Howard

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Masks, Masques, Masks

Masks, Masques, MasksMasks, Masques, Masks: Well, it’s not Poe’s Masque of the Red Death but in some respects, we’re watching a modern interpretation of the story right before our very eyes. The fact is, I’ve found it hard to find a good mask or any masks at all for that matter. Some have delivery dates of over a month away. The simple ‘procedure mask’ is difficult to find, all quantities being routed to First Responders.

I am happy to report there is one source with a short turn-around time. That source, Oliveve Handbags, offers masks in a variety of colours and styles. I know this because my drop-dead-gorgeous niece oversees Oliveve’s manufacturing partner and she’s the one making the masks for Oliveve as well as designing their handbags. BTW, she’s a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.

For each mask you buy, Oliveve will donate one to hospital staff and essential workers in need. The masks come in men’s and women’s sizes. To see for yourself, go to https://oliveve.com/collections/fabric-masks. You can also browse the handbags, if that’s what you’re interested in, at https://oliveve.com

Pushing Onward

Pushing OnwardWith Book # 2 at the publishers, yours truly is not letting any grass grow under his feet. I’ve contacted the artist who did the cover for Urban Mermaid and she has agreed to do the cover for Book # 2. Now it’s on to Book # 3!

Book # 3 is called Life on Colony Island and will consist of three or four interwoven stories. These are stories I’ve concocted for potential books, etc. and rather than make them into full-blown stand-alone novels, I’m going to combine them into one book. It remains to be seen how many are going to fit into that one book. I may wind up making two books out of this stuff.

Penelope and Peter will take a back seat in these stories. They will, of course, make appearances in at least two of the stories, but the parts will be small, all things considered.

I’ve spent the past week outlining one of the stories and once I’ve had a couple of days off, I’ll start on another story. I’m using a neat – and a completely free – tool called Scapple. It allows writers to plot out dialogue, scenes, chapters and even entire books in a format resembling a flow-chart. Here’s a screenshot of some of the work I’ve done on the aforementioned story.

Pushing Onward - Scapple

I’m not going to take up your time with two dozen screenshots and two thousand words detailing how to use all the cool features. All I’m going to say are those two words that authors just love to hear – “It’s Free”. There are versions available for both Windows and Apple platforms.
You can find it at Scapple home page.

The next scheduled book in the Colony Island series is Suburban Mermaid. Penelope leaves her job in the big city and decamps for Colony Island. Can the flipity flip of little fins be far behind?

That’s all for now. Book # 2 release target is September 2020.

Two Items of Interest

I have two items of interest to share with you.

1. The cruise was cancelled at the last moment. Participants had been backing out of the cruise for over a week before cancellation. By the time Carnival pulled the plug, there were only a handful of people going

It was just as well the cruise was cancelled. The Delta flight we were scheduled to be on once the cruise was over was itself cancelled.

There is a silver lining (kinda, sorta). The organisers want to do this same cruise at the same time next year. This leads me into the second item of interest.

2. The manuscript for book # 2 has gone to the publisher. There is no timeline at the moment. It all depends if they (Gazebo Gardens) want to publish the book. If they decide to publish my work of fiction, it may be ready in time for the cruise in 2021.

Don’t you just hate that?

Don't you just hate that?The other day, I received a message from someone who said they enjoyed Urban Mermaid and asked to be a Beta Reader. I always appreciate volunteerism and decided to reply to this eager recruit. I waded through all my recent e-mail as well as the message queues from my various social (as well as anti-social) media connections and came up empty. Nada. Nowhere to be found.

At this moment actually, I’m looking for an Alpha Reader. This is some brave soul – or souls – willing to read through the current draft of the sequel to Urban Mermaid and faithfully report on whether it is absolute rubbish, partially crap, or something that just needs a bit of work. (The term ‘bit’ is open to interpretation.

Are there scenes/chapters that can be trashed? Am I banging on and on about superfluous ideas that just won’t fly, no matter how long the runway is? Should I just call it quits on this book and move on to the next one or should I just call it quits . . . period? (On the east side of the pond, that should be read as “or should I just call it quits . . . full stop”.

This is your golden opportunity to make a positive contribution to the creative process. I’m open to more than one Alpha Reader. All you need do is let me know and I’ll send you your very own Alpha copy.

Come Sail Away

I’m sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I’ve got to be free free to face the life that’s ahead of me
On board, I’m the captain so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I’ll try oh Lord I’ll try to carry on — STYX, Come Sail Away

Cruise

Well, Judi and I are off on a cruise to the western Carribean in March. This is a combination 45th Anniversary trip/Book promotion/2nd chance for Judi to see some rare cats in Belize. (I just hope she remembers to bring more than one bag of kitty treats!)

As for me, I’ll be the author in residence flogging promoting Urban Mermaid. Now, I just have to think of something to say about it.

Ethyl Merman

Fun Facts – Ethyl Merman

Ethyl MermanWhat’s in a name?

Anyone who has read Urban Mermaid will know that I gave the residents surnames with an aquatic connection. (Tench, Bass, Sturgeon, Fishman, Boatwright, Chandler, etc.) The reason is as follows:

“… Most merfolk in the sea only have one name, and it’s usually a Greek one; at least in our corner of the ocean, that’s the way it is. When our ancestors settled here on Colony Island, they wanted to blend in with the humans… I mean mainlanders. Everyone chose a last name derived from what they knew best; fish, boats, etc. Peter voluntarily changed his middle name because George and Ilene Tench adopted him as their son.” Syrena, Chapter 6

 

I mainly used names that could be found in most any phone book[1]. On occasion, I will use the name of a real person[2]. When it came time to find names for Penelope’s maternal grandparents, I decided the family name should be Merman and the grandmother’s given name should be Ethyl[3].

A spelling mixup

Sharp-eyed readers will notice a discrepancy in the first name of my character. She’s named ‘Ethyl’[4] instead of ‘Ethel’. There is a reason for this – Harry Potter. You may remember the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. Older wizards coming to watch the event decided to ditch the standard wizard robes and remain incognito by wearing Muggle clothing. The problem with this is the items of Muggle clothing they chose made the wizards stick out like a sore thumb.

Swimming under the radar

The merfolk of Colony Island were trying to fit in and remain undetectable to Mainlanders[5] by their choices of given and/or family names. In Ethyl’s case, her parents didn’t know the difference between the chemical term ‘Ethyl’ and the feminine name ‘Ethel’.  Since Ethyl attended both elementary and high school on the island, and seldom went to the mainland, the mistake went undetected for a good part of her life.

Fin

And now you know the rest of the story.


[1] I realise that this may be an unfamiliar term for some of you who are below a certain age. Back in the day, telephone companies would issue an annual paper-bound book containing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone in town. These ‘phone books’ were an invaluable source of information.

[2] In Life on Colony Island, the town’s mayor, Bill Marlin, will take some time off to go visit his younger brother, Sterling. Stirling is a funny duck. He used to drive race cars. His father said he’s Coo Coo. If you like NASCAR, you’ll immediately get the joke.

[3] Ethel Merman. Get it? Here’s a bio of the late singer, Ethel Merman

[4] Ethyl refers to:

[5] Mainlander is a PC term for a human.

Hello, Peter

Hello, Peter!

Hello, Peter!Sometimes, things just fall right into your hands. This image turned up in my Facebook feed this afternoon. While totally serendipitous, the image fits right in with a major plot line the forthcoming sequel to Urban Mermaid, entitled Syrena.

The wedding and attendant festivities are long over. Penelope and Peter are happily married as Peter adjusts to daily life on Colony Island. There’s just one little thing wrong.

Penelope’s VBFF (Very Best Friend Forever), Amy Seagull has been left with a humongous crush on Peter MacPherson. Amy herself will admit she’s got a harmless “little” crush on Peter. What she won’t admit is that this “little” crush is so big that it blots out the sun. The image accompanying this post could have easily come from Amy’s daydreams.

You can fill in the rest on your own.

Meanwhile

I’ve been taking the 27 chapters (28 if you include the Epilogue) of Syrena out of my Scrivener development environment and moving them into MS Word. Once I move a chapter, the clean-up process begins. As for the cleanup tools, I use MS Word’s built-in correction tools, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid to whip these recalcitrant sentences and paragraphs into some sort of shape. I pray that the overall condition will be an improvement over the way they exist now.

ProWritingAid is used to check for things like Readability, Clichés, Grammar, Overused Words, Style, etc. The reports tell me when I’ve got too many instances of the word, ‘was’ or when the same words and phrases occur to close together. Take it from me, trying to reduce the number of occurrences of ‘was’ is a right pain in the arse.

It takes me one to two days to clean up one chapter. Once all that’s done, I’ll begin my read-through.

And now, it’s time for Hello, Peter!

Hello Peter

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