Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grace for the New Year

~~The turn of the year is always a time of introspection. Many of us look back at the past and consider our achievements and heartaches. But we also look forward and wonder what the future will bring--sometimes with trepidation and sometimes with anticipation.

~~Whatever your mood, I wish you all a Happy New Year and offer two songs for the season. The first is from Kevin Walsh of "Outlander--the Musical" fame.

~~The second is a link. Be sure to click on it, for it is an amazing rendition of the old hymn "Amazing Grace" sung by the Four Tenors while at the Coliseum.


~~May grace be with you all this new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scrivener, By Golly!

~~Have you read writers extolling the delights of Scrivener? To many, it's the ultimate writing tool that helps organize, combine, and link research into one easily accessible place.

~~Well, I've joined the ranks when I down loaded Scrivener for Windows in November. I'm discovering the bells and whistles now and have started moving my FRIENDLY FIRE files to it. So far, I'm creeping along with my hands out in front me in the dark, but I can see the usefulness and anticipate becoming one of the many telling you can't do without this program.

~~While I learn, I'm leaning on the info I've gathered from some writing buddies. Check out Claire's post on All the World's Our Page and Ron's post at the Books and Writers Forum.

And have a wonderful holiday season! May your celebration be bright and joyful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


~~No, we don't have early snow in Georgia, but we did have the first measurable snow fall on Christmas Day last year and I'm hoping for a repeat. So I thought I'd add to the mood with a poem from January 2008. Hope you enjoy it. ; )


Born of a meeting of opposites,
It floats as feathers on the wind.
Settling into Earth's warm embrace,
It gives its moisture away as grace.

Falling faster as time goes by
Bringing its fellows, and it flies
Obscuring our view of air and ground,
Settling ever deeper, dampening sound.

Glowing blue-white and moonlit,
Lovely to see, but chilling the feet.
 Cold and wind add their device
And it hardens and freezes into ice.

As the dawn breaks, clear and cold
A million diamonds greet the day
Glowing with the Sun's warm face,
It melts and leaves us edges of lace.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reading the Classics

~~How long has it been since you read the classic novels? When I got my Kindle, I realized that there are a lot of old classics available for free. I know, I know, you're going to say that that's what libraries are for. But my local library has a really strong air freshener and I'm allergic to it. I've returned many books after only a few pages because of it. I'm happy to use the Kindle for my catch up reading.

~~Here's a list of some I've read lately:
  • Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson (The first adult novel I read way back when I was 11.)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas the elder
~~I have the following on my Kindle waiting for me to read them:
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas the younger
  • Anna Kaenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
~~Do you have some classics you'd like to read? What are they? Or do you find the older, slower starts hard to get into?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

E-Book or Paper Book, That is the Question

~~When I read Rachelle Gardner's post, E-books vs. Real Books, I thought I'd add my two cents. I like Rachelle's assessment that it isn't an "either/or" situation, but a "both/and" one. In fact, I think that's the way of the future.

~~I've had a Kindle since May and I love it. That doesn't mean I don't love paper books, too. I sit here surrounded by a large personal library, but I'm picking up fewer and fewer of the paper books. The reason is personal, too. I have trouble holding paper books open. My wrists just get too tired. So if I'm going to read at all, it has to be an e-book. Rachelle mentioned that readers are buying more books both electronic and paper. I'm an example. I've probably bought ten times the books I would have if I were still only buying paper books. We have transfered our newspaper subscription to the Kindle, too. That's really helped with the mounds of paper we use. And it's far cheaper. ; )

~~I also have a huge list of books to purchase for my Kindle that will transfer many of my favorites from the shelves to e-ink. And that's all good for the writers. ; ) And while I'm buying e-books for all my fiction, I'm still buying writing books in paper so I can take old-fashioned notes in the margins. The last such books is Volger's The Writer's Journey. I don't think the diagrams would show up as well on my Kindle.

~~So what about you? Are you on the e-book band wagon, or are you still buying all your books in paper?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mystery Words

~~After a week of very few words, imagine my surprise when 150 stray words popped into my head this morning. I have no clue why. They don't fit with anything I'm writing. I don't plan to write historical fiction, though that's the genre I think they would fit. The only thing that makes sense is that I did focus on European medieval history in college and my master's thesis is a biography of Blanche of Castile. But I never wanted to be Eleanor of Aquitaine.

~~Here are the mystery words:

     When I was a girl, I wanted to be Eleanor of Aquitaine. Dashing troubadours would sing love songs to me. I'd be Queen of both France and England and own the richest province in Europe. Then I learned her whole story--about the civil wars between her sons and husband and that she spent sixteen years imprisoned by her husband, Henry.

    But reading about Eleanor's life led me to her family and the little talked about daughters who married into the ruling families of the Holy Roman Empire, Toulouse, and Castile-Leon. It was among Eleanor's grandchildren that I found my true lodestone--Blanche of Castile, who married Louis Capet, destined to be Louis VIII of France. While it's true she would lose children before they were grown and her husband would die young, her life typified a woman of learning, justice, power, and grace. In Blanche, I found a guide for living life based on belief.

~~What do you think happened? And do you ever have mystery words showing up uninvited? Do they ever lead you into a new WIP?

~~There is one other bit you should know that my long-delayed SF trilogy (The Dawn and the lion)originated as a fictionalization (that's an understatement! ; ) of Blanche's life. It's moved a long way from it's origins now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blame it on the Season...

~~Yes, I'm still here, but I've been busy. I've been rewriting the opening of FRIENDLY FIRE (several times) for this month's exercise at Books and Writers. Add to that the painting of windows, hanging of new blinds, and all around household chaos and you have a writer with no time.

~~So I thought I'd give you a lovely shot of my mother-in-law's ginkgo tree in all its Autumn glory. And a line to describe it. Enjoy. ; )

~~Autumn's leaves--The pot of gold at the end of Summer's rainbow
Have a great Thanksgiving if you're in the States.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


~~What I know about revising a manuscript wouldn't fill a thimble. Some would say what I know about writing a draft of a novel would only fill two thimbles, but I do know good advice when I see it. Check out Tracy Hahn-Burkett's post on Writer Unboxed--"Macro-Revision: Take It One Piece at a Time" and let me know what you think about revising a manuscript.

~~Do you have any advice or ideas about how to organize the revision of a manuscript?

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Hello, Computer"

~~Did you hear Mr. Scott, AKA the late, great James Doohan, say those words as you read the title? If you love all things Star Trek, you did. For the rest of you go HERE for a clip of that immortal line. ; )

~~Before you get worried about my sanity, let me tell you about my newest toy, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, an advanced speech recognition program. I've wanted to be able to dictate my writing for years. Lately, my wrists have made it a priority. I tried the built-in program that came with my Vista operating system, but it and my pronounced southern accent didn't get along. Dragon, on the other hand, allowed me to select American English and Southern Region during installation.

~~I'm very impressed even though I'm still learning to use it. can't go straight from brain to screen though. I've always had to draft longhand first, but once it's on paper, the dictation is easy. I'm sure can type a bit faster, but not for any length of time. Now I can just write without dreading typing. Who knows? I might even get 50,000 words written during November's NaNoWriMo.

~~ If you're interested,  go to Nuance's website, and check it out.  They've been running a sale, but I got it half price at my local Staples.

~~ Next on my must-have software list is  Scrivener for Windows. According to the website the beta version runs out early in November. Here's hoping the full version is available soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writers' Block--How to Break Them Up

~~I know you've all heard of the dreaded malady, Writers' Block, and shudder in fear that it's out to get you. Well, thanks to Beth, one of my Books and Writers Forum friends, I'm found the neatest list of the different types of blocks, complete with suggestion to blow them out of your way. Check out "The 10 Types of Writers' Block (and How to Overcome Them)" at io9.

~~Here's the list. Be sure you check out the cures. I'll admit to falling prey to three of these regularly. ; )
1. You can't come up with an idea.

2. You have a ton of ideas but can't commit to any of them, and they all peter out.

3. You have an outline but you can't get through this one part of it.
That's me in a nutshell. I usually handle it by cutting the item from the outline or skipping over it and coming back later.

4. You're stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next.

5. You have a terrible feeling your story took a wrong turn a hundred pages back, and you only just hit a dead end.

6. You're bored with all these characters, they won't do anything.

7. You keep imagining all the reasons people are going to say your story sucks, and it paralyzes you.
Oh, yeah! I do this one. Darn that Inner Critic, AKA Miss Inner Editor. ; )

8. You can't think of the right words for what you're trying to convey in this one paragraph.
Oh, yeah, this one, too. The neat thing about the suggestions is that it's all right to linger at least a little while. That's an eyeopener for me. ; )

9. You had this incredibly cool story in your head, and now you're turning it into words on a screen and it's suddenly dumb.

10. You're revising your work, and you can't see your way past all those blocks of text you already wrote.

~~So which of these problems blocks your words? What do you think about the suggestions for handling them?

Thursday, October 6, 2011


~~I know I keep talking about the September Exercises at the Book and Writers Forum with awe, but it's deserved. There are thirty questions to answer about a character. It might look simple, but it's a deceptive simplicity that hides a wealth of discovery. Try it. That's all I can say. Try it if you're stuck on the motives behind some of your characters' actions. Try it if you find yourself blocked on what comes next. Just try it.

~~During September I did the exercise with Paul Collins, the main character of a short story I'm working on. I thought I knew what made the man tick. I had no clue. My story is infinitely richer now.

~~Now I'm using with questions with the main character of my WIP. I've been writing Laura Grace Chandler's POV since March 2008. You'd think I knew her voice inside and out by now. Not. I'm only to question 6 and she's opening in ways I couldn't have imagined. Here's a snip.

Who is the most important person in your character's life right now?

The most important person in my life was Samantha. Not two months ago, I'd have said it was Tom. Even though he is dead. I knew what that meant. I'd chosen to live not to mourn. It had been a subtle choice, one I hadn't consciously made. But I'd made it. Just as sure as the sun rose each day or the seasons shifted. Now I was connected to the girl, even though I'd only seen her twice and talked to her once. We had sung together. Warmth flooded my chest. Yes. That was when I'd made the choice. During Amazing Grace. Once I was blind to the opportunities my life held, and now I saw. Oh, yes. Now I could see.

~~Do you have cherished methods to get into the heart of your characters?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Campaign Musings

~~What is it about campaigns that make me want to redesign my blog? ; ) I think it's seeing all the fabulous designs among the campaigners that just spark my creative juices. I did a new one yesterday, but I don't think it's set in stone yet.

~~Have you read all the fabulous entries in the Second Challenge yet? What a wonderful collection of great writing! I've only gotten to about a third of the 186 (so far) entries. Thank goodness it can't grow any more after Tuesday. Maybe I'll finish... ; )

~~I have to apologize to the members of my two groups. I haven't been coming around nearly enough. I have had a bumper crop of words in September. Mainly it's due to the September Writers Exercise at the Books and Writers Forum. If you've never visited the Forum, you owe it to yourself. It's my go to place for challenges, critiques, lessons, and camaraderie. Besides, if you love Diana Gabaldon books, you'll love the Diana Gabaldon folder at B & W. ; )

~~So watch this space for more redesigns and more praise for Forum.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


What choices do you have when you are abused, cheated on and left with a trail of broken promises? Don’t Get Mad…Get Even. Take an inside look at Jamaican culture and lifestyle through a collection of award-winning stories. You will laugh, cry and commiserate with a compelling cast of characters, who conquer their challenges in unique ways.


~~J. L. Campbell's award-winning story collection not only introduces readers to a series of characters who have difficult roads to travel, but also introduces many aspects of Jamaican culture. While you might not agree with the actions of the point of view characters, the well-written stories tell the origins of their motives in vivid images.

J.L. Campbell lives in Jamaica and is always on the hunt for story-making material. She writes romantic suspense, women's fiction and young adult novels.

J. L. blogs at The Character Depot. Her books are available at Smashwords.
Check out Amazon for info on her other books: Dissolution and Contraband

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Second Campaign Challenge--THE GHOST'S IMAGO

So here goes! My entry is a poem. Who knows why the target words caused this! It's 62 words. ; ) (I'm linky #33.)
 (Edited to add: Someone asked for a link to the voting, so here it is. LINK )
The Ghost’s Imago
He knew it was time--
Time to go beyond
When the maggots flew
And his miasma dissipated.
His body sank into
A lacuna, a missing space,
Where only his bones
Would remain to oscitate.
He marveled at Life and Death’s
As he moved on to begin anew
With discovery of
His new destination--
A mirror of his past.

Racheal has given us a big challenge this time:
The Challenge is:
Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!
Once you’ve posted your Challenge post on your blog, pop back here and link directly to it in the Linky List below (please make sure you include the direct link to your post, not just the link to your blog!).

I've again set up the Linky List to let you "Like" entries, so make sure you come back here and vote. Winners this Challenge will be determined solely on the basis of your votes. This is an honor system, so please don't take advantage of this process either on your own or another's behalf. "Like" voting will close on Friday, October 14th.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


One of the best things about getting to know writers at the Books and Writers Forum is that you know their books will be wonderful reads. Marte Brengle's Closed Circuit is a perfect example.

Set in Lyric, Iowa, Closed Circuit is  full of small town charms and heartaches with its kind-hearted people and its scoundrels. The intricate plot is full of mystery and life and will keep you turning the pages. You'll love the fully realized characters and will cheer them on as they navigate the changes in their lives.

Here's the blurb from Amazon:
Ruth Peyton is sure she has everything she needs. Her own business, a mentor, a great circle of friends, and Lyric, her lifelong home town. And then, one hot summer day, everything changes. Who are these strangers who have come to Lyric to buy Ruth's building as the first step in their mysterious plan? Will they control Lyric's future-and Ruth's? And now someone from her past is determined to draw Ruth back into a painful relationship she thought she'd put behind her. Can she make peace with the past in time to save her home town from the radical alterations that lie ahead? Or is there nothing left for her but to leave Lyric for good?

Be sure to get this book! Marte Brengle's second novel, Dutchman's Puzzle, is also available now.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Emotional Stages of Writing a Novel

~~If you haven't figured it out by now, I'll let you in on a little secret...
I'm bogged down at the moment. Too much to do and too little energy make me very bad at connecting with all the lovely writers in the Campaign. I really planned to get to at all my groups at least once a week. I'm not doing so well at that. So, I'll give you a lovely little clip to watch--The Emotional Stages of Writing a Novel. Enjoy! ; )

Monday, September 5, 2011

Decisions--First Campaign Challenge

~~The first Platform Challenge is here! And it's a challenge and a half. The instrustions are:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!
 Check out Rach Writes for links to other Campaigners' stories.

~~Here's my challenge story--Decisions--and it's EXACTLY 200 words. ; )


            The door swung open.
            Lights. Sirens. Screams.
            “Oh My God!”
            “Is he dead?”
            “He just slammed into that tree!”
            A man’s face forced him to focus. “Buddy, we’ll get you out. Hang on.”
            Whump. Whump. Whump.
            “LifeFlight’s here.”
            “Good. Okay, buddy, we’ll get you out of here. Hang on.”
            Then everything faded out.
            “Paul. Paul. Do you hear me?”
            Beep, beep, beep.
            Pressure squeezed his arm and then released with a whoosh.
            His mouth was dry, clotted. “Uh?”
            A tall woman in green scrubs leaned over him and smiled. “Hi, Paul. Good to see you awake. It’s going to take a while, but you’ll get better. You’ll see.”
            Weeks. It took weeks, but he finally pieced it together. He’d been drinking, but he wasn’t more than buzzed when Harm had texted him about the card game. Yes. A card game. In a flash, he’d decided to go. Then hit a tree.
            Now it was all over. He’d hit a plateau in his healing, and he’d be stuck with that decision for the rest of his life. Traumatic Brain Injury.
            Any decision he’d make in the future got up and walked out of the door.
            The door swung shut.
P.S. I'm linky 118 at Rach Writes

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roadblocks and Detours

AKA: Plot twists wrecked by reality

~~Have you found that one of your long-planned (and fully drafted) plot twists just can't be? Of course, this is a question for those of us who write reality-based stories i.e. contemporary or historical vs. fantasy and SF. I think the last two genre allow, for more creative license.

~~That's what's happened to me recently. You'd think I'd be wailing and gnashing my teeth or, at least, tearing up, but I'm not. Really. I'm quite happy with this turn of events. I think that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew the plot point that developed from this newly abandoned twist just couldn't happen that way. And now I know why.

~~What caused this outbreak of reality and the new, truth-based twist I'm now planning? Through a quirk of coincidence, I've been introduced to a current Department of Family and Children Services caseworker. She was thrilled to let me interview her and her reality-based information has created my shift in plot. Let's just say, I'm happy, excited, and plotting up a storm.

~~How to you handle this sort of plot upheaval? Tears or gratitude?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Terra Incognita

~~I know I've haven't been around much lately, but I promise I've been writing and I now find myself in a new place, one I've never experienced in my writing before. It's a whole new world and I'm still trying to get my feet under me and find myself on the map. Like the mariners of old, I'm wondering what sort of monsters I'll find and where the edges are.

~~I don't really write from an outline, but I do have a list of possible scenes in rough chronological order for my current work-in-progress, FRIENDLY FIRE. I write where ever the mood of the day strikes, or as Diana Gabaldon describes it, what I can see. In the last few weeks, though, I've been able to complete the first page of my scene list. Since I have the last page of the outline done already, that leaves me with the middle page, much of which I've never been able to see well enough to even take rough notes. Terra Incognita indeed! I'm feeling my way into the big middle of the plot and so far, so good. I have a plan for how to show the good and the bad that knits the start of the story to the end. Keep your fingers crossed.

~~Here's to opportunities you might be interested in:
  • If you'd be interested in submitting a story to Good Old-Fashioned E-Publishing Company's "Plot Beasties" anthology, go HERE for more info. I'm happy to say that my submission, "Of Books and Bunnies," is in the editing stage with editor/publisher Ron Wodaski.
  • Rachael Harrie has launched her Third Writers' Platform Building Campaign HERE. The second campaign was a hoot and a big boost for my blog, so come and join us. You have to sign up before August 31. 
~~I'll be here more often, I promise. Keep cool in the Shade.

Monday, August 8, 2011


"God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed."
~~Mark Twain

~~If you're as amazed by that quote as I am, you are looking at it and wondering just when on earth do you use adjectives? And adverbs for that matter. We've all heard the writing rule to cut adjectives and adverbs and "use stronger verbs and concise nouns." So I have a question for you--where do you get those stronger verbs and concise nouns? Is there a nifty little list we can consult or is it trial and error, learning by doing?

~~I'm a bit tongue in cheek, but sometimes I do find it hard to find the right word that makes the sentence say what I need it to say and cut to the bone of the topic at hand. Of course, Mark Twain has a quote for that, too.

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

~~So happy hunting, my fellow word sleuths. ; )

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Farewell, Darling Scenes!

~~There come a time when you have to admit defeat; when  scene you've slaved over and cried about, refuses to get in line and march properly into its place in your plot. It's always a scene that you think is an absolute necessity to bolster your theme, define your character, or reveal some deep, dark secret. And yet, it refuses to open its heart and sing. I've been working on two such scenes since February. If I'm honest, I'll admit that these two scenes have tortured me for over two years.

~~It took a great post on Letting Go by Jen at All the World's Our Page to to make me wake up the the truth. So join with me in saying a fond farewell to "South Pacific" and "Samantha's Essay." I've mined the key discoveries and found more natural places for them. In fact, on my reread this morning of the newly reconstituted "Cherry Beach" scene, I was amazed that I'd not seen this before now. I've learned my lesson. When the next thorny scene refuses to be beaten into submission, I won't be as slow to cut the little darling and re-imagine the whole thing. I know my WIP will be better for the lesson.

~~What about you? Do you have some scenes that won't behave? What do you do with them--cut or keep plugging along until they submit?

~~Happy writing! ; )

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sweet, Cute, and Productive

~~In the last two weeks, I've been very occupied with the Mall at the End of Time House Party at the Book and Writers Forum. I thought you needed an update.
  • I've written 14,000 words
  • Learned who Alex Singer is (more on that in a bit)
  • Gotten way behind on my awards (see below)
  • And submitted "Tea With My Inner Editor" to a magazine. Keep your fingers crossed.
~~Now for the full report of Alex Singer. I'll add a bit I posted on the HP denouement thread:

 When we started two weeks ago, I knew that Alex Singer was the son of Mack Singer and Sandra Roberts, that she never told Mack about Alex, that he showed up in Mack's life shortly after he marries Laura Grace, and then deploys to Afghanistan. I knew he would have TBI and come to live with my Cherry Hill family with all the problems of integrating a new family member with disabilities. I'd written no scenes with Alex in them. Now I know who he is, how he will respond to the care and love of his family, how hard it will be to accept his condition and learn to live again. Not to mention that he will learn to love as well. With all the revelations I've learned, I can mine how Alex will learn to accept love, give love, heal, and realize he is still the young man who was willing to die for his country.

~~Seriously Cute Blogger and Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

Thanks to Deniz, one of my House Party buddies, I have two new awards.

Seriously Cute--I need to list five books/ TV programs/ films I've experienced in the last twelve months. Are you kidding? Only five? I thought I'd do five authors instead:

~~Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy
~~Lois McMaster Bujold's Challion trilogy
~~Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire series (13 books)
~~Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants
~~Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees

There are others, but I'll stop at five.

Irresistibly Sweet--I need to list seven random facts
  1. Max has started barking at the rotating photos I use for my screen saver--especially when one of him and Casey pops up.
  2. When my momma, sister, and I went on a long ride together in June, we discussed our old boyfriends. Really. It was fun, too.
  3. We put our huge Norfolk Island Pine on the deck for the summer. It's secretly a transformer. When wet, it's conical shaped and when dry, its cantilevered limbs lift again.
  4. I've picked up four new followers lately. Thank you!
  5. I'm about 60% done with the rough draft of FRIENDLY FIRE. ; )
  6. It's too hot! We've had 24 days of 90+ degrees in June. July is following in line with the possibility of triple digits next week.
  7. My husband has washed and waxed both the car and truck in the last two days.
There was a tag somewhere in the last month and I can't remember who tagged me. Nor can I remember the 7 funny questions except for the "Are you hot?" I think #6 answers that one.

~~Now  to pass on these awards:
Here's the people who have commented on my last blog post:

Mary Mary
Another Author
Madeline Bartos
And the lovely Charlotte Rains Dixon who I owe for "Tea With My Inner Editor"

Have a great day, everyone! ; )

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Mall at the End of Time--Play With a Purpose

~~I know you think I've fallen off the end of the Earth, but I've been busy. Really! I've been writing a lot just not here in the Shade. My buddies at the Books and Writers Forum have gotten a new House Party off the ground and I'm participating. I can think of no better place to practice writing. The members are great critique partners and we love each other's work. A house party is a specific setting created by one of the members so that multiple writers can bring characters from their works in progress. We create long, involved story lines that can sometimes cross over and have characters in more than one place. 

~~Our current setting is The Mall at the End of Time, created by Ron Wadaski. Go HERE for the warm up party. Warning: We are talking Armageddon consequences that must be foiled by a combination of characters including mine, Alex Singer. In warm ups we let anything hit the fan in order to get our fingers, brains, and words going. This time is no exception.

~~Since Friday, July 1, we have shifted into the official party--HERE. Our theme is Warriors and Lovers with an underpinning of fear. Believe me, every character has something to fear.

~~I've written 10,000 words in the warm up and I've already written 780 in the official House Party. Who knows where I'll end up. All I know is that I will know who Alexander Singer is when I'm done. When I need him in LINE OF FIRE, Cherry Hill Book 2, I'll be ready. ; )

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How a Writing Mind Works--Kernels

~~Writers are asked, "How do you do it? How do you get your ideas? How do you write?" all the time. Sometimes we can't really tell what caused a specific scene, but at other times, it is quite clear. Lately I've been experimenting with what Diana Gabaldon calls "kernel writing." Read her description HERE. In the past, I've not been the most adept at getting these little bits down as they occur and I'm sure some of the very best have gotten away from me.

~~Now that I have Inner Editor entertained and distracted, I've been having more and more kernel moments. Today there were two specific instances. One was not a real surprise--it dealt with a scene I've been working on for FRIENDLY FIRE. The other was completely out of the blue. It deals with an idea that has been bugging me for years with THE DAWN AND THE LION. I've known how the military saluted their superiors in the chain of command for over two decades. It really never made much sense and at times, I've tried to change it, to no avail. Today I found out the symbolism behind the salute.

~~I have been rereading Catherine Asaro's SKOLIAN EMPIRE series and the method of salute kept standing out.
"The officers saluted, raising their arms to chest height, outstretched with fists clenched, crossing their wrists with the snap of muscled skin hitting muscled skin." (THE RADIENT SEAS p. 274)

~~Then I had a clear scene to pop up in my mind that explained the salute and moves plot along nicely. The POV character is Canda Aurora, the female protagonist. Even without knowing all that goes before or comes after, I think this kernel will illustrate how my mind was working this morning. Note that the general mentioned has no specific name yet, so X stands in its place. I hope you enjoy.

A chill walked up my spine. August was dead. No one had to tell me. No one needed to share their grief with me. Mine was larger than the three worlds. Larger than a human heart could survive.

General X, the chief of staff, second in command stood before me. "My Lady Regent." His hand rose sharply and he touched the center of his forehead with his fingers. I'd seen the salute a thousand times since I came to Patria. A salute to Brennan, to August and now to me. No matter how I grieved, I had responsibility. For General X's salute said it all--My mind is yours to command. The chill became a blizzard.

~~How do your scenes come to you? Do you find inspiration in what you read or do they develop from outlines?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tea With My Inner Editor

~~I owe the following conversation to Charlotte Rains Dixon. She offered free, fifteen-minute coaching sessions on her blog last week. Knowing I needed help to shut my inner editor up, I jumped on the offer. Among the wonderful suggestions was this one—have a discussion with your inner editor. Picture them. Talk to them. Explain their roles in your writing. This clicked with me. I don’t know if your inner editor is male or female, human, elf, or fairy, but mine is me.

~~If you are wondering how on earth I could have a photo of my younger self dressed as a 1950s school teacher, there’s a story behind it. Of course. ; ) When I was in high school, we had a 50s dress-up day. I borrowed an old suit from my momma, twisted my waist-length hair into a tight bun, and painted my lips and nails scarlet. And guess who won? That’s right—me. The teachers who judged the contest loved being reminded what their teachers looked like in the 50s.
~~So without any further ado, here’s "Tea With My Inner Editor"


     It was a shock to see her sitting on the floral wing-backed chair, hands folded primly in her lap. The tight little smile painted in Revlon Million Dollar Red was so unlike her usual scowl. The dark brown hair as the same—a tightly rolled bun at the nape of her neck. The same white handkerchief and pink lilies of the valley adorned the severe, tight, black suit. I’d never seen her in a different outfit. Never.

     "Would you like some tea, Miss?" My voice squeaked. If I didn’t find a way to settle my nerves this chance to set things right would be for naught. And somewhere deep inside I knew it was the only chance I had to get my writing off square one.

     "That would be nice, dear."

     I was puzzled. It didn’t sound like her voice. There was no censure, no reprimand. Just ultimate politeness.

     "It’s sweet of you to ask." The small leather pump tapped twice.

     Swallowing hard, I asked, "Darjeeling or Earl Grey?"

     "Oh, the Earl unless you have some of Old Wilmington’s Lord John Grey." Her voice trailed off, a brow raised in question.

     She reads Diana Gabaldon’s books? I couldn’t picture her reading the life and loves of my favorite characters, Jamie and Claire. That didn’t seem possible, but only a fan would know about that tea. "Uh…no. If the Earl will do?"

     "Of course, dear."

     Her hands were still clenched tightly as I gently placed my prize teapot on the low table. I’d pay for the Earl Grey with hives, but it was worth it if we could come to terms.

     "I asked you here to visit when I didn’t have a pen in my hand for a reason." My cup rattled against the saucer. My nerves staged a new assault and tightened my throat.

     "Yes, dear? I assumed there was a reason." Irony made her voice resonant.

     "Well, you see—"

     "Get to the point, dear. Or I’ll have to get out my red pen." The toe was tapping again.

     Swallowing the lump, I blurted, "You’re blocking my writing. I’ll never finish Laura Grace’s story much less ever have a hope of really starting Canda’s. You never let me finish a sentence without that hectoring voice in my ear. ‘No adverbs. Choose a stronger verb. Every sentence in that paragraph is in the subject-verb pattern and in the one before, they all started with a gerund clause.’ Or if that’s not enough, you remind me that a first person narrator never notices herself grin or frown and you snarl, ‘Your body language is a cliché and your setting is non-existent!’"

     I paused to catch my breath and looked up at her. The golden-brown eyes were wide with shock behind her wire-rimmed glasses. A tear gathered in the corner of her eye.

     Brows drawn down, she looked at her clenched hands, knuckles white with stress. "All I ever wanted was to see you succeed, dear. I didn’t know. Truly I didn’t." Her voice was thick with unshed tears.

     "Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Miss Editor. Really, I didn’t. And I do need you. It’s just you get in the way when I’m writing my rough draft. It’s stifling, actually." The shiny head rose a bit and a smile tugged at the ruby lips. "And yes. I’m used nearly every ‘ly’ word I can think of and ‘just’ in nearly every sentence, but, Miss Editor, I need you to understand—I’ve got to have room to maneuver when I’m drafting or I’m never going to complete a sentence much less a novel." My whine grated on my ears, but she had to see.

     "Could you…" I wracked my brains and then a light sparked to life. "Could you take tea and read Outlander while I’m drafting. Just until I have a draft that needs editing…"

     A flicker of hope lit my heart as her little smile grew. A delicate sip later, the smile became a warming sun, rising on a new day. "Yes, dear. That would be lovely. I’ve missed Jamie and Claire." The smile grew into a wicked grin. "In fact, I might just let my hair down." She reached up and released the tightly wound bun. A cascade of silky brown fell over her shoulders. "Yes, just let me know when I’m needed." Her toes kicked out of the tight shoes. And she unbuttoned the jacket. "I think I need a break right now. If that’s all right with you."


~~So now I know what to do when I need to write—tell Miss Inner Editor to get a cup of Lord John Grey and visit Jamie and Claire.

~~What do you do to get your inner editor to be quiet?

~~P.S. Miss Editor didn’t take her red pen to this. Something about a certain masterful scene at Castle Leoch…

~~P.P.S. If you don’t know what scene I’m referring to, go get a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander immediately and follow it up with all the rest of the series. I dare you to read 100 pages and stop. ; )

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Writer's Bestiary--A Poem

~~I write poetry from time to time and thought I'd share my latest one. It came from a discussion on the Books and Writers Forum about writing woes and what our tears do. I have to thank Ron Wodaski and Deniz Bevan for some of the images. Ron's blog is HERE and Deniz's is HERE.

The Writer’s Bestiary

I crouch in a desolate, desert waste
Of dry words without life or form or taste.
Then my muse appears to sit at my feet,
Her hand cupping, catching my tears;
Her smile wild and sweet.

“Dear One,
Each drop you weep holds
    oceans of healing, and
    balm for those you seek.
In my hand I hold the cure
    for word count dragonflies,
    each wing made complete.
They water the hummingbirds who fly,
    knitting your scenes together
    unfolding your plot to the sky.
When your characters refuse their names,
    your tears ease the roly-polies’ fears,
    and soften the beetle’s hard shell,
    where their hearts hide so well.
And as your tears overflow on
    caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly,
    setting becomes focused and clear.
Choked throats, full of dialog are freed
    as your tears tend the songbird’s wing,
    allowing it once again to fly and sing.

“So cry, Dear One.
Your tears are not shed in vain.
Use them to write your story once again.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I've Been Tagged! and You Really Like Me--I Think...

I was tagged by Deniz. I don't think it's good to tag you right back, so I'll just say thanks. You mentioned the Cherry Hill Houseparty from last summer. I just realized yesterday that this time last year, I was working hard to prepare to host all you lovely writers! It's only been a year and yet it seems like ages ago. Then we spent the fall in Istanbul. What's next?
Here's the questions I had to answer:
1. Do you think you're hot? Of course! It is summer in Georgia, isn’t it?
2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using at the moment.--(Image removed for copyright)

3. When was the last time you ate chicken meat? Today.

4. A song you listened to recently: “Down to the River to Pray” It counts if I was singing it at the time, doesn’t it?

5. What were you thinking as you were doing this? How blasted HOT it is! Is the air conditioning working?
6. Do you have nicknames? What are they? ARRGHHH! I hate this question!  I hate all my nicknames. The only one I’ll tell is the one I gave myself—Zanna Maria. So there!

7. Tag eight bloggers:
Laura at Heaven to Earth
Diana and Mary at WOOF
Denise at L'Aussie Writing 
Rachael at Rach Writes
8. A few questions about your tagged friends...

Who's listed as number one? Marie, the Flying Cheetah and the expert at 100-word movie reviews
Say something about number 5. Tara is a great writing buddy. We love sharing crits. I want your books out so I can hold them in my hands, Tara!

How did you get to know number 3? Laura is in my local crit group—Carrollton Creative Writers Club—and she’s a heck of a writer. Laura, you wanted to know how this platform building works, so now you know. ; )

How about number 4? The ladies at WOOF—Mary and Diana—are excellent writers and lovely friends. Be sure and check out their Women Only Over Fifty blog if you like humor.

Leave a message for number 6.  Carol, you’re a wonderful writer. Thanks for asking me to write about the lessons my momma taught me.

Leave a lovey-dovey message for number 2. I love you for offering to be a beta reader for FRIENDLY FIRE. How much more validation can I ask for? Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Do number 7 and number 8 have any similarities? Denise and Rachael are experts at creating writing platforms. Everything I know, I learned from them.

And hey what about number 9? No fair! You said list 8!!! Okay, I’ll add Charlotte just because she's so good.
You Really Like Me--I think...
I couldn't resist channeling a little Sally Fields. ; ) At least 18 people do.  Did any of you notice the new like button I added on the left? I think I did it correctly, but every time I try to link to my author page, it goes to my Utilities page not my wall. Would some of you lovely people try it--and LIKE me while you do--and let me know if it works. ; )

Friday, June 3, 2011

Inspiration and Imagination--It Takes Two to Tango

INSPIRATION is the inhaling of the memory of an act never experienced. ~ Ned Rorem

IMAGINATION is the liquid solution in which art develops the snapshots of reality ~ Cyril Connolly

~In the June issue of THE WRITER, Bharti Kirchner used these quotes to begin the cover article "The Germ of an Idea." The quotes captured my heart and mind immediately. They're the perfect definitions of two important concepts that fuel our creative forces. The article continues with sixteen published writers of fiction and nonfiction describing how inspiration and imagination have worked in their careers. From Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George to Greg Bear and Elizabeth Lyon, these writers open a window into their process.

~After I read the article, I couldn't help it. I had to peel apart the inspiration and imagination that sparked the two works-in-progress (WIP) that I work on the most. I thought I'd share.

~It may sound like a cliche, but the inspiration for this WIP did come to me in a very vivid dream. In March 2008, I woke from a morning nap (no comments, please ; ) with this image in my mind--A eleven or twelve-year-old girl leaned against a low stage in a crowded church fellowship hall. Her golden curls framed a fully made-up face, complete with eyeshadow, liner, and mascara. I looked out of the eyes of an older woman whose heart was immediately hooked by what was obviously a child in pain. I had no clue who they were, what had happened, or why they were in a room full of little children. It didn't matter. The image stayed with me all day as I completed a long list of errands. The story unfolded as I went from one job to the next. By nightfall, I knew the woman's name and that she was a recently widowed, retired teacher with no children of her own. The girl was an abused foster child named Samantha and the children in the room were all foster children. That's all it took to launch my contemporary, mainstream novel, FRIENDLY FIRE.

~This story's  origins may be even stranger than the one above. I've read science fiction for decades. It's a genre both John and I love, so it's not really surprising that I have a SF WIP. What makes it surprising is that I have no background in science. My field is history. The story is based on the life of a thirteenth century French queen. Really. ; ) My master's thesis is a biography of Blanche of Castile. Her life was full of the political intrigue and family drama that characterizes the Medieval history of England, France, and Spain. Her maternal grandparents were Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and she married Louis (VIII) "the Lion" Capet. Their son, Louis IX, is now known as Saint Louis. My WIP takes Blanche's life story and translates it into the life of Princess Canda Aurora of Shardonia. With near light-speed travel and tachyon pulse communications, my three planets interact much like Medieval Europe's England, France, and Spain--with a few changes along the way. I think Canda's story has great potential, but don't hold your breath--I've worked on this one for over twenty-five years.

~I'd love to know what fuels your WIPs. Where do you get your inspiration and what spurs your imagination?