Thursday, November 11, 2010

And The Winner Is ......

The winner of our contest is Arisha. If you want to get to know her better, you can find her lovely blog here: Joyously Living Life.

A very big thank you to all who entered my contest. I loved reading your entries. I wish I could send a free book to all of you. I hope the rest of you will buy yourselves a copy and enjoy the story of Martha, Denali and Falcor. Remember I will send you a signed bookplate if you mail a self addressed envelope to me at the address on the copyright page of the book.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Your Own Personal Copy

You can win your own personal, signed copy of Murder Spins a Tale. Just leave a comment to this post telling me why you want to read about the adventures of Martha, Denali and Falcor. I will put the ten comments that I like the best in a hat and the winning entry will be chosen at random from those ten. Be sure to include your email address in your comment. You can link proof it by using the format flocknfibermysteries at gmail dot com or you can send it to me at that email address. Just be sure I will know how to link your address from your email to your comment.

So here's your chance to get the very first copy beyond the proof copy that I get from the publishers. What a deal! Tell your friends, relations and co-workers. No fair keeping this opportunity all to yourself.

We Have Lift Off

Murder Spins a Tale is now up and running and ready for your reading enjoyment. Please go here Murder Spins a Tale to order your own personal copy. If you want a signed bookplate to place in your book, it is available by sending a stamped, self addressed envelope to me at the address on the copyright page of the book.



And after you've read and enjoyed the adventures of Martha, Denali and Falcor, I hope you will review in on

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's Almost Lift Off

One more test of my patience. I received my proof copy in the mail yesterday. Express mail takes from Friday to Wednesday if it's going from South Carolina to Kea`au, Hawaii. I approved the proof copy last night and now I must wait again. It will take a week to ten days to get the book available on Amazon. In the meantime, I thought you might like to see a picture that I took of the proof copy cover.


You might also like to check out my web site for Flock and Fiber Mysteries It still isn't connected to my domain name because of technical issues, but you can get to it with the link provided here. I will be changing out the art work on the page for the book as soon as I have my "official" picture of the book cover.

Thanks for keeping up with me and my progress through the self-publishing process. I'll keep you posted on the ongoing adventures of marketing on here; and of course, I'll let you know as soon as the book is available on Amazon.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More About Those Working Dogs

Last Saturday, I was at Ahualoa Alpacas on the slopes of Mauna Kea. They were celebrating Alpaca Days and holding an open house for the public. Officially, I was there to demonstrate spinning with alpaca fiber and to talk to people about the fiber, and I enjoyed doing that. But what I really loved was watching Leo, a young Maremma, doing a perfect job of guarding his flock of alpaca.

It was a lovely sunny day and there was a large crowd wandering around and standing at the fence trying to get as close as possible to the wonderful, furry critters. When the alpaca were away from the fence, the dog could be seen resting in the shade under a tree. But when the alpaca moved up to the fence where the people were, their guardian was right there too making sure that all was under control.


Leo and his Alpacas

Leo, the Maremma, with his Alpaca charges at Ahualoa Alpacas.

Only once twice did Leo go on high alert: Once when an ATV showed up with it's noise and the second time when a cattle dog arrived in a pickup with some of the attendees. Notice his body language in this photo. It says I'm all business and ready to take on any danger to my flock.


And Now To Countdown

Part of what I've learned in this world of self-publishing is that you do a lot of hurry up and wait. It helps build patience I suppose. But yesterday, we covered a major hurdle. I uploaded the PDF file that contains the interior of the book. And since I've heard nothing saying that there was a problem with the file, I'm assuming that Create Space now has everything it needs to make a copy of my book.

So now I wait. Soon I should hear that they have a proof copy ready to send to me. I'll let them know how I want it shipped and then I get to wait some more. But at the end of that waiting, I will be holding a copy of my book in my hands. It will no longer be a manuscript or a computer file, it will be a book. If that copy of the book has no problems, I will give my OK and within a few days it will be available on Amazon. After that, it will become available in other areas. Don't worry, I will keep you alerted to all of these events.

Counting down 10 - 9 - 8 .........

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Dogs

Two of the major characters in Mystery Spins a Tale are Martha's Great Pyrenees, Falcor and Denali. Great Pyrenees have been used for hundreds of years to guard livestock from predators. They originate from the Pyrenees Mountains and were favorites of the French Court at one time. Today they are still used to guard their traditional flocks of sheep and goats, but they also guard llama, alpaca, fowl, and miniature horses among other critters. Besides being Martha's beloved companions, Falcor and Denali guard Martha's small spinning flock of fiber animals.

Falcor and Denali are based on all of the Great Pyrenees that I have known over the past twenty plus years. However, the core of their characters comes from my first two Great Pyrenees, Denali and Miles.

Denali - Miles

When Denali died of bone cancer at a much too young age, we got Pele. Pele's sister Maddie joined our family when Miles went over the Bridge. Here they are on a hike in the Cascades in Washington state.

Pele & Maddie_0001

Maddie was bred twice and Karlo, from her first litter, joined us when he was about six months old. Here he is in a mock battle with his Aunt Pele.

Karlo - Pele_0003

Many years ago, my friend Judy wrote this piece about Maddie when there was a discussion on the Great Pyrenees list as to whether you could get a good working dog from a breeder who also sold companion and show dogs. I still love it after all these years and decided to share it with you. Enjoy.

"Maddie, one of Veryl's three pet dogs, has been staying with me for the last two weeks, while her owner escapes our rain and mud in sunny Hawaii. Maddie has stayed here before, so I knew she was good with the sheep (my house is included within the sheep fencing). She has very quiet body movements, and basically ignores the fact that there are animals around her.

This morning I let her out to splash in the ponds and get covered in mud as is her routine (and not allowed at home). She did not come in when I called her for breakfast - definitely unusual. But I could hear her barking her presence to the world, so I wasn't concerned.

When I went out to feed the sheep, Maddie was in the loafing shed - vigilantly guarding one yearling doe (who didn't belong there), one ewe,and one newborn lamb. She wasn't disturbing the pair, wasn't trying to take over the lamb (a common problem with new guardians), she was just guarding. Then she would go out onto the bridge and bark a warning, and return. During the time I was feeding, she did one full round of the field, a solid bark down the creek, and ended up back in with the new family. Looking very, very happy.

My dogs are much more casual these days about lambs. Drew was lounging on the hill that overlooks the entire sheep area, Natasha out patrolling the fence line. I think that as the oldest dog, Maddie gets to call the shots on where her presence is needed.

Maddie is 8 years old, the mother of two litters - one of her "pups" is the 1996 and 1997 top winning Pyrenean in Finland, and a house and yard dog. A pup from her second litter is a full time Alpaca guardian in Alaska.

The first time I saw her was in a show ring, at my first show. She is, however, from solid working lines. Maddie herself has several working 1/2 sibs. One of her mother's sisters guarded llamas until she died at the age of 12. Others worked in other varying environments. Her mother's sire was not only a champion and producer of champions, but had any number of pups who guarded successfully on both small family farms and large open range situations.

I would gladly take this show dog, house pet, brood bitch as a working dog to protect my flock. Her instincts are obviously very much intact, she knows a job when she sees one, and does it. She can do, and has done, it all."

If you enjoyed Judy's comments about Maddie, you might enjoy her blog which describes life on her small farm in western Washington, a farm much like Martha's: Ravenwood Farm Tails

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Just a Taste - Murder Spins a Tale

I thought you might want just a taste of Murder Spins a Tale. Hope this whets your appetite for the complete story. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

It wasn’t as if I were unfamiliar with death coming without warning in a brutal fashion. It had happened before. But one was never ready for it; and it always, as is the nature of such things, came as a terrible surprise. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There was nothing that winter morning to warn me except the call of the great horned owl, who in some Native American cultures is the portent of death.

Enjoying the call of the owl, I snuggled a little deeper into my wool jacket and settled my Pyr hair hat down around my ears. My breath steamed in the still morning air. A layer of frost glistened from the fence posts and the gravel crunched underfoot as I walked to the barn to feed the animals. The stars were still bright; it was not often that February skies were so clear. A cold nose went under my coat and a white shoulder gave me a nudge as Falcor reminded me that there was a job to do that didn’t involve star gazing. A large white shadow emerged from the side of the shop and Denali joined us as we moved toward the barn. The Great Pyrenees were my livestock protection dogs and companions. Nothing made a coyote more uncomfortable than a guardian the size of a large gray wolf with equally sharp teeth.

“Maaaa,” Koa, the Icelandic sheep, greeted me as I started to pull down the hay. Coco, the angora goat, gave me a gentle nudge. The rest of my eclectic spinning flock began to move in for their share of the food. I caught a glimpse of Sable, the Siamese cat, as she stalked a mouse real or imaginary in the straw of one of the stalls. The warmth of the barn, the gentle sounds of my animals eating and the pungent odors that came from the mixture of hay, straw, grain and one goat, five sheep and two alpacas surrounded me as I opened the large barn doors that gave them access to the outside world. Lost in early morning musings, I was gazing across the pasture when a white streak went past me and Falcor raced across the pasture with Denali in hot pursuit. They were barking alarms as they went. Then I heard the coyote yip and his call echoed by another. Both dogs were at the fence line now and telling the world in no uncertain terms that this pasture and this flock belonged to them. No predators were allowed.

It was time for me to leave the barn and start my day. My flock was safe and the Pyrs would make sure that they stayed that way. As I walked up the back steps to my porch, I turned for one more look at the dawn streaked sky before day claimed it.

My name is Martha Williamson. Nearly five years ago, the Air Force moved my husband John and me from the sun-drenched beaches of Honolulu, Hawai`i, to the mist-shrouded forests of Puget Sound. While John flew C17s, I worked as a personnel trainer with the state of Washington. John was going to retire after this tour; so when we were house hunting, we looked for a place that would be a comfortable, permanent home. We knew we'd found it when we were shown this small 25-acre farm nestled among the trees just outside Black Hills, Washington. At the time, it was a long way out and a major commute for both of us, but we fell in love with the tranquility and peace it provided at the end of a busy day.

However, life has a way of turning the best plans upside down, and it did with ours. John was killed on Halloween four years ago while driving to work on Interstate Five. A trucker fell asleep at the wheel and smashed John and his Toyota into the center barrier. John had flown many hours in combat operations and arrived home safely only to be killed on our highways.

I was in shock, but the small community of Black Hills rallied around and helped me through this most difficult of times. Gradually I began to make the changes necessary under such circumstances. I left my job with the state of Washington and opened The Spider’s Web, where I sell supplies and teach classes in spinning, weaving, knitting and crochet. It has become a gathering place for people who enjoy fiber arts and allows me to make a living while combining my passions for fiber and teaching. It’s a peaceful life and one I have come to savor and enjoy.

Today I had a breakfast date with my best friend, Ellen. Following John’s death, we did this on a weekly basis to help keep me on an even keel. Now we manage it about once a month just for the fun of it. Realizing I would need to hustle a bit if I was going to be on time, I showered quickly, combed my waist-length auburn hair into a single braid and pulled on jeans, a flannel shirt, and handspun, handknit socks. I slipped my feet into Birkenstocks and grabbed my coat as I went out the back door and to the Ford pickup. Bright red and my workhorse vehicle, it had been my first major purchase after John died.

Black Hills Road makes a loop off of State Highway 8 to get to the town. My farm is at the west end of the loop not far off the highway. Black Hills is mainly a wide place in the road that once served timber families as home. With the downturn of the timber industry, it has become a bedroom for Olympia, the state capital, and a place where tourists can stop for a quick bite to eat, obtain gas or find lodging.

As I started to follow the curve of Black Hills Road, I noticed something odd. The door to the beauty parlor was wide open. Janelle was not an early riser and didn’t usually open until ten. The shop was in the corner of a small cluster of stores, none of which opened early. I pulled into the empty parking lot and got out of the truck. Looking around, I saw nothing out of the ordinary except the open door.

“Janelle,” I called out as I walked closer to the shop. “Janelle.”

Getting no answer and hearing nothing except the sound of my own voice and the hum of traffic on the highway some distance away, I decided to poke my head inside.

“Jan…,” my call died on my lips as I saw the disaster in the shop.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Starting to Count the Days

I'm beginning to think that this publishing business is really going to happen and I will be holding my book by the end of the month.

Recently Create Space sent me a PDF file with two cover choices. Both were lovely, but in the end I had to choose one and I've made that choice. Unfortunately I still don't have a file of the cover in a format that I can share with you. But take my word for it; it's lovely. The designer did a wonderful job of featuring Charlene's cover art work.

Kary sent me her art work for the interior of the book and I've sent it off to Linda. So Linda has all the information that she needs to do the book interior and is working on it as I type this. Did I say that I was excited?

This is Kary's spindle that will be at the beginning of each chapter:


And this is the spinning wheel that will be on the title page:

Spinning Wheel_0001

My web site is close to being published and I'm setting strategies to get the word out to the world that my book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It will be happening soon and I'll keep you all posted as the steps get covered. Thanks for coming along on this exciting ride.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Juggling Multiple Balls

How are you at juggling? I've realized that this self-publishing business is a lot like juggling. There are many things that need to be done and you seem to need to do them all at once.

I'm publishing through Create Space which is a part of the Amazon family. Once I thought I was ready, I needed to actually contact Create Space instead of just looking at the web site. They responded quickly and set me up with an account management team. These are the people who will help me produce the best product I can and answer all my many questions.

So I have my account on Create Space and all of a sudden, I have a bunch of forms to fill out, questions to answer and files to upload. That has taken a good portion of my day today. One of the files I had to upload was my author photo. Here it is


Then there is the interior of the book. Rather than using Create Space for this, I have chosen to work once again with a close friend who does this professionally. I felt this gave me more control over the interior of my book. Plus it is always more fun to work with a friend than a stranger no matter how nice the stranger is. So today, I sent off the final copy of the manuscript to Linda.

I also chose to provide my own cover art. This was done by my friend Charlene and I love it.

denali dog sketch008 darker

My friend, Kary, is doing the interior artwork. I can tell you that having talented friends is great. Thanks to all of them.

So I have a lot of balls in the air right now and there are still more to toss up: I need to put together my web site, and to do that, I need to figure out how to point my domain name to iweb. They give directions which at the moment look like Greek, but I'll figure it out. Then there are pictures to scan in for the web site and text to write. I also need to put together my publicity package. And while doing this, I need to keep all the other balls in the air.

By the time all of you see Murder Spins a Tale, I should be pretty good at juggling.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What About Those Errors I Missed

So I've written a manuscript for a mystery, and it's a pretty good story, if I do say so myself. However, some readers of published books take perverse pleasure in finding errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. And they also love to let the author know they found them. Plus any writer who wants to have their story read by an agent or editor knows that it is important to have a clean document.

So you make full use of your word processors spell check and grammar check features. And you read and reread as you look for errors and tweak your story. Now it's ready. Or is it? I had done all of the above plus critique partners and friends had read it, but there was that niggling feeling that I should do more.

My solution, I used a professional proofreader. Now I was lucky and I have a friend who did this for a living for many years and she agreed to go over my manuscript for me. But even if I hadn't had that good fortune, I would have hired someone. Proofreaders are out there for hire and they are worth the cost.

I sent my manuscript off to my friend, and very shortly, I got a file back with all kinds of little red squiggles on it. I expected errors, but had no idea how many were really there. Most of them were things I knew were wrong the minute I saw them; I had just missed them. Some of the errors were changes in punctuation usage over the years since I took grammar in college more years ago that you want to know, and a very few were things I didn't know. My friend had given me lots of work to do on the manuscript.

So I pulled up my document and I started reading through it again. I made sure I corrected the errors she had indicated, but I also took this opportunity for one more read through of the story. I tweaked a sentence here and a paragraph there. It took a lot longer than I expected, but it was also rewarding as I knew that my book would be the better for it.

It's now ready or at least as ready as I can make it with the help of a professional. And I'm now ready for the next step. I'll be contacting Create Space soon to work out the details of my contract with them. I'm expecting the book to be available by early fall.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nuno Felting

Ok, I told you that one of the reasons for setting up this new blog was to share my passion for fiber with you. My latest joy in the fiber world is Nuno Felting. Nuno Felting is combining fiber with fabric - usually silk - by a felting process that uses soap, water, and agitation. There are a couple of ways that you can cause the agitation: Rolling the fiber/fabric sandwich in bubble warp and then rolling like mad or patting it and rubbing it with your hands. Since, I'm a touchy-feely kind of person when it comes to fiber, I like the patting, rubbing technique. The pictures below are of a few of my recent Nuno Felting projects

This scarf has merino wool, an alpaca/silk blend, and some silk sari waste felted to a piece of silk gauze. The dark brown is the alpaca/silk blend. The darker gold is the merino and the sari waste, and the lighter gold is the silk. For this scarf, I put the fiber on both sides of the scarf.

This piece uses a sandwich technique. There is a layer of silk. On top of that I placed some pieces of lace, some handspun yarn, and some metallic threads. On top of those, I placed a solid layer of merino wool all across the piece. Then a second layer of silk was placed on top. All of it was felted together to make a piece of fabric that could be used for clothing, household items or any other sewing project that you chose. The lighter color in the picture is the lace; the wiggly pieces are yarn, and the small shiny spots are the metallic threads.

This scarf has merino wool placed on just one side of the scarf. It is hard to see in the picture, but the merino is placed in a cross hatch pattern across the silk.

This scarf again has the merino patches on just one side of the scarf. The lovely variation in the colors was obtained by mixing dye colors and because the wool and silk react to the dye differently.

A New Adventure

Starting a new blog is like facing the blank page of a new novel. There is a whole world out there to consider and discuss.

So why a new blog when I have a perfectly good one at Well, partially because I'm starting on a new adventure of self-publishing my mystery, "Murder Spins a Tale" and I wanted to take you on that adventure with me. And, also, because I wanted a blog that centered on my mysteries and my fiber passion.

The advent of print on demand has changed the landscape of the printing and self-publishing industry. Now instead of a writer needing to print five hundred or a thousand books which they then have to store while they market them, they can have their books printed at the time their customers want them. There are numerous print on demand publishers out there. Two of the largest are Lulu and Create Space. After considering my options, I decided to go with Create Space because they are part of the Amazon family of companies and the books they publish are automatically available over Amazon.

I decided to self-publish for two reasons: First, I realized that if I sold my book to a mainstream publisher, I would need to abide by the timeframes of their contracts. This would not be an issue if I wanted a career writing mysteries. But I really don't. I'm retired and I like to set my own schedules and priorities. Self-publishing lets me do that. Second, the mainstream publishing market is very difficult to break into. I have enough faith in my book that I believe it would have been purchased eventually. My rejections have all been very positive - just not positive enough for a purchase. But I got tired of waiting and telling friends and family that it would be available some day. So we start the grand adventure of self-publishing.

Luckily, I have a good friend, Linda M Au who can help me along the way. She has just published her book, "Head in the Sand" with Create Space. It is a very funny book. Look for it on Amazon.

I hope you'll enjoy following me on my adventure. And remember, by being here, you'll be first to know when "Murder Spins a Tale" is available on Amazon for your purchase.