Saturday, October 31, 2009

Packing, Ports, Panama . . . Plots

This Yours Truly in the new "Coolibar" sunhat. Wide-brimmed. SPF 50. Chin strap for winds . . . whether they come when standing at a highly polished ship rail far out at sea, or while kayaking a peaceful lagoon at Half Moon Cay. Protects my head from sunburn. (Flashback to very unattractive peeling stripes where my hair parts--too many times to count). And prevents my freckles from completely coalescing--in the past, my only way of "tanning." I'm too health conscious to do that now; tans come in spray booths, bottles and lotions these days, thank heaven. And besides, we're not going on this cruise to get a tan; we're going in order to enjoy the blessings of a change of scenery, the company of good friends, and to simply get away.

Which will happen, absolutely . . . for my husband. For 11 days he'll be away from volunteer obligations, lawn and pool duty, the burden of having a house up for sale, and cleaning up after his cooking-crazed wife. He'll take a less enjoyable break from TV football (unless it's changed, at sea programming only offers soccer), and practicing his guitar.

But do writers every really take a break from writing? Hmmm. . . Not unless we leave our brains at home! I mean, sure, physically we do. We can walk away from the office, the laptop, can set paper and pencils aside. We can close the "How To" writing books. And I'll be doing that, welcoming a break after writing three books in the Mercy Hospital Series. It will be a celebration of having accomplished what I set out to do. But my writer's brain won't be cajoled by blue water, palm trees, or the steel drums of a reggae band. It will be working. Whispering bits of dialogue, prodding--plotting a new book. Ask any writer. The process continues most waking hours and, for some, even during sleep. Everything we see, hear, touch, smell, and experience begs--like a small child tugging the hem of his parent's coat-- to be translated into words. It's hard to ignore.

We sit in an airport and study people, wonder what motivates them, what worries them, where they find comfort, joy. We hear short snippets of conversation (okay, we eavesdrop!) and mentally fill in the blanks, create scenes . . . take it forward on the wheels of "what if?"

The beauty of it, of course, is that this process is a secret thing. No one has to know. A writer can look like anyone else in the crowd, while scenes are playing out in their heads.

Even on a lagoon in Half Moon Cay.
At the Panama Canal.
In the jungles of Costa Rica.
Behind sunglasses.
Under a nifty new Coolibar sunhat.

Which of course, does not answer the real question: How does a man manage to travel with only 3 pair of shoes?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Krazy Kindle Klub

I just returned home from a spur-of-the moment visit to California to visit my children. And because I needed an "Ashland fix--" our newest grand daughter, 6 months old. According to hubby, I was "moping around" and he therefore insisted that I go--short of twisting my arm. Which would be impossible to do with me packing so fast: clothes, shoes, gifts for baby, chocolates for bookstore staff, make-up, hair dryer . . . and BOOKS of course.

5 hour flight, gotta read. I had a paperback to finish--a medical suspense by awesome author, Hannah Alexander. But there were only a few chapters left, and I knew I'd need more. So I brought my Amazon Kindle reader and (while sitting in airport) downloaded several more books in a matter of seconds. Seriously, this process (this concept) still gives me chills. Thousands of books available at my fingertips (okay, and then on my credit card) at any moment in time.

Get me a bib, I'm drooling.

And I'm not the only one.

On the plane, the woman across from me was reading The Shack on her 2nd generation Kindle.
Then the woman directly behind me craned her head enough to ask me, "Is that a Kindle?" And proceeded to tell me she loved hers. (Lovvvvvves) Indeed, her husband joked that she was never without her Kindle--that she was like that weird, dark character "Gollum" in Lord of the Rings. Which she proved by pretending to stroke her Kindle cover, whispering "My precious-sssss."

Soon it was a 3-way Kindle lovefest, all of us reporting what we liked best (convenience, accessibility, having a tidy featherweight portable library), what we liked least (only one thing: you gotta turn it off when an airplane takes off/lands); and completely pooh poohing the myth that a real bibliophile must have the scent of paper in order for the reading experience to be satisfactory. No way. "Get a grip--keep a page in your pocket if you need to!" We were passionate, we were waving our hands, we were . . . joined by a flight attendant.

Too rowdy? Blocking the aisle? Making an Air Marshal nervous?
She was a Kindle owner wannabe.
And we were eager to share. My precioussssss . . .

This scenario has happened to me many times. And I'm guessing--with Amazon dropping the price 40 dollars pre-holidays (and making Kindle books available world-wide), one that will repeat more and more often. There was a time when e-books were thought to be a fad like Pet Rocks, hula hoops, Furbies, or The Clapper light switch thingy. But that time is past.

My books--old comic mysteries, new Mercy Hospital series--are now available on Kindle.
As are newspapers and magazines.

My very busy (very savvy) literary agent now requests manuscripts as e-mailed documents and then transfers them to her Kindle--zip, zap. And she's ready to read dozens of books from potential clients, without lugging 4 pound stacks of printed paper everywhere she goes!

I just uploaded my critique partner's manuscript to read. Simple, convenient--"turn" the pages with a touch of a fingertip. Not backlit, no eye fatigue. "Bookmarks" your page with the touch of a button. Includes an instantly accessible dictionary to check unfamiliar words.
Each book download is a few dollars cheaper than print books, no shipping--and first chapters may be "sampled" for free. For those who haven't had the chance to play with a Kindle reader, here's a video clip.

Am I selling Kindles? No. But I probably have inadvertently done so by my enthusiasm.

Do I still love "real" books? Absolutely! Can't autograph a Kindle book, or admire it on my bookshelf. Or stroll down a hushed library aisle enjoying their quiet camaraderie . . . the very feel of them.

I haven't abandoned paper books at all. In fact, guess what gift I brought to baby Ashland?

That's right. A book. Noah's Ark--with puffy fabric pages. Because right now she'd eat paper pages. Fabric to paper, to . . . Kindle? Maybe. It's highly likely that her schoolbooks will be in electronic format.

But don't worry, Grandma will keep plenty of those "vintage" ones around.

How about you? Tried an e-reader yet?

What do you think? Willing to join the Krazy Kindle Klub?

** Hot off the press (and to prove a point): Barnes & Noble now has its own e-reader, the NOOK reader for pre-order. **

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stalked by a Nameless Hero

My brain is being held hostage by (as yet) an untold story. I don't know how it begins or ends, but the hero is wearing rumpled camouflage and is trying to talk me into a skydiving scene. He's a doctor, and a strange dichotomy: a man committed to saving lives, who can't feel truly alive unless he's risking his own. Not an easy man to be around, trust me; the first to volunteer for a medical mission to Afghanistan, a man who'll finish his ER shift stateside despite a fractured leg-- and, trust me, someone who'll have no empathy if you call in sick with a sore throat. Nor will he open to discovering the emotional wounds behind his own apparent death wish.

I can imagine the inevitable clash if he must suddenly share workspace with an idealistic ER nurse . . . turned hospital chaplain because of an injury that put her on extended disability. Especially if she gets close enough to see the wounded man behind his bravado.

For writers this is often the way books start, hints of characters, glimpses of action, snippets of dialogue. These things simply come to us--often in the shower. Seriously. Where is that crayon soap when you need it?

So why an "action hero" character? Good question. Maybe because I understand--on a small scale, certainly-- the pull between a cautious, logical, pre-planned, "safe" approach to life and the intriguing draw of the out-of-the-ordinary adventure. Or because, admittedly, I've had times in my life when due to circumstances, I threw ordinary caution to the wind. And now, in hindsight, I can ask . . . "What on earth were you thinking?!" Like when I:

1) took my small children to watch their father strap himself into a hang glider and jump from a high Sierra cliff. Then chased him for miles when an updraft carried him frighteningly out of sight and far away from target.

2) climbed into the bucket seat of an ultralight aircraft--no more than a lawnmower with wings--legs dangling, to skim over northern California vineyards . . . and chase coyotes. Always holding my breath when the tiny engine sputtered, gasped.

3) drove to a sky diving site to take photographs . . . and ended up jumping from a plane at 13,000 feet.

4) Swam in the Caribbean with stingrays . . . the week before the Crocodile Hunter was fatally speared through the chest by one.

5) Rode a young thoroughbred who'd been laid up for months (his energy building like a volcano), and was bucked off to suffer fractured ribs, back, punctured lung, a broken neck and a spinal cord injury.

I do not consider myself particularly adventurous. But, in hindsight and with distance, it's clear to me that in almost every instance there was an emotional component that spurred my taking an uncharacteristic risk. That is what I find intriguing about this new hero who has been tugging at my subconcious. Why is he so willing to take risks? What motivates him? Is he truly fearless . . . or does he fear something far more devastating than physical injury and even death?
And . . . what would it take for him to change?

Couple of questions for you:

1) Have you taken an uncharacteristic risk that makes you now wonder, "What was I thinking?"
2) Anyone have a suggestion for good name for this hero who is stomping around in my mind?

My last 3 heroes were Logan, Scott, and Nick.

This new name should ideally work well with the heroine's name: Riley. So I should avoid R's, or "ee" sounding endings--too "matchy matchy". (This coming from an author who is a "Candy" married to an "Andy"!)

Perhaps one syllable, or three? A shortened version of a longer name?
I'd love to hear your ideas!

Meanwhile I'll let these characters, this story, percolate while hubby and finish making excursion plans for our upcoming vacation. A cruise through the Southern Caribbean to the Panama Canal. I'm proud of myself for crossing out the "Stingray Adventure" this go round. A glass bottom boat (even if Pirahnas are an issue) sounds relatively tame. Kayaks though the Grand Cayman lagoon, sure--vegetation is non-threatening. Chagres River Panama rainforest hike with sloths, igunanas, monkeys, toucans . . . cool. And then there's that last one:

"Rain Forest Canopy Adventure": double-cable ziplines streching 197 feet above the rainforest. The rainforest canopy at eye-level, thrilling slides from platform to platform, "adrenaline afficionados will love this tour."

Oh, blast it.

My un-named hero, is whispering "Go for it."

Forget the shower soap. Get me a roll of duct tape--this character is going to be a challenge.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Congratulations Sherry!

At noon Pacific Time, I asked my real-life hero, Andy, to close his eyes and draw a slip of paper from a glass bowl. Names of entrants who wanted to win a free signed hardbound LARGE PRINT copy of CRITICAL CARE. I held my breath. He drew a name: SHERRY from Fremont, California!
I love it that she wants me to sign it to her grandmother LOREAN, the woman she describes as an "inspiration." It is my complete delight to do that. And to interact with readers at my new fan page Candace Calvert Books on FaceBook. If you haven't joined, I hope you will--we have book discussions, share ideas . . . and I'll be giving away more books. "Scrub in," won't you?
Congratulations SHERRY! And Lorean, what a blessing you have in your grand daughter!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book Giveaway

This is the hardbound large print version of CRITICAL CARE--same book as the one put out by Tyndale House, but published especially for folks who need a larger font to read comfortably. Or lose their glasses on top of their heads like I do! I've been supplied with a couple of copies and donated one to our local library. The other copy I'd like to autograph and send to one of you. Visit (and join!) my FaceBook fan page, leave a post saying whether you like this cover or the original cover best, and I'll enter you in a drawing. I'll draw the lucky winner's name tomorrow (Monday) at noon and post it on the fan page. C'mon over: