Why I love the internet

I had some time to actually *GASP* WRITE today, so I’m working on the sequel to “Thread,” tentatively titled “Ashes.”  I’m just trying to get back into writing semi-regularly (every day would be awesome, but that’s doubtful), so I was thrilled that I was able to produce over 600 words.  I often keep a spreadsheet with my writing progress: if I’m working towards a deadline, I REALLY need one to help me keep on track, and if I’m just pantzing along, it helps show me how I’ve progressed and makes me feel better.  Plus, doing word counts and entering in the spreadsheet when I have a break in my thought process is probably better than checking Facebook (which I do anyway).

I often think I should turn the internet off, but today I looked up or made a note to look up the following things related to just 600 words I wrote:

1) Do turnips grow in England?

2) How did people wash clothes in the middle ages?

3) Treatment of burns in the middle ages

4) Doctors & midwives in the middle ages

5) Abbeys: are there lands around them that are farmed?  Villages?  Would the villagers work in the fields for the church or for a lord? 

Sigh.  WHY do I write historical fantasy?  Let’s take a metric-ton of research (no matter how much you read and watch in various time periods, when it comes time to write day-to-day life, you HAVE to look things up) and combine it with creating rules of magic.  Sure!  Easy!  Um.  No. 



Digging my way out

So, moving back into the office has taken a lot more time than I anticipated.  I finally have my computer set up the way I want it, and can actually reach the printer without having to get out of my chair.  I just finished my first sewing project (hemming a few things) in my sewing corner.  I’ve owned a sewing machine since 1985 and today marks the FIRST day I’ve used it without knowing I had to move it at some point.  Ahhh.  Bliss!  Not making any progress on writing, alas, but I have started guest blogging occasionally at my friend Marcie Atkins’ “We’re All in This Together” series.  Check it out for some advice from me and some other wonderful writers.

Work In Progress Wednesday: Wallpaper removal and thinking outside the box to increase space inside the closet

The previous owner was obviously a golf fan.  Image

There were even golf tees stuck in patterns of three just above the golf wallpaper.  I used them for hanging flower leis from my bridal shower.


Here you can see my desk view and the end of my nice huge white board.


And here’s a nice “before” picture of the closet (this will be important later).

Since I am most definitely NOT a golfer (I used to like mini-golf, though, until my back problems made it difficult) I was very much looking forward to stripping this wallpaper.  If you ever strip wallpaper, there’s two types.  There’s the fun type that comes off with little effort, and then there’s the wallpaper glue of death.  We weren’t sure what we’d have here, since the wallpaper in our dining room had the glue of death.  I lucked out, though.  With the use of the most fun scoring tool in the world, I was able to just run that little sucker all over the walls (sometimes chanting “Wax on, wax off” like the good child of the 80s that I am).  I then used a steamer to loosen the glue through all the nice little perforations and peel the wallpaper off with minimal effort!  Yay!


No more golf wallpaper!

I was going to post about my color choice, but since I have photos of the closet in the same file as these wallpaper peeling pictures, I’ll talk more about the closet instead.  For years, my husband had wondered about the space just to the right of the closet.  On the other side of the wall was our laundry chute.  However, the chute is about waist-high. So what was above the chute, my husband wondered.  He decided that now that the room was torn apart anyway, it was a good time to find out.


This closet renovation was brought to you by the number 8!

So he drilled an exploration hole.  Like he suspected, there was just dead space both above and in front of the laundry chute!  By knocking out the wall and doing some new drywall work, we could increase the closet size by about 50% (I was going to do the numbers so I could post exactly, but I have no idea now where the original and new dimensions are).  Awesome!


All that raw wood to the right is new closet space!  Yay!  When you’re redoing an office, it’s important to look at the space carefully.  Before we even got into the renovation, we’d added a lot of room to the office just by re-hanging the door so it opened outwards, rather than in (taking up a chunk of floor space).

SCBWI Post-Mortem

Had a wonderful time at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI meeting on Saturday!  This was the first time in a very long time that I did NOT bring a manuscript for critique.  It made for a very low-pressure experience.  I did some critiquing of my own, though, and read some wonderful manuscripts from some up-and-coming writers.  I also volunteered at the registration desk, which was fun.  And mortifying at one point, as I spilled a cup of tea on the desk and the name tags.  AGG!  Fortunately, this is why conference name tags are usually encased in plastic, and the conference had officially started, so there weren’t many there.  Still, I’m wondering if they’ll pass a “no food or drink at registration desk” rule because of this. 

I also had two people track me down to get copies of “Bronze Dragon Codex” signed.  I found it very amusing that, in a conference that was at least 90% female-attended, the two people who tracked me down to get BDC signed were male.  I signed and stamped them (we have an R.D. Henham stamp) and thanked them for buying the book.  Then a few minutes later one of them came back and gave me this wonderful drawing!  I need to start an area in my office for these!  Image

First act in new office!

Did I critique manuscripts for next week’s SCBWI? Did I tackle a long-unfinished sewing project? Did I begin to bring order to my chaotic work files. Um, no.


I filled itty-bitty salt shakers with glitter and hung them on the pegboard. And I almost never use glitter (one of the containers had a sticker from a store I haven’t visited since I was six years old). But hey, I’ve been waiting over a year to try this!

Ahem. Well, it’s a start. I can’t officially move in until hubby fixes my computer’s wireless problems, but there’s a lot of other things to do. Like hanging spools of ribbon on pant hangers.


Work in Progress Wednesday: the Evolution of an Office Floor Plan

After I “gutted” my office (ie, gutted, stripped wallpaper, and removed carpet; we left all but one wall alone; but I’ll get to that later), I had a pretty specific layout in mind.  I’d been using this as my office/craft/writing room since 2007, so I’d had a few years to get used to things in a certain way, as well as build a wish list.  I really liked where my desk was, as it looked out a window to our backyard, which is heavily wooded, so I planned the rest of the office around that.  Since my husband is very handy, I decided I wanted him to built a countertop that would span two walls entirely and take up a bit of a third.  I’d put file cabinets below the counter, and wall cabinets (like those you’d find in a kitchen) above.  Because I’m a sucker for floor planning, I drew this out.  Here is my first go (no idea if it will make sense to anyone but me; I know my husband had trouble figuring out what I meant!):


You’ll notice this is very rough, and I don’t even have dimensions for the table top and bookcase on the right side of the office.  Here was the next revision, after measuring the bookcases (which I’ve owned since college):


In this version I had a more detailed plan on where I was going to put file cabinets.  I found some three-drawer ones for the left wall (those aren’t made by many people, but I found this set on Amazon that, each time I ordered one, came within two days, free shipping (not related to Amazon Prime, either!).  I liked the height of putting a counter above a three drawer file cabinet; it was a good project height to either stand at or get a bar stool of some sort. 

For the lower (ie, standard desk height) countertop, I found these file cabinets, which have a bonus shallow third drawer on top.  My old office had no small desk drawers for pencils, calculators, etc, so I really was glad I found these.  I’ve been using them temporarily in the dining room as part of my temporary office and they’re wonderful!

Don’t know if you can see or make sense of my notes on the left side of the picture, but that’s me calculating my new file drawer space (among other things, like determining what color file folders should be used for what categories).  I had the equivalent of 8 file drawers in my old office.  In the above floor plan, I planned for 5 3-drawer file cabinets and 3 2-drawer file cabinets, for a total of 21 drawers.  YOWZA!!!  🙂  However, I ended up having to scale that back, because of how we needed to build the counter around the left window (and that gave me more sewing space anyway) and also realizing that I, um, need room for my legs under the table, so that’s shaping up to be 3 3-drawer and 2 2-drawer.  That’s still 13 drawers, a 5 drawer increase, nothing to sneeze at!

And here is the last version, very close to the way things look now:


You’ll see this is pretty close to the original, with three major differences.  One is there are two bookcases, rather than one.  The reason for that was very simple.  I already had two bookcases (with glass doors, so I can store my yarn and fabric in them and SEE what I have!) with glass doors and it just seemed odd not to use both of them.  That cut down the counter space along the third wall, but, there was so much counter space as it was, I didn’t think I’d miss it. 

Two: I decided NOT to get a special corner cabinet for the lower left corner floor.  I thought that would give me more space, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked having that as a dedicated sewing space.  I also planned to buy file cabinets to fit under that countertop, and they would be easier to move around than a fixed cabinet.  I did buy cabinets for the walls, the Ikea Akurum.  I decided to go very plain (and cheap!) as possible since, thanks to Pinterest, I plan to modge-podge fabric or scrapbook paper onto all the wall cabinets and file cabinets. 

Three:  This was major.  For a long time I’d had an idea that hubby could build a folding tabletop that would latch to the bottom of the wall cabinets.  Here’s my rendition:


Neat idea, right?  However, the more I thought about it and talked with hubby, it seemed to over-complicate things and would, when unfolded, eat up a lot of floor space in an already small office.  So I sadly abandoned this idea.  So far I’m not sorry, I’m very pleased with how things look now!  Pictures next time, hopefully!


Work in Progress Wednesday!

I’m sure other writers use Wednesday for WIP posts, because there’s nothing writers like more than alliterative posts.  However, I am taking this opportunity to pimp my cousin’s site, where she blogs about crafty works-in-progress, like quilts and dollhouses.  Stop by if any of those things interest you.

I thought that I’d post about the office work in progress, especially since, because of the snow, my husband is home so we’re actually getting some things done during the week (gasp!).  However, I’m also putting the final touches on my current WIP, soon to be a WIP no longer but a finished project winging its way out into the world.

I’ve submitted this work to many, many places, editors as well as agents.  However, finishing it for the agent and giving her the go-ahead feels final in a way that it never did before. I find myself questioning things, like the name change.  There’s other things that I’d thought about tweaking, but I’m forcing myself to stop after I finish the name change and make sure that there’s no scenes that address the old name.

I let my critique group read the scene where I discuss the name change.  I’m very glad I did, as they came up with some very good points.  I cannot stress how important in-person critique groups are to me.  I’ve tried online over the years, but I find them impersonal, even when I’m very good friends with the person who’s doing the critiquing.  I like being able to bounce things around with my readers, and see what happens.  I think of things when I’m sitting at a table with a few other writers discussing my words that I probably wouldn’t think of on my own. 

Ta ta for now.  Next week I’ll probably resume office posts for WIPW, but for now, I must write!

A Much-Delayed Letter

My first book, Bronze Dragon Codex, came out in the summer of 2008.  In December of 2009, a 5th-grader decided to do a book project on it, including writing to the author.  In November 2012, I finally received this letter.  My first and, as of yet, only, but hopefully not last, fan mail! 

I debated responding.  After all, a 5th grader in 2009 would now be a freshman in high school.  Would they really care about hearing from an author they liked in elementary school.  I posed this quandary to the Facebook masses.  The answer was a resounding, “Yes, respond!”  And so, after a few more months delay (one nice thing about getting it so late was a couple more months wouldn’t make a difference!), I finally wrote the following letter to the student.  I’ll be mailing it soon with two postcards for Bronze Dragon Codex, a bookmark advertising Young Wizards Handbook, and a BLAD (Book Layout and Design) of Young Wizards Handbook which includes the spread of instructions for making a monster hunting pack, tips on how to trap a zombie, and some really wonderful illustrations.  Hey, it’s my first fan letter, I might as well go all-out, right?  I’m sending it care of the teacher, and told her that if she is unable to find the student, to please use the goodies in her classroom (I thought they might make fun prizes) or give to a fantasy-loving student.

Dear 2009 Fifth-Grader,

Due to the current siege of Palanthas*, the city where the Dragon Codices were written in the land of Krynn, your letter only recently came to my desk.  I apologize sincerely for the delay, but often dragons have a way of delaying things beyond anyone’s control! 

I really liked the flier you made for Bronze Dragon Codex.  I will be hanging it in a special place in my office.  I’m very glad you enjoyed the book, and encourage you to look for the other Dragon Codex books. 

Now to address your questions:

Have you ever traveled and if you have what’s your favorite place that you have traveled too?

I live in Maryland, and have traveled to many of the other states.  My favorite place in the United States is a small wilderness area called Dolly Sods in West Virginia.  It’s a very beautiful mountain area, a place that I think that Simle and Tatelyn would enjoy exploring.  I’ve also traveled to England, Wales, and Scotland and really enjoyed that.  I’m fond of castles, so I especially liked visiting Caerphilly Castle, Cardiff Castle, and Edinburgh.  And, of course, I love visiting Krynn, where Bronze Dragon Codex and other books, such as the Dragonlance series, are set. 

When is your next book coming out?

Since this letter came to me so late, I’m happy to say that my next book is out already!  It is called Young Wizards Handbook: How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-On Activities for Monster Hunters.  It is a guide to different monsters and how you can either capture them or avoid them.  It has lots of games and activities that you can easily do at home, such as making a monster-catching net or a tanglefoot potion.  I’ve included a sample from the book for you to enjoy.

There are other Dragon Codex books, too, although they were not written by me.  R.D. Henham is a rather lazy person who hires work out to assistant scribes and then takes all the credit.  🙂

What character do you like best?

It’s interesting that you mention that your favorite character is Simle, because, out of the books I’ve published, she’s my favorite character too!  She was a lot of fun to write and I really liked developing her character from hating humans because they stole her siblings to learning that not all humans are evil and becoming friends with them.

What hobbies do you have?

Reading would be my biggest hobby, although that’s so much a part of my life it seems odd to call it a hobby.  I read a lot of middle-grade and young adult fantasy, but I also like I’m also very much into crafts, particularly crocheting.  I also really enjoy hiking and exploring.

I apologize again for this delayed response.  I hope this letter finds you, and finds you well!


Amie Rose Rotruck

AKA R.D. Hehman for Bronze Dragon Codex


*Originally, there were supposed to be 10 Dragon Codex books, one for each color of dragon in the Dragonlance world.  Alas, they stopped after 7, not doing books for White, Blue, or Copper dragons (figures, I’d sent proposals in for White and Blue!).  The “official” line that my fellow scribes and I came up with was that there was a siege in Palantahs and no further Dragon Codices were able to be written because R.D. Henham and the scribes were too busy fighting dragons.  Visit R.D. Henham’s website for more detail!

What’s in a name?

I’m currently debating changing the name of a major, albeit non-speaking, character in the manuscript my agent is about to begin marketing.  This is something I’ve been considering for more than a year, so this isn’t last minute scrambling and tweaking (well, it is, but the decision has been floating around my brain for a while now).  It’s a big change because I’m also changing the name of the book.  To the name of this character.  Changing the name of a character is a very weighty decision, but knowing I’m changing this name to the title of the book is huge.  Can this character carry it?  Will this change people’s expectation of the plot once they’re introduced to the character, knowing that is the title of the book.  To be fair, the title also refers to a few other things, not just this character, but it still could have a major ripple effect.  On paper, all it is is changing one two-page scene and doing a search and replace on the old name and new name, but in terms of the spirit of the book and people’s reaction to it, it’s so, so much more.

My #1 addiction

Well, to be honest, this probably comes after chocolate and some tv shows.  Hm, no, it probably does NOT come after tv shows because I usually do this while watching tv.  This addiction is crocheting.

I crochet something for Wyrmling every month.  For her first year, it was hats.  After she got over a dozen hats, which she hated wearing anyway, it seemed prudent to switch to something else.  I’d made a Noah’s Ark and filled it with finger puppets for a good friend’s child, so I thought making one for Wyrmling and adding a finger puppet set a month would be fun.

I don’t want this to become a crochet blog, but I am posting about this because it does come back to my writing.  This month I decided Wyrmling’s Ark needed some unicorns.  There are some legends of unicorns not making it onto the Ark (a legend that I actually work into my book “Tapestry Threads”), so I like the idea of making some that actually did catch the boat.

I made some basic ones from this pattern for my friend’s child’s Ark (there isn’t a unicorn pattern, which is odd because it’s fairy tale puppets, but it’s easy to add a horn).


My crochet skills have improved since I made these, though, so I decided to mix things up on the new ones, using the same pattern.  I used a basic worsted weight yarn, which I use for most toys, for the two unicorns.  I used different sized hooks, however, to make the male a smidge bigger.  Also, instead of yarn for the horns, I used embroidery floss.  I thought I had some gold, but then I remembered I used it all making a Golden Snitch.  I settled for two different shades of yellow, and then used embroidery floss for the eyes (purple on one, dark blue on the other).  For the male’s mane I used the same yarn as the bodies for both unicorns.  For the female’s, I wanted something different.  I debated unraveling some of the same yarn to give it a wavy look, but I ran out of that yarn.  I then started looking and I found a flower I’d debated putting on a hat for Wyrmling, but wasn’t quite happy with.  It was a white yarn with a pearl thread to it, so I thought that would look nice.  When I started unraveling the flower, I had a happy surprise!  From being crocheted for so long, it now had a permanent kink to it, so it was the EXACT look I wanted for the unicorn (well, I hadn’t counted on how much it looked like a member of an 80s hair metal band.  Dee Snyder and Brett Michaels, perhaps?).   Resemblance to 80s rockers aside, I’m rather pleased with how these turned out!  If Wyrmling doesn’t play with them, I use them for enacting scenes from my book.