Saturday, December 29, 2012

Contest of Will

I need a sponsor, that's the short version of today's blog post.

This is the time of year for authors to think about entering newly published books into contests, so I have been researching the possibilities.  Just finding a contest that will take a scratch made book is trying, let me say right here and for the record:  All of you who won't accept self published books are narrow minded snobs.  <-- That was the cleaned up version, my real thought included a lot of swear words and some ugly references to how they spend their personal time.

Fortunately, there are still many contests open to me and a handful that are specifically for scratch writers, so The Last Prospector will not be left totally out in the cold.  Which is the good news.

The bad news is that contest entering takes cash, a lot of cash.  First there is the entry fee, the average is $75, but most contests have more than one category you can enter and each category is an extra fee.  One contest has regions and categories, so there is a fee for each thing.

Now, I don't begrudge the organizations for charging a fee, not at all.  Nothing is free, prize money needs to come from somewhere as do the funds for advertising and administration.  Those folks are working stiffs like me with families to feed and bills to pay, so they should move the responsibility of the funding to people it will benefit.

I can't enter every contest, Clyde is vehemently opposed to taking out another mortgage on the house for that, so I have to be extremely choosy right now.  If it was just the entry fees alone, we could probably swing five over the next three months, but it's not just the entry fees, is it?

They need multiple physical copies of the book for the judges, which I have to pay for of course along with the postage to send them all to the proper places.  That could add up to more than the fee for each contest, so each entry is a serious financial commitment for us.

The potential rewards are great, the publicity alone is worth the investment -- if my book wins anything at all.
But there are cash prizes, some quite substantial, and even a few publishing contracts so I simply must try, even in a small way.

All told, I need about $1,000 to do this endeavor properly.  It doesn't look like much when I type it out, but it's a mortgage payment plus a couple of bills.  I like having a roof over my head, very much, so I'm trying to figure out where to scrounge up the extra cash.

I wonder if a bake sale would work?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

List Hit

It's that time of year again Travellers!  The calendar year is drawing to an end, we have survived the elections, doomsday and Christmas, so it is time for a bit of fun.  Everyone is making lists this time of year since it is an easy way to recap the year that was.  I do love a good list, ask around, because a solid list is a busy chef's best friend and a great way to de-clutter an overburdened memory.

I have several lists going regarding the promotion of The Last Prospector, but this is that lovely slack time between the two holidays when no real work gets done.  I have no desire to upset that particular facet of Americana, so the following lists have absolutely no social or nutritive value.

Empty calories are the best kind, n'est ce pas?  (A little French for my niece)

10 Random Things That I Love

  1. Pez Dispensers
  2. David Attenborough
  3. When a plan comes together
  4. Dive bars with pinball machines
  5. Steel drums
  6. Warm peaches picked from the tree on a hot afternoon
  7. The smell of paperwhite narcissus
  8. Big, fat black bumblebees
  9. When one of my kids actually listens to me
  10. Not doing dishes
My 3 Most Favorite Pet Peeves
  1. People who don't even try to say my name right.  IT'S JUST 5 LITTLE LETTERS PEOPLE, QUIT MAKING IT HARDER ON YOURSELF.  C+air+n, that's all it is, just one syllable so PLEASE stop calling me Corrine.
  2. People who drive as if they are NOT sharing the planet with 7 billion OTHER people.  Courtesy counts.  Always.
  3. Lazy chefs who think trying to sell me mashed potatoes with the skins still on is a culinary delight.  It's not, it's lazy so peel the damned potatoes or go sell insurance.
The List of the Finest Movies Ever Made About Food
  1. Babette's Feast - The very finest example about the sheer joy of creation.
  2. Big Night - The ultimate restaurant movie
  3. Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring - Two powerful companion pieces about the beautiful agony of growing food.
  4. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman - Love is food and food is love.
  5. Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle - Because cravings were made to be satisfied.
Things I Would Change If I Was In Charge
  1. Katey Sagal would be declared a National Treasure.
  2. Safeway would be forced to abandon its disgusting policy of not allowing employees to taste the prepared food before selling it.  Shame on you Safeway and any other purveyor of food with the same idiotic mandate.
  3. Public offices would be filled by lottery drawings, thus ending the ugliness of political dumbassedness.
  4. All bar stools would have backs on them.  Yeah, I know they take up too much precious space at the bar, but I need a place to hang my jacket.  And nice purses should not go on the floor, you know.
  5. MTV would be gone so no more stupid 14 year old girls will deliberately get pregnant in a bid for TV stardom.
  6. All of the Khardashians would be forced to learn an actual trade, something that benefits society in some way.  Like making fries at McDonalds, with time a couple of them could actually master that.
Books & Authors That Shaped Me
  1. James Michener - I can't say that one of his books would make my top 10 list, but I read most of his stuff in my teens and through him I developed a discerning eye for the big picture.
  2. Addie Pray by Joe David Brown - No one told me this sweet tale about grifters in the depression was not a children's book.  It was my absolute favorite story since I first read it at the age of eight and am still a little pissed that my parents did not name me Trixie Delight.
  3. The Bourne Identity - The book, not the movie, yes it was a book first.  One of the most golden, most valuable, pieces of advice I ever got came from this book.  It never occurred to me until I saw those two magic words put together that they even belonged together, but they do.  THINK GEOMETRICALLY, omg I can't even begin to say how those two words affected me.  Linear thinking was never my bag anyway.
  4. Sinclair Lewis - Quite simply the finest writer America ever produced, Main Street is a timeless look at the American condition and Elmer Gantry is just breathtaking in its exploration of fame.  All of you who are grousing that it's not Hemingway can suck it, what people see in that loser totally escapes me.
  5. Douglas Adams - This guy gave us all some really great advice: Don't panic.  For that alone, I am eternally grateful, but he also gave us pure silliness and genuine laughter in story form.  
  6. Papillon - I could write an entire book on what I learned from this book and how it shaped my life.  But I already have several irons in the book fire, so I will sum it thusly:  Never give up, no matter what, always keep looking for a way and never, ever STOP TRYING.
The 2 Big Ticket Items I Have Always Wanted But Never Afford
  1. The Grace Kelly bag by Hermes.  I know it's ridiculous, so much money for just a purse, but it's one of the most beautiful things my eyes have ever seen.  I am a handbag ho, this is not news, and that is the best handbag ever conceived.  If I had an extra ten grand lying around, I would spend it on the Kelly.
  2. A food truck.  I have wanted one for 20 years, but I no longer want one for business purposes.  Now I just want a kitchen on wheels, is that too much to ask?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Mad Scientist

Pleasant Day Travellers!

That's my new name for you, although it's hardly a 'new' name by now, it still works beautifully.  Life is full of journeys, some more specific than others, and the knowledge that you are choosing to travel along with me is extremely wonderful.

I wish my mom was still alive to come along on this trip, it is one she would have loved; it's the journey she prepared me for since birth.  I am Jean's daughter, with all the wondrous and miserable things that she gave me; no matter where I go in life, I can never stray very far from that fact.  I don't want to stray far because Jean was a rare and special lady, but she was also tragic because Mom never truly embraced her eccentricities.  She fought against them her whole life, always trying so hard to be more mainstream, more normal, and that fight broke her on the inside.

Jean blamed herself for not being more like them, she saw the normal coming so easily to everyone else but not to her and self destructed quietly over a long period of time.  My deepest regret is that I could not save her, that I didn't know then what I know now and I wish I could have given her some peace.

It is too late for that, but I'm a mother too, so I know exactly what she would have wanted for me. Jean wanted better for me than she got but, more importantly, she wanted me to get if for myself, to do it my way and on my own terms.  My mother saw her crazy in me and did not try to squash it like her mother did, she encouraged it, fostered it, defended it and cried about it occasionally.

But the crazy was her gift to me, to all of her children, and there is no finer gift available.  Jean gave me the very best of herself and I am running with it, running with scissors quite possibly, but I that won't slow me down any.

So, when I posted last week about my changing my word, I was quite serious.  My theory is that changing the vocabulary I use about The Last Prospector will affect the way I present myself and the book to the world.  Until recently, I have not been my typical over-the-top, zealous self about promoting my writing and this is because I succumbed to self-doubt.

No more, no more.  The grand experiment is working, it started working the very moment I changed from self published to scratch, the real Cairn came back.  No more agonizing and wondering if people will like The Last Prospector, it is one of the tastiest morsels I have ever created and that is truly saying something.

In fact, it is so good that I might put a copy of the book on covered glass cake plate in the kitchen where Clyde's endless supply of homemade cookies usually live.  That is precisely the kind of eccentricity Jean would have loved.

Friday, December 21, 2012


At some point today, California and the entire left coast is supposed to sink beneath the surly waters of the Pacific Ocean.  I awoke to some overcast skies and raindrops, but certainly no end of the world deluge, and wondered if anyone else wanted to play a game.

Playing and games are two of the bestest parts of life, I was weaned on pinball as a youngster and transitioned smoothly into the video game era as a teen.  Our house has around 50 board games stashed in various places, a cribbage board always handy and World of Warcraft for my husband.  I stopped playing WoW a year or so back, good game but I got sick of Blizzard's hubris and all the nerfing.

But Clyde, the kids and I are all vengeful gamers no matter what we play because, to us, playing is living.  So let's live on this day of prophesied doom, let's play and let's have a little fun instead.

Naming things is incredibly fun but it's also serious business.  Back when I did play WoW, I was notorious for deleting mid-level toons only because I got sick of their names.  Here's a fun Solstice fact, several character names were lifted wholesale from my toons and those of my WoW friends.   Molca, Soleila and the entire Jash family were derived from the mists of Azeroth.

A good name can get you far in this world, just ask Morgan Fairchild if you don't believe me.  Auld Andrew, my dad, mentions my proclivity for odd names in the book at every opportunity; apparently he would prefer names like Bob and Betsy, sorry Dad.

Making up names is too much fun to stop now and I would love to see what names all of you come up with. So, beginning today and running for one month is this blog's first contest, The Name Game!  The rules are very simple, just conjure up a name for a person or a place and either leave your entry in the comments section or email it to me.

The three people with the best names will each win a copy of The Last Prospector.  BUT WAIT!  THERE'S MORE!!

The grand prize winner, the reader who submits a name of unparalleled majesty and breathtaking symmetry will be able to find that name in a future book in The Song of Solstice series.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited.  There are still only a handful of readers of this blog, but there's more everyday and I would like to meet you, to say thanks for travelling with me.  So come and play readers, there's room for everyone and I will make snacks!

It occurs to me as I write this that calling you 'readers' is kind of boring, you all need a name.

I'll work up something good if you do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scratch Test

Even a casual reader of this blog can glean that I am somewhat preoccupied with food and cooking.  If it was a preoccupation with something less welcome, like a collection of my toenail clippings, people might accuse me of having a form of mental illness.  But everyone eats, and all cultures of the world embrace cooks; it is perhaps the most socially accepted form of madness.  Not just accepted, but condoned and even encouraged, a touch of madness is part of the job and everyone loves a crazy chef.

But I digress somewhat because this communique is not about food; I have had a small, but interesting, epiphany.  The words are important and perhaps, just maybe, I've been using the wrong ones.

This is how it started, I gave some completely unsolicited advice to someone I barely know about something I have no experience doing.  However, I stand by that advice and am poised to take it myself.  I recommended to this person that a simple change in wording would effect a much larger change in the action overall.  Theoretically, a changed word can resonate differently inside you, make you approach a familiar situation in a different and more organic way.

The word I am considering changing is actually two words: self published.  Those two little words can be the kiss of death for a rookie from Suttertown and make most people automatically look over the book that they really should be reading.  Personally, I do not understand the mindset because a self published author has to be more committed, more tenacious and more creative than someone who has an editor and publicist taking care of the details.

There are a lot of pretensions in the literary world, which is extremely weird to me because that is the exact same world that published Modelland by Tyra Banks.  I love Tyra, but come on, Modelland?

This is the part where I'm supposed to say that I can't change the system or I can't fight city hall.  My anarchist heart beats for precisely that, so it is time to change the vocabulary.  I'm going back to my roots, to what I know for sure works.  I am changing my word and maybe the established order along with it.

Out with a term that does not resonate with me, I will be a self published author no longer.  I am very pleased to introduce the new me; Cairn Rodrigues, Scratch Writer.  Everything is better when it's made from scratch, from cupcakes to novels, the craft and dedication are equal.

People are impressed when they are offered a handmade treat; in fact the flavor is improved when they are told that the bread was kneaded by hand.  I know how I feel when I offer up something to those happy people, a confidence and surety that comes from knowing I did it all from the ground up.

That is what The Last Prospector is, the whole series in fact, a delicious treat made up of the most unassuming ingredients that were crafted with great care by hand.

This is all a grand experiment of course, but I do love a grand - and wacky - scientific theory.  It's all that initiative, I suppose, that keeps me trying.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Commemoration

We all know about the sickening events that took place last Friday in Connecticut and are all feeling the same turbulent emotions of shocked horror.  On this day, we are all stepping away from the normal business of our blogs to add our voices to the chorus of support for the families who have lost so much.

It is doubtful than anyone will ever be able to explain what led that young man to inflict that amount of pain on children, both to the deceased and the survivors whose lives have been altered forever.  My heart and deepest condolences go out to the families of the students and faculty of Sandy Hook School, I wish there was more I could do.

But I know from experience that there is only one thing that I can do, nothing can ease the pain that a parent feels when they have lost a child.  It is a struggle that each individual must face alone, but as a survivor of that same pain, I can offer only this.  Love more.

I know it seems hard when anger and retribution are so much easier to act upon, but loving more is the only answer to what ails our society.  Love your family and friends more, your neighbors and co-workers, love the people who push at us the hardest and love yourself.

It only takes a momentary kindness, a fleeting sign of generosity, to turn the tide from violence to peace.  If you would like to contribute to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund please visit their United Way page.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunny Side Up

It's been a good day; went grocery shopping this morning where I got a great deal on peanut butter chips, had lunch with my Dad (good Chinese and he paid) and spent some time wildlife watching in the back yard.  I live in a fairly typical and crowded neighborhood, but there is a thriving habitat around my personal space full of sparrows, squirrels and the occasional thieving raccoon.  I was very pleased to see that Little Chunk the squirrel had not been carried off by Sweetback the hawk as I had feared, but such incidents put the wild into life.

Over lunch, my father was talking about the Mayan doomsday calendar and that he feared there might be something to it, things do look bad after all.  I'll allow that, but things always look bad if you look in the right place.  I'm not saying bad things don't happen, of course they happen, bad things have always happened and will continue to do so, that is just how things are.  The current tragedies are no more tragic than the old ones though, they seem bigger to us because of their immediacy and the multitude of technologies that bring far flung disasters into the palms of our hands.

I am not here today to rail against technology or wring my hands about our species' mishandling of our own habitat.  I have but one important message to convey to anyone who is even remotely worried that everything is going to come crashing down around us by the end of this month.  You can take this right to the bank, because I am more sure of this than I'm sure there will be coffee with breakfast tomorrow.

Everything is fine, so get about living.

There you have it courageous readers, I know with absolute conviction that January 2013 will come as scheduled and everything will look pretty much the same.  Life as we know it will chug along and every single person on this planet will be awarded a gazillion more opportunities to live and live more.

You wonder how I know this?  How it is that I can so brazenly assert against wise and learned Mayan mathematicians based purely on the strength of my convictions?  Simple, the end is not nigh because I am not done yet.  In fact, I have only just started and will be damned if I let all my plans blow up purely on the power of dead men's notions.  Isn't is just too bad for the extinct Mayans, Edgar Cayce and Nostradamus that they didn't live long enough to see if they were right?  Perhaps, I say it's convenient and an alarming lack of accountability.

Your time is over and your words have no power over me, this is my time, mine and every other dreamer out there who has put sweat and faith into their dreams.  I have worked too hard to let it slip away and if I have to be the one person standing in the heart of the maelstrom pushing Satan back down with a kitchen stool, I will, because no entity in all of creation can stop me.

I will doggedly carve order out of the chaos with my chef's knife and shout the shrieking harpies into submission; I will curse the tornadoes and boil the flood waters with my rage if they dare to cross my path.  All it takes to win is belief that you will and the courage to keep fighting until you have, and I have enough belief for everyone.

So relax, because everything if fine.

Friday, December 7, 2012


I need a vacation.  While an all expenses paid excursion to a tropical paradise would not be turned down, it is not the kind of trip I'm going to take right now.  It's time to go back home to Solstice and check on all my friends, see if they missed me.

I have missed them, but I have stayed away from the series for months now because I've needed to focus on promoting The Last Prospector.  That cause is not being abandoned, do not fear, but I do need to finish editing the second book.

Here's the thing, books one and two were originally one REALLY LONG book.  Two months of daily writing had earned me nearly 900 pages of story, all of which needed to be there.  Once I finally realized the actual size my debut novel would be, I panicked because that was a lot of commitment on the part of a reader for a new author.

Then came the agonizing decision to split the book in half, I fussed and fretted for many days because there didn't seem to be a natural break anywhere in the middle.  After a great deal of thought and much trial and error, I did find that break but it needed to bolstered a bit.  I added some chapters and, in the end, was much happier with the final product because this first book is now all about Prospector.

However, most people in my circle know about the book splitting thing, they know that it is pretty much ready to go and have been asking about it more and more lately.  Which I'm taking as a very good sign, by the way, they read the first one and want more.  More is one of my favorite words, so how can I deny them?

So far, each new book in the series starts just before the ending of the previous book, so Travellers & Tramps picks up right after Amlyn Logialle finds the orange baby.  The world of Solstice really opens up in the second installment; we meet the caravaners and one of my favorite characters, Billo Karn.  Billo was named for my all time favorite teacher in college but looks suspiciously like David Tennant, mostly because I think David Tennant would look AMAZING with bright blue hair.

Book two is much more about Soleila and Awnyx, but Prospector and Tonyo are still prominent.  They have a road to build and Prospector has a destiny to meet; perhaps it is at the end of that road.  No spoilers here friends, you'll have to wait and see.  Travellers & Tramps has more adventure, more action, than The Last Prospector and some heart strings will be tugged, but it's a great story that I can't wait for everyone to read.

Especially my mother in law, she is gonna love this.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vision Statement

Good news!  The big board is doing its thing and a second directive has been added to the Marketing Plan page.  More research on the overall topic is still needed, but my first task has already been laid out;  a vision statement needs to be conceived and written.  I certainly like the sound of it, a formal declaration of my 'brand', where I see it going and a general nod to how I'm going to get there all in one tidy statement.

Vision is probably the most powerful tool each person has, but also the least used.  Think about it though, how often does anything of substance get done or get created unless at least one person has seen it thusly inside their own head first?  Vision is not what our eyes show us, it is what we see in our minds; it is something that is conjured up by all the senses and made a reality by the power of will.

I've always been a big believer and practitioner of visualization, mostly about food until a year ago, but I am generally inclined towards less conventional schools of thought.  Before I began writing The Last Prospector, I spent a month just thinking about it, seeing it in my head and building the world of Solstice bit by bit.  I conjured up the smell of the grassy meadows of Auld Andrew's Hearth and the exact shade of blue water in Petra Lake.  By the time I sat down to write, Solstice was as real to me as my own home and the story flowed out of me without hesitation.

Visualization takes practice and concentration, but the rewards are immeasurable.  If you are wanting to try it, click here for a simple exercise to aid in attracting love into your life.  The third posting on that page is a primer for basic visualization, so I urge you to at least look.

Ok, so I've got the vision and all I need now is the statement.  Things get a little trickier here, because the words are important you see.  First problem is that I'm not at all sure what my 'brand' is, I know that's the big thing these days, branding.  Tyra can't shut up about it on Top Model, so it must be important.  I've been auditioning various words and phrases in my head, like 'Unexpected', 'Quality Entertainment' and 'Gimme Candy'.  I suppose that last one is more my personal brand than a professional one though.

I feel too intertwined with the Song of Solstice to be able to look at it objectively and find its defining word or phrase, its brand.  If any of you has even the tiniest suggestion, please pass it on because I need to get this done.

Then that I think about it a bit more...what if I already do know my phrase??

Seriously though, this did just come to me as I wrote this.  The Song of Solstice has a brand and it is...
Travellers Welcome!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I'm the do-it-yourself type of person, always have been, it's the reason I started cooking very young and the reason I self published a book.  If you want something done 'right', i.e. in a way that pleases you, then roll up your sleeves and get going.  I have to cook so much only because my palate demands great flavors, it's a call to action that cannot be ignored and life is better spent in the having, not the wanting.

Of course, it would seem very sage and wise of me to say otherwise, but screw that, having your heart's desire is much more satisfying than mere desire alone.  The Last Prospector, and the entire Solstice series, was born from my dissatisfaction with another story.  That story had left my entertainment appetite unsatisfied - and promising any of my appetites greatness without delivering ignites my caustic anger pretty easily these days.  That dumb book had the gall to leave me wanting, it pissed me off royally so I decided to do it my own damn self.

So, I did.  Please read The Last Prospector available at

Anyway, books are written and a story is being told.  The new, and decidedly less fun, story is selling the book to millions of people who have never heard of me.  My last post found me feeling a bit beaten and lost, it's my goal with this blog to chart my entire journey with the highs and lows, last Friday was definitely a low.

I've been flailing for weeks now, lost in a maze of uncertainty without any clear direction or plan of action.  This is most unlike me, I am an organized lady and borderline compulsive planner.  It was time for a system, a new system that was bigger than a notebook, grander in scale while still being economical.  Over the weekend DIY Clyde MacGyvered the big board with some crappy thin sheets of cork bolstered by flattened cardboard boxes and duct tape.  Pretty sweet, I know.

This is my first target, you can tell by the bedazzling that I mean business.  The goal is to get 5,000 copies into reader's hands by June 2013.  Please note that I did not specify 5,000 book sales, not that it wouldn't be great, but you have to give to get in this world.  To that end, I've been giving away books to known readers and will be running the occasional book giveaway on this blog once I figure out how.  So the target is 5,000 people reading The Last Prospector, by hook or by crook.

The board is in its first, rough stages of organization.  There are color coded categories for blogging, word of mouth and this important bit of business...

Writing a marketing plan is the first suggestion in virtually everything I have read so far on the topic of selling a book.  So far, my eyes have leapt eagerly away from that purely because it is yet another thing I know nothing about and will have to learn.  I can ignore it no longer now, it's on the big board.  Please note the one directive under the heading, 'nuff said.

I could hire someone to make that plan of course, I could have paid people to format the book, create the cover or even make this blog.  There's a team available for every step in this process and I wish them all well because we can't afford them.  Team Carrie & Clyde, the DIY wonder couple are on the job.