumed a lot of French wine, but this wine is now one of my favorites.

I tried some white wines from Bouchard Pere et Fils and they were very good. However, this pinot noir wine is very smooth and is great with salmon, and a lot of other things as well. It has an earthy smell that fills the senses with a raspberry scent.

It has some tannin and should be good for several more years

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Not Read an Indie Author?

Why Not Read an Indie Author?

Independent Authors are usually lumped into two general categories. First, "It's not any good because it's cheaper than the big name authors." Second, "It's not any good because it's not a big name author." Regarding this second point, I have to ask if books by the name authors can be so great when they can churn out half a dozen or more a year? I can recall one book where the author of over fifty books spent a whole paragraph describing an azalea bush. And, of course, there's the whole middle of the last Harry Potter novel where Harry and JKR were both struggling.

Some readers avoid Indie Authors like they do the dentist. However, I've never minded going to the dentist and I have recently found myself reading books written by Indie Authors. In fact, in the last three months, I have read no big name authors, only Indies.

The reason I mentioned dentists is that yesterday my husband and I visited our local dentist. (My husband minded, I didn't.) Both of our hygienists wanted nothing to do with free or cheap books. Somehow, they thought that if they read big name authors from well-known publishers, they would get their money's worth. Their money's worth being $8 to $12 for an eBook. I, for one, think this is an outrageous number. Why pay this outrageous amount when some Indie Authors produce better books for much less, maybe free? The reason is simple: laziness. Most people don't want to take a few minutes to read the first chapter before buying. That is the secret. Don't go with the crowd, find something you like. Then, when you find something good, let the crowd follow you!

The big problem with Indie Authors is that there are some bad ones out there. Thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. With KDP Select, many Indies are giving away their books for free. And Amazon makes it easy for writers to get their work to the public. However, too many authors have not taken the time to edit, read, re-read and re-read their works again before publishing. The spell checker does not catch all mistakes. Some books are full of grammatical errors, words missing and so many misspellings that I, as an avid reader, find it difficult to keep going. I try to avoid anything that is full of spelling and grammar mistakes. I realize that some mistakes will eventually make it into the final edition, only natural. Other books do not grab my attention by the first chapter or two. If this happens, I immediately look for another book. I always use the peek inside option. I strongly recommend it, even for well-known authors.

For the past several months, I have read nothing but books by Indie Authors from Amazon and I have reviewed all of them. I seldom give one star ratings. Anyone who is going to finish writing a book deserves better. Usually. I also do not give five stars. I have read only a few books that deserve that classification, possibly because I believe everything can be improved.

Of the books I have read by Indie Authors, my ratings percentages are as follows:

            1 Star               13%
            2 Stars             26%
            3 Stars             26%
            4 Stars             35%

If any mystery writers would like me to read your book, please leave a comment. I will read the peek inside sample and will pick at least ten to read. I will mention any of my three or four star ratings on my blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Editing for CreateSpace Update

When submitting the latest revision of my book Murder by the Clock, I discovered that CreateSpace's policy regarding proof books has changed.

Previously, a paper proof book was free, including free shipping. Now they have instituted an improved digital preview program to replace the free book. It is possible to use this program without having to produce a print book. If you choose to print a proof book, it could cost between $6 - $8.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lilacs Aroma Sweet but Sickening

Lilacs are wonderful and aromatic when placed near a walkway or in a location where you walk. Have you every tried to cut some and put them into a vase? Well, I have. If you put them on a dining room table, be prepared to get a strong whiff of fragrant flowers that will overcome your sense of smell. The aroma is strongest right after they have been cut. It will linger for a long time. I know that, with me, it was hard to breathe being near them. The fragrance was overpowering. After a while, the fragrance dispersed into the room or maybe I just became accustomed to the smell. I only know that the best place for lilacs is on the bush in the open air and not on a table in an enclosed room.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Edit for CreateSpace Publication

How to Edit for CreateSpace Publication

Following is a checklist I made to help in converting a word document formatted for Amazon to a word document formatted for CreateSpace. This is the procedure I used to convert my book Murder by the Clock. I hope I haven't forgotten anything important.

Start with the Amazon eBook Word Doc File. I usually use Word in 2003 mode. Load the file into Word and do the following:

1. Delete the cover page which eBooks have, but printed books do not. It will be used later to make the book cover.
2. Insert two blank pages at beginning. Keep in mind that books are printed on both sides of the page, so to have one complete blank page in the beginning; you need two pages in Word.
3. Add the first title page. It is plain with no graphics. Just the title and author. Insert another blank page.
4. Leave the title page alone.
5. Add a blank page after main title page, after the copyright page and after the TOC. It looks nice for each of these to be on a facing page with a blank back page. Same for dedication page if you have one.
6. Go through the book putting two inches of space above each chapter title. Three inches is sometimes normal, but it looked like too much on a Kindle. Make sure that each chapter ends with a page break if you didn't have that in your eBook version.
7. Remove the Table of Contents. In an eBook you should have had a TOC without page numbers. That doesn't work for a paper book.
8. Add a footer with page numbers. It's safer to put the page numbers in the center. That way you don't have to worry about which side of the page the gutter is on.
9. Insert a new section after the TOC and restart page numbers from one.
9. Add a new TOC with page numbers. To save time later, move the tab for the page numbers left so that the numbers will be on the page when the pages are resized to the smaller size. I used a five by eight book size. If you have more than one hundred thousand words, consider a larger size.
10. Revise all graphics, including glyphs to 300 dpi and reinstall from the filename, not cut and paste. I have done it with cut and paste and haven't had a problem, but some people claim that it caused them a problem.
11. Go to CreateSpace.com and start a project.
12. Insert title, author, use CreateSpace ISBN and choose book size.
13. Choose the Guided not the Expert setup procedure.
14. Upload your manuscript DOC file to CreateSpace. Note that this was probably originally in an 8.5 x 11 size.
15. As the manuscript was letter size, CS will allow reflowing to the chosen book size. Do not choose to resize the book down and keep the same number of pages.
16. Check the automated reviewer and notice all marked mistakes.
17. Download the DOC file produced in the new size back to your computer. It should have everything correct for page size, gutter placement and others.
18. Load the DOC file into Word and revise the DOC file to fix any important mistakes found in the reviewer.
19. Go to View and set it to view two pages at one time. The page on the left is the facing page; the right one is the back side.
20. For a more professional look, insert a blank page at the end of each chapter if needed to make sure each chapter starts on the left or facing page.
21. Check to make sure no glyphs are left stranded by themselves on a page.
22. Revise TOC so that page numbers are shown on the same line as the chapter name and are not wrapping to the next line, by moving the tab stop "Small L" at the top of the page.
23. On a separate page at the end, put in any back material, such as Author bio, email address, blog address or other books published.
24. Add enough blank pages at the end to have a complete printed blank page, in other words, at least two blank pages.
23. Upload the final version to CreateSpace and rerun the previewer. If you find any mistakes do it again.
24. Download the PDF file and check it for mistakes in format.
25. Now all you have to worry about is the cover. I won't go into that, but it helps to download the template for the number of pages you have.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port

Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port

This is a nutty but alcoholic port. It goes well with cheese, nuts and chocolate. It would be better if the alcoholic taste were less. Some would say it's not balanced.

In spite of the above, I enjoyed this port. I particularly liked the nutty taste. It's not a typical wine to be consumed with dinner. It is a dessert wine and is, therefore, sweet.

The port was bottled in 2010.