15 December 2011

Finally Finished.

Yep. I've finally finished my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel! Now to figure out how to celebrate ... panini for dinner and maybe some new music? Choices, choices, choices.

Having just finished the story, you'd think I'd be ready to move on, get a break. But noooo. Frankly it's a bit annoying that I've already started a list of the things the story needs for improvement ... like changing the male main character's role in a group to something bigger, adding more chuztpah from the female protagonist, and don't even get me started on the things I need to do to the last scene. The list grows and grows.

But as next week is vacation, a major holiday, and I have two other revisions waiting in the wings, I'll give this story about Death, aka Moragayn, a rest until after the New Year to allow some objectivity to settle in. Then, I'll wedge the revision of this new story into my writing schedule and work on my To Do list.

Until then, I'll distract myself with holiday activities and some browsing on iTunes and Amazon.

07 December 2011

My NaNoWriMo Post Mortem

So, my 4th NaNoWriMo has come and gone. Standing on this side of the event, it feels great to have outlined and written, well almost written - 5 more scenes to go, another story in two months. I love the energy that comes with writing something new, that's my favorite part of the process.

Since this is my fourth time playing along, it's a good time to assess what worked and what didn't this go around. So, in the spirit of my ol' engineering days, I've done a post-mortem look at this year's NaNoWriMo experience. For those not familiar with a post-mortem -- it's an assessment of what happened during your event/process for what went well or poorly so then the team/individual can keep the good practices and not repeat the bad ones. Here is mine...

The Bad:
  • I can't type in a moving car with a sinus headache.
    • To do: Learn how to effectively use the iOS Dragon dictation software so I'll be prepared for next time I'm stuck in a car for large amounts of time and can still be productive.
  • I let too many distractions get in the way, i.e. FB, Twitter, email.
    • To do: Work on my discipline.
      • Keep away from those sites while working. I know I've said this before, just goes to show that we all have our weaknesses.
      • Corollary: During writing time, ONLY use the internet as a tool for researching bits for the story.
  • My half paper, half digital prep work system didn't work so well, it took too long to find names and character traits. 
    • To do: Digitize all pre-work and add to Scrivener before starting the first sentence.
The Good:  
  • Even with unexpected travel out of town and weekends off,  I can write 50k in a month.
    • It was nice to discover that with large chunks of time taken away from writing, I could meet my goal. However, making the necessary compromises (giving up exercise time, time away from the kids and husband) is not a sustainable practice for me.
      • To do: 
        • Write when able. 
        • Be flexible.
  • With all three kids in school, I can crank out 4k words before they get home, if all I do is write while they are gone. (Read: no internet, no cooking, no cleaning, no shopping.) 
    • To do: Treat writing more like a paying job EVERY month, not just NaNoWriMo. I'd probably be amazed how much I can get done ... like finish those darn revisions that are waiting.
  • My husband and kids are awesome for supporting me and letting me take some of our family time to catch up on writing. 
    • To do: 
      • Thank them for their support. Over and over again.
      • Keep this time borrowing to a minimum.
  • I started to recognize when a story wasn't working for me, like when I was spending more time on the internet/FB/Twitter or reading artist bios on Pandora. During those times, I had to push through and let the story go where it wanted to go, and thus capture my interest again.
    • To do:  Continue to recognize these times and just let the story flow.
Now I have a mini-checklist to keep close by to help me stay on track.

NaNoWriMo, like Life, can be viewed like a game. So, after everything is said and done, my biggest take-away is ... Play full out, have fun, and when I have to sit out, do it with grace and poise.

    18 November 2011

    Almost there...

    Well, not quite. The family and I have about three hours, according to Google Maps before we arrive at our destination. I brought my laptop with me so I could type while the hubby drives. I'm a bit of a back-seat driver, so as you can probably guess, not much writing yet.

    However, while I thought of a photo to this post for your visual pleasure, I wondered if I could incorporate the scene into my NaNoWriMo novel, which is currently at 61% of the 50k word goal. The scene I'm working on, when I finish his post, is set on a private beach, but we're driving through the California desert. It'll be a stretch, but I'm going to give it a try. If after I write it in I decide that it doesn't belong, it's just a draft and I can take care of it later. That's what the revision stage is for, right? But trust me, I don't want to do more work than necessary, I'm going to think about this a bit, after all I need a distraction so I can leave the husband to driving.

    So, here's to creativity, safe driving on the road, and on the computer.

    For those curious about why we're driving in CA, our Irish Dancer daughter is competing with a team of 8 dancers at the western regional competition. Good luck to all of the Maguire Dancers!

    02 November 2011


    Well, my NaNoWriMo writing marathon started yesterday with oil changes for both cars, a wonky iPhone (that after repeated syncing and loss of music files) required a restore, a committee meeting, a foundation meeting, all on top of normal Tuesday things. But I still managed to type just over 2000 words. I'll keep plugging along, snatching time when I can.

    This exercise reminds me that I let too many things distract me from my writing the rest of the year. Not that I want to marathon write/edit/revise every month, but setting and keeping goals for each month might be a good idea. Just maybe.

    28 October 2011

    #FridayFlash - I've got to leave. (Edited)

    Akeva stared at the closed door, unmoving, still processing what had just happened. It wasn’t the swirl of skirts that carried the housekeeper out the door or even the hateful expression on the woman’s face that had shocked Akeva. No, it was the woman’s words.

    The food in Akeva’s stomach congealed into a cement brick. The universe was still playing with her, still dropping her into difficult situations without a hint as to which way was up.

    One thing she did know: Jean was right, she had to leave. Not because she planned to hurt these people or that she shouldn’t impose on them, but because she didn’t belong here. She belonged with her own family, where they were only a phone call away, and not some strange freak-of-nature-lightning-strike away in who-knew-where.

    She glanced at the folded bundle of clothing on the bed, probably Meriel’s own dress, then looked down at her t-shirt and shorts, both spotted with dirt. Shaking her head, she decided that no matter how awful her own clothing looked and how tempting that clean pile was, she wouldn’t take it.

    Jean’s words now fueled her. As she tied her boots, she wondered where the hell she’d go. If she retraced her steps back to the stone circle, then maybe she could be transported back home. She snorted, not that she knew where the stone circle was or even how to get back there. She’d just have to ask Meriel.

    She entered the hallway outside the bedroom and heard a gasp. At the other end of the hallway stood a woman dressed in similar clothing as Meriel and Jean, holding her hand to her mouth as she gaped at Akeva.

    “Do you know where Meriel is?” The woman’s eyes widened as she shook her head, then disappeared through the door next to her.

    Before Akeva could search after the woman, footsteps on the stairwell drew her attention. As the person came into view, she recognized the dark hair and ice-blue eyes and her heart thumped. The Kilted Man.

    Before she knew it, he stood in front of her, glaring at her. “Have ye no decency?”

    Decency, what did wanting to go home have to do with decency? “Where’s Meriel? I need to talk to her.” He pursed his lips as he clutched her arm and firmly guided her back to the bedroom. She glared at him. “What are you doing? Let go.”

    “Get yerself in there and get properly dressed.”

    “Properly dressed?” Akeva yanked her elbow out of his grip and made for the stairs.

    He blocked her path and shook his head. “Ye canna be walking about like that. The servants are already gossiping, aye?” He reached for her arm.

    “Touch me again and you’ll be wearing that skirt for a good reason.” She lifted her knee to make good on her threat. He lowered his hand, but didn’t back away.

    “For all that is sacred, get back in there.”

    “Just tell me where I can find Meriel, then I’ll be out of your hair.” She looked at his unmoving form, then added, “Please.”

    He shook his head and pointed to the bedroom. Her blood boiled, not even Tim treated her like this.
    She ducked around him and jogged to the stairs. He let out an exasperated breath, then his footsteps came from behind her. Let him follow, but if he touches me again …

    Turning her focus to finding Meriel, she descended the narrow staircase. At the bottom, she opened the first door and stepped right into a medieval kitchen, complete with a fire burning beneath a pot in a large hearth. Two women standing near the hearth stopped talking as they saw her at the door. Jean glared at her while the other woman’s eyebrows lifted in surprise.

    Akeva backed out of the kitchen, closed the door, then ran into the Kilted Man. Turning to face him, she said, “Either help me or get out of my way.”

    He stepped aside and waited for her to move past him. Akeva sighed. So much for gallantry, or simple courtesy. As she moved past him, he said, “I did help ye when I told ye to dress.”

    “Some help that was.”

    She glanced around and found another door across the hallway. Might as well try this one. Inside a rustic living room, she found Meriel talking to another kilted man, not nearly as impressive as the one following her. Maybe it really was Scotland with all these kilts. Meriel furrowed her brows and the man’s face turned red and his lips puckered when the saw Akeva.

    The Kitled Man’s voice came from behind her. “I found her at the top of the stairs. Against better judgement, she insists on speaking with ye. Now. As she is.”

    Akeva could feel his disapproving gaze on her. What did she care what he thought? She threw him a dirty look, then turned back to Meriel.

    “Sorry to interrupt, but…” Akeva strode into the room, ignoring both men, and stopped before Meriel. “I appreciate all you’ve done for me, but I’ve got to leave.”

     Edited to add:  If you'd like to read previous posts in this story, check out this link.

    25 October 2011

    Meme: Teaser Tuesday

    Sylvia had this meme on her blog, looks like she got the idea from Miz B of Should Be Reading I thought I'd play along.

     From Miz B's site:

    "Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB ofShould Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

     So, one of the books I'm reading is 1635: The Eastern Front by Eric Flint. From page 252:
    "... I won't do it again."
    Jeff chuckled, in a dry sort of way.

    Leave a comment if you've been teased to check out this book or add your own teaser from a book you are reading. I'm always looking for good books to read.

    14 October 2011

    #FridayFlash - Just Go.

    Could it be true?

    Akeva’s hands shook as she placed her belongings back in her backpack, not that it mattered if she damaged them now. The most important things in her life were nothing but the most expensive and technologically advanced doorstops in the world.

    Was it even probable? Statistics weren’t Akeva’s strong point, but she knew the chances of time travel were infinitely small. Yet here she stood wearing some old fashioned nightgown in the middle of what they said was Scotland, 1661.

    Too anxious to do nothing while she waited for Meriel to return, Akeva ignored her protesting muscles and left the comfortable bed. But once out of the bed, she didn’t know what to do, so she paced the cramped space of the tiny room.

    “This can’t be happening.”

    If she could think this through, she’d find a logical explanation for all of it, the lightning, getting lost in the forest, waking up here.

    She moved through the small space, touching things, making sure they were real. The rustic chair, check. The dresser, check. She pulled at the nightgown collar, check. All real. Even the cold wood floor under her bare feet felt real. So if everything was real, then she had to be somewhen else, not 1661.

    Wait a minute. She pulled out a dresser drawer, searching for metal rails and ball bearings, but shook her head when she found only wood. Running her fingers along the dovetail joints, she couldn’t find any evidence of wood glue.

    “It could still be a luddite community of sorts.” She slide the drawer back in. “A community that kept a weird calendar and believed they were in Scotland.” She shook her head at the thought. “Right.”

    To accept that she’d traveled in a lightning flash, had landed in the middle of some strange parallel universe, stuck in what would’ve been Renaissance times was crazy. “Not possible, it had to be dream.”

    Remembering that people couldn’t read in their dreams, Akeva searched the room for anything to read. Not even finding a magazine, she hastily pulled out her camera operation manual and read the page introducing aperture priority mode. She threw the book on top of the bag. “Not a dream.”

    Akeva stared out the window at the large hills beyond the green fields and trees of the large. She’d spent spent three miserably long days in those hills, wandering and looking for help. When she couldn’t even find the Big Dipper in the sky, she’d assumed once she’d found people that everything would make sense. And now that she’d literally tripped upon help, she couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation. And no closer to getting home.

    Someone cleared a throat, startling Akeva. She turned to find Jean carrying a tray piled with food into the room. At the thought of food Akeva’s stomach grumbled.

    Placing the food on the dresser, she said, “For yer wame.” The housekeeper wore the same guarded expression as before.

    Akeva didn’t care that she stuffed her mouth, or that the dry biscuit stuck to the roof of her mouth. It had been three days since she’d had a decent meal, she’d eat just about anything at the moment. However, the old woman’s scowl deepened as Akeva reached for another with one hand and for water with her other hand.

    After devouring another biscuit and a long drink, Akeva wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “This is almost better than a double bacon cheeseburger.” The woman’s silence hit her like a sledgehammer. Without a word, the housekeeper left the room. “Whatever. Just trying to be nice.”

    Alone again, she resumed trying to make sense of her situation. By the time she finished the cheese and apples on her plate, she still had no better handle on what to do.

    Then the door opened again and in walked Jean, again, this time carrying a bundle of clothing. The woman kept her distance as she placed it on the bed, “Put these on.”

    Akeva said, “Thanks.”

    With barely a nod, the housekeeper acknowledged Akeva’s appreciation. Then, still keeping her silence, Jean retrieved the tray. The woman shook her head as she noticed all the food was gone.

    Akeva couldn’t find it in herself to be embarrassed at her gluttony, especially after three days of only trail mix and water. Let the old woman sit in judgement, it wasn’t like Akeva could stop her. Besides she had larger issues to deal with, like figuring out what to do.

    At the door, Jean turned back and glowered at Akeva. With her stone hard voice, she said, “I dinna ken who ye are or from where ye hail, nor do I care. But that Meriel has a soft spot for folks, always assuming the best of a person. Dinna be taking advantage of the lass’s trusting nature.” Her cold, grey eyes glared at Akeva, “This family doesna need yer kind of trouble. So, it would be best for everyone that ye leave this place. Soon.”

    05 October 2011

    Hi-Jacked by NaNoWriMo

    Remember my time-travel romance story? Or how 'bout my techy romance novel? You know, the ones in revision limbo, the ones I was finally making headway on? Yeah, well, see, they were hi-jacked this week. Big time.

    Instead of working my normal writing schedule, the story I'm developing for NaNoWriMo has taken center stage. Apparently, Ms. Muse, who doesn't show herself these days, is dropping questions all over the place as she swooshes her sword through the air. Like who is this Moragayn, no-last-name-thank-you-very-much, and why does she avoid everyone, which is pretty difficult seeing as her job requires constantly dealing with people? Why is Tanner, not his real name, such an ice hockey fiend? And why does Mr. B'alam, emphasis on Mr., loathe everyone? And how do they fit together? Really, who would want to wordsmith when these questions beg to be answered?

    It doesn't help with all the blog posts out there about NaNoWriMo either. LynnViehl, who isn't even participating this year, has blogged about the event here and here with more wisdom planned. Larry Brooks has committed to write 31 posts, one per day for the month of October, to help us plan for NaNoWriMo on his blog, too. (My favorite so far is this one.) And while they haven't mentioned the writing event of November, the folks on the latest Writing Excuses Podcast recently discussed The Hollywood Formula which certainly ties into story planning. All this and I haven't even logged on to the official NaNoWriMo site.

    No wonder my writing has been hi-jacked.

    One small consolation: I know my story hostages will be released on 1 December at 12:00AM.

    30 September 2011

    #FridayFlash - Where Am I?

    This scene might answer some questions that you may have. I probably should've posted this before the last one, but I'm still playing with the order of scenes and had thought to leave this for later. (Thanks for the feedback, Jen!)

    Here are links to the other scenes I've posted.

    Akeva couldn’t shake the feeling that she should be taking care of something important. Lying in a warm cocoon of comfort, Akeva burrowed into the bed with the hope that she’d stay asleep. Maybe she’d dream about that kilted man with his strong arms wrapped around her again.

    Instead of seeing the Kilted Man’s ice-blue eyes, disjointed images flickered through her mind. A red-rocked desert, lightning flashes, a stone circle, endless green glens, a rustic house, and finally the Kilted Man lunging at her as she fell. Akeva eyes flew open and she broke out in a sweat. Shit.

    Ignoring the protest from her battered body, she pushed herself to sitting. The room swirled around her and she closed her eyes as she took deep breaths.

    Damn. It wasn’t exactly sleep she’d been waking from, but another one of her faints. And as usual, it had occurred at the most illogical and inconvenient time, not that now was any better.

    Several seconds passed before the ringing in her ears stopped. When Akeva opened her eyes again, she found two concerned women watching her, both dressed like characters in a period movie. While uttering something that Akeva couldn’t discern, the younger one held out a cup to her.

    Akeva accepted the cup, and after a tentative taste, she gulped down the water like a person in a desert. “Thanks.”

    The young woman’s brows lifted. “Ye dinna have the Gaidlig?” Akeva frowned, the woman’s thick accent made it difficult to understand her.

    From her perch in the bed, she glanced around the small room, taking in the rustic nature of the chair, candle sconces, fireplace, and dresser. Despite its’ sparseness, it was better than the hard and cold ground she’d slept on the past few nights. “Where am I?”

    A smile lit up the young woman’s face. “Faradoch den Beithe.” Before Akeva could ask where that was, the older woman cleared her throat, causing the young woman to roll her oddly familiar ice-blue eyes. “Jean, our housekeeper, would have me say this house belongs to my husband, Ennis, Laird Faradoch den Beithe,” she sent the housekeeper a sharp look, “but, I live here too, forbye.” The woman turned her attention back to Akeva. “Ye can be calling me Meriel.  What do we be calling ye?”

    “Akeva Riordan.” She lifted her hand for a handshake and the bruises on her arm became visible. Meriel’s smile wavered as she tried to ignore the purple marks. Akeva lowered her arm. “They don’t hurt as much as they did a few days ago.”

    Meriel nodded, and before the other woman could ask any questions about how the bruises had been delivered, Akeva asked, “How did I get here?”

    “Brian, my cousin, saved ye more bruising by catching ye. When ye dinna wake, he carried ye in to the house.” Brian must be the Kilted Man. She didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.

    Akeva glanced around the room again, this time looking for a phone, but not finding one. “Could you lend me a phone, I need to call my Dad.”

    Meriel’s brows furrowed. “Phone?”

    Oh. The strange dialect, the old clothing, and the rustic room finally made sense. She must’ve stumbled into an Amish or Quaker settlement, not that she’d ever visited such a place, even growing up in Ohio. Places without modern technology never held any appeal for her. She believed in better living through printed circuit boards. Of course they wouldn’t have a phone, but there must be one nearby.

    “Could you take me to the nearest phone?” Akeva pushed away the quilt and swung her legs off the bed, but Meriel’s firm hand on her shoulder kept her in bed.

    “Och, no, lass. Ye had to be carried into this house, ye will stay right there in that bed.”

    Just that attempt to get out of bed had reminded her how weak she’d become over the past few days. Akeva sighed. “Could someone call my Dad. He’s probably frantic since I haven’t called him.” Both women frowned at her with confusion written on their faces.

    “My cell phone died, probably from electrical shock in that thunderstorm.” Akeva searched for her pack, she’d show them her phone. “Where’s my backpack?”

    Jean frowned. “Backpack?”

    Panic flooded Akeva’s body. I lost it.

    Meriel stooped over and lifted a black bundle. “Ye mean this?” The woman held it out in front of her like it might explode.

    Relief washed over Akeva as she grabbed the bag from Meriel. “Thanks.”

    Akeva pulled out empty snack wrappers, her digital camera, and her laptop before she found her phone. “Figures it would be at the bottom.” She held up the device that held half of her life. Her laptop held the other half. She pushed the power button and nothing happened. “Like I said, it’s fried.” She hoped they’d be willing to help her even if it went against their anti-technology beliefs.

    The younger woman’s brows furrowed, leaving a deep line between them. Jean’s hissed as she took a step back, her narrow-eyed gaze fixed on the items on Akeva’s lap.

    What’s with them? It wasn’t like the stuff would kill them, her devices barely qualified as paper weights.

    In a whisper, Meriel asked,  “What are those?”

    Really? Could there be people who didn’t know a camera or phone when they saw one? “Just my dead electronics. Like I said, I’d use my phone or my laptop to get in touch with my Dad, but they’re fried.”

    Akeva opened her laptop and pushed the power button for what must’ve been the thousandth time in three days. And like all the other nine hundred and ninety nine times of pressing that button, she received no response. No spinning hard drive, no screen flicker. Nothing.

    Closing the lid, she sighed as she thought about the cost of buying a replacement for the laptop, she’d have to wait on a camera. Damn.


    Unnerved by Meriel’s strange pronunciation of the word, Akeva glanced at the two women. Jean glared at Akeva with suspicion, while Meriel wore a wary expression. Were they angry because she’d brought modern gadgets into their house? It wasn’t like she’d meant to cause them trouble, she just wanted help getting home.

    “Um,” Akeva shifted in the bed, “if I could call my Dad, I’d be out of your hair as soon as he can get here.”

    Meriel’s eyes settled on the pile of items on Akeva’s lap, then to the phone in Akeva’s hand. She reached out. “Do ye mind?” Akeva handed it to the woman.

    Turning the phone over in her hands, running her fingers over the smooth buttons, Meriel seemed entranced by the device. The old woman shook her head and stepped back again when Meriel held it out to her. “I am no going to touch the wicked thing.”

    Meriel stood with an expression of awe, curiosity, and maybe a little fear. The feeling of unease Akeva’d been feeling grew. Meriel turned to Akeva. “And what are ye supposed to do with this?”

    This house, as far as she could see, had no modern conveniences. They wore clothing that Akeva only expected to see in period movies. And now, their reaction to her devices made Akeva’s gut twist into a knot.

    Putting the phone back in the backpack, she asked, “Where exactly are we?” When Meriel looked confused by her question, she tried again, “What city?”

    Meriel frowned. “The closest town is Naern, only a few days ride from here.” A few days ride? Akeva didn’t remember seeing Naern on the Arizona map.

    “Ye must have hit ye heid verra hard if ye dinna ken where ye are.” Meriel’s smile reminded Akeva of the placating type an adult gives a young child. Or a crazy person. “Ye are in Clan Chisolm lands, in the Highlands.”

    “As in the Scottish Highlands?” She may be a geography-challenged American, but—


    Her reality was unraveling right in front of her. Akeva swallowed hard, then asked, “What’s today’s date?”

    Meriel gave her that smile for simpletons again. “The sixth of August.”

    No matter how sure she was of the answer, she had to ask her next question. “What year?”

    Meriel’s brows furrowed again as she glanced from Akeva’s face, to the devices, and back to her face. “1661, o’ course.”

    “Scotland, 1661?"

    She couldn’t believe it. No, she didn’t want to believe. As a physics major in college, she’d learned about string theory and multiverses, all of it just hypothetical constructs. The bed beneath her, the strange clothing,  the women who had no idea what to do with a cell phone, these weren’t hypothetical constructs. Very non-hypothetical.

    Sure, the landscape she’d traveled certainly resembled photographs of Scotland, but she’d reasoned the unusually placed countryside could’ve been some hidden oasis in the middle of the Arizona high desert. Out in the dark hills that first night after waking at the stone circle, when she’d tried to navigate by the blinking stars, she hadn’t been able to find Orion or the Big Dipper. She’d entertained the idea that she’d  stumbled into a time travel corridor, a mashup of real life physics and elements of science fiction novels. It was just an idea, but ...

    Had she really traveled from an Arizona vortex from 2008 to a Scottish stone circle in 1661? Was it possible she’d traveled thousands of miles and hundreds of years? In a flash of lighting?

    Meriel said, “Aye.”

    28 September 2011

    Tech Tool Tip: Speech to Text

    A quick tip: If your computer has a speech-to-text functionality, use it.

    You can catch so many mistakes by listening to the computer generated voice as it reads the words exactly as written. Embarrassing mistakes that can be avoided if you use this tool:
    A screen grab of the Mac OSX tool.
    • double words
    • misspelled words
    • missing dialogue tags
    • overly strong emotions that don't belong in the email to your boss (I remember sending a couple of those while at Intel.)
    • unusual word flow
    Lately, I've been using it extensively while revising scenes. I'll highlight-a-few-paragraphs/listen/correct and repeat as needed, then move on to the next set of paragraphs until the end. As a final test, I listen to the entire scene before moving on to my next hatchet job scene.

    So, give this tech tool a try, you might just add it to your toolbox.

    23 September 2011

    #FridayFlash - Dinna Tell

    Brian kept his face calm, hiding his surprise at Meriel’s request. Now he understood why she’d insisted they stand in the middle of the sitting room, speaking in hushed voices. “Ye dinna have to ask, I willna say anything about the lass.” With his chin, he pointed to the door. “But the talk has already begun.”

    Jean nodded once before she spat out her words. “Aye, I caught that loose-tongued Mairi asking one of the stable lads if they had seen our young hero here,” her lips pursed as she sent him a pointed look, “but she will no be saying anything more, forbye.”

    “I wager she doesna have to.” Brian rubbed his throbbing hand as he recalled a brief conversation in the barn. While Brian had been unloading his horse, a groomsmen had asked Brian if he’d “aided” the lass in a tone that hinted at less than gentlemanly help.

    Meriel noticed Brian’s swollen knuckles and frowned. “Which one was it?”

    He could never keep a secret from Meriel, even if he tried. “Ye will ken when ye see him.”

    Meriel sighed and shook her head. “Och, aye, I dare say I will.” Now it was her turn to give him one of her looks. “I thought ye would ken better.”

    Brian shrugged, of course he did. Why else would the Clan Rose chief routinely send him on diplomacy errands, particularly those to the Freuchie. Yet, that didn’t mean he had to stand idle listening to a groomsman’s lewd accusations about the lass upstairs, no matter what the lass may have done or wore. “I was just teaching him some manners.”

    Meriel sent him a pointed look, then said, “I will have a conversation with Ennis about the lads. In the meantime, dinna add fuel to the fire.”

    Brian gave her a curt nod. “As I recall, it isna my behavior that ye wanted to discuss.”

    What about the lass caused this distress? That made Meriel demand secrecy?  He glanced at Jean for a clue but only found the taciturn housekeeper glaring at him. Turing to Meriel, Brian asked, “What did she say?”

    The dim light of the afternoon filtered through the tree outside the window and dappled light fell into the room. Even with the uneven light, he noticed the tight corners of her lips as Brian waited for Meriel to answer. Bran could feel the worry thrumming on his cousin’s skin.

    What could the lass have said that could be so terrible? Had she killed the man who had marked her? Was she hunted? What?

    “I am still making sense of it, aye?” She gave Brian a wan smile and sighed again, her shoulders sagging. “It’s nay for ye to be concerned about.”

    “What do you want me to say to the people who ask about the lass? Mairi saw that the lass was practically naked. I guarantee that is one detail she will pass on,” he gave Jean a pointed look, “no matter your reprimand.”

    The images of her bare limbs covered with purple bruises came unbidden to his mind. How could someone have done that to her? He fisted his hand again.

    Meriel interrupted his thoughts. “I dinna ken.” A corner of her mouth lifted. “Ye are a gentleman the last time I checked. I am sure ye will come up with a suitable answer,” she paused, “a civilized one I hope.”

    Meriel turned to Jean. The older woman answered Meriel’s question with a brief nod before leaving the room.

    Brian grasped Meriel’s elbow to keep her from following the housekeeper out the door and guided her to a chair. “Sit.”

    Meriel bristled at his command, but she complied. He sat on the edge of the sofa facing her. “There is more to this than ye are telling me. What is it?”

    She lifted her chin and peered at him. “I dinna confide everything with ye.” Why was she so defensive? Why was she not answering his question?

    “Aye, that is true, but I think I deserve to ken what all the secrecy is about, I carried her in here after all.”

    Meriel turned away, her gaze settled on the glass figurines that sat on the shelf. His cousin sat quietly thinking with those lines between her brows. What was it about the lass upstairs that caused his cousin to be so secretive, so upset?

    Brian sat back, deciding to wait her out, but when nearly a minute passed in silence he couldn’t hold his tongue any longer. “I canna imagine anything so bad that ye canna tell me.” Meriel twitched, unusual for her. “If ye worried about the lass and the man,” and he used that term loosely, “that hurt—“

    “Brian, it’s n—“

    The sitting room door swung open and Ennis strode in, slamming the heavy door behind him. “I should have kent the Rose yelp would be hiding out with his protector.” Ennis stopped in front of Brian and glared at him. “How dare ye bring a woman such as that into my hame. Have ye nay shame?”

    Brian stood up and clamped his jaw tight to keep his silence. Meriel rose and placed her hand on Ennis’s shoulder to calm him. He shook it off.

    Ennis glared at Brian and blocked Brian’s view of Meriel. “Dinna look to her for help. Ye are no better than a bairn, always hiding behind her skirts.”

    Brian took a step froward, returning Ennis’s stare. By Brian’s count, he owed Ennis hundreds of punches for every insult he uttered about himself or his family, and he felt the need to deliver each and every one right now. He is Meriel’s husband. He couldn’t hurt Meriel by doing her husband harm, even if the bastard deserved it. Too bad Meriel hadn’t married someone else. Knowing how Ennis would rage at the thought, Brian chuckled as he stared down the man.

    “Ennis.” Hearing Meriel’s sharp voice, Ennis blinked, and she moved to her husband’s side, restraining Ennis with a simple touch of her hand on his arm. “Brian found the lass as he prepared to leave. He only brought her in as she needed tending to.” Ennis’s eyes squinted at Brian, as if trying to see the truth written on Brian’s face.

    “Dinna fash, Meriel. I am certain Ennis,” Ennis’ eyes tighten at Brian’s use of his given name rather than his title of Laird, “would have been grace himself and helped her had he been the one to find her.”

    No one disputed the blatant lie, but Brian felt Meriel’s disapproval roll off her in waves. Ennis’ already icy glare hardened, causing Brian to grin again.

    Ennis turned away from Brian to speak to his wife. “Where is she?”

    “Upstairs in Brian’s room. Resting.”

    Ennis completely turned his back on Brian before addressing Meriel again. “I will speak to ye. Alone”

    “Good day to ye too, Ennis.” Brian walked out of the suddenly too crowded sitting room. Better that Meriel deal with the man, she could to calm the man as only she could. Not even Brian’s father, a respected clan chief, could effectively deal with the hot-heided Ennis for any length of time.

    The door clicked behind him and a snort escaped him. For his act of decency towards the mysterious lass, he’d become the subject of the latest gossip, punched a man, and nearly came to fisticuffs with his cousin’s husband. And he didn’t even know her name.

    21 September 2011

    Story Outlining in Photoshop?

    In the latest Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast, the director of the movie Reckless, Gus Van Sant, mentioned that he sometimes outlines his stories in Photoshop. He'll change colors, fonts, moved things around, even incorporate graphics, like balloons. Jeff, the moderator, suggested that it would take a long time to complete an outline in this manner.

    As I've only used Photoshop Elements, and am still learning the ins and outs of the program, I'd agree that it would be a long exercise, but I can imagine how stylized and eye-catching it could be. Rather than outline with Photoshop, I could certainly see myself utilizing my Bamboo tablet to brainstorm, create mind maps, and compile story collages.

    Photoshop is a pricey tool to have laying around. Just looking thru our own computers, I found other alternatives that could be used to outline, mind map, brainstorm, or just be creative, that are much less than Photoshop.
    • Corel Painter Essentials - bundles with the Wacom Bamboo tablet, free trial download
    • Google SketchUp - Free from Google
    • http://www.apple.com/iwork/iWork with Keynote, Numbers, and Pages- an Apple product equivalent to Microsoft Office
    • Microsoft Office: Word & PowerPoint - who doesn't know these?
    • Mind Node - free mind mapping software
    • Notebook - Mac only, digital notebook that performs handwriting recognition and sketching
    • Photoshop Elements - a photo editing too with drawing capabilities
    • Scrivener - a writer's dream program for managing any sort of writing project, with digital notecards and synopsis creation
    • Shape Collage - photo collage creator - just import the pics you want to use, pick a shape and viola. The pro version removes the watermark.
    • SketchBook Copic Edition - a drawing program that was free on the Apple Mac App Store
    • SketchBook Express - a drawing program that was free on the Apple Mac App Store, an iPad version also available
    • Skitch - a document capture program, free on the Apple Mac App Store & Adroid Market
    • Xmind - free mind mapping tool
    • TuxPaint - a free kids drawing tool, with some cool stamps
    Oh, and don't forget the age old reliables ... pen, pencil, markers, crayons and paper.

    What do you use to generate your story ideas? Share in the comments.

    14 September 2011

    More on Music

    For as long as I can remember, I've loved listening to music. As a child, instead of napping, I would turn on my parents clock radio to the lowest setting and listen to Captain & Tennille, the Bee Gees and anyone else that aired on the Tucson AM radio station, KTKT. I was about five years old when my Dad gave me an old record player along with a couple of Buddah Records LPs, the maroon label with the fat guy on it. When the songs Leader of the Pack or [Sittin' on] the Dock of the Bay played, I would turn up the volume full blast, but then had to cover my ears because it was so loud. My Dad would walk in and turn down the volume, all the while wagging his head at me. I was lucky he didn't take back his gift!

    It was in junior high when I discovered that I didn't have to listen to the country and western music that my parents played. (I like some C&W music, just not all the time.) Most of my friends listened to the popular radio station, KRQQ FM, who played, and still play, the same songs over and over. So, just to be contrary, I chose to listen to the only rock station in Tucson at the time, KLPX. That's how I discovered Van Halen and Alice Cooper. This just proved to be my gateway station to other rock ... Motley Crue, Queensryche, Scorpions, Metallica and even some Pantera.

    For much of high school, I thought I would become a professional trumpet player, join a symphony somewhere as principal trumpet. Then I thought about the lifestyle I wanted, and well, being a trumpet player wasn't going to pay those type of bills. So, instead, I chose to study Materials Science and Engineering, where the salaries and benefits were more aligned with how I wanted to live.

    But I never gave up on enjoying music, be it as a listening experience, sometimes at ear-splitting volumes - but only when the kids aren't around, practicing my trumpet from time to time, or playing the piano. And as I mentioned before, I listen to music while I write to get into the mood of my stories. Sometimes I already own the music that will help, but like for my first story, mostly set in 1600's Scotland, I didn't have anything. Not even the "Last of the Mohicans" soundtrack.

    I thank my lucky stars for the internet where I discovered the folk/rock band the Peatbog Faeries  and Martyn Bennett, traditional Scottish music set to a dance beat. (Did you know there is a bagpipe rock band called the Red Hot Chili Pipers?  I bet you can guess the type of music they play.)

    So, by pursuing writingt, I've found another way to feed my love of music. (Which makes the internet services Pandora and Spotify perfect for me. Pandora for the ability to discover new music, and Spotify for the ability to listen to the new music over and over at will. At high volume, if necessary. And Amazon and iTunes make it entirely too easy to grow our music library.

    All that as intro to my Scottish story playlist. Maybe you'll discover something interesting in the list.

    What are your favorite music discoveries? That feed your Muse?

    07 September 2011

    Katz's Writers on the Move

    Earlier this summer Christina Katz created a group on Facebook, Writers on the Move, in which members share their ups, downs, and status quos about being physically active. Her own blog post announcing the group can be found here. Yardwork, housework, swimming, walking, running ... if your are exercising, no matter the level or expertise, you are Moving.

    I admit, I didn't join at first, intimidated by the fact that the Christina Katz founded the group. I mean, come on, I've read her books Writer Mama and Get Known Before the Book Deal, she's a famous writer, why would she want someone like me, an unpublished writer, in her group? I know, stupid thinking, particularly after I asked her to friend me on Facebook, AND she'd accepted, but there you have it.

    Weeks passed, and I kept seeing her group updates and finally caved and asked to join. Because really, who couldn't use a little nudge to keep exercising and maintain a healthy lifestyle? I joined and was heartened by all the support that the members provide each other. I've received helpful suggestions on exercise shoes while Zumba-ing that might not cause my plantar fascitis to cripple me, a recommendation for a beginner yoga DVD and calorie/food/exercise tracking apps, and many likes and commiserations, all which gave me the courage to reach out to others. Yes, even to Christina Katz. As a matter of fact, she was one of the first to comment on my updates. Me! Boggles the mind doesn't it. (Or not -- I shouldn't have been surprised by how accepting these Writers On The Move are. Members of the #amwriting community on Twitter are very encouraging and welcoming to us newbies, to all writers really.)

    So, if you are a writer, and if you find that you need a nudge to be Move, to Move more, or to Move some, I recommend you check out the group. Just search for it while logged into your Facebook account.

    31 August 2011

    Angie's Playlist

    Lots of authors listen to music while they work. Some writers listen to anything, while others carefully pick each song, sometimes down to those with words or not.

    Me, I do something in between. Sometimes I play one of my stations on Pandora, other times I pick an artist like E.S. Posthumus. If I really need to get in a groove, Placebo's Running Up That Hill plays non-stop. Though usually, I listen to a shuffle mix of albums I've picked that give me a general feeling for the story I'm working on.

    My laptop has limited memory so I don't have a large music selection on it. Right as I start a story, I look in our large music library on the home computer and copy the ones that stand out to me as fitting the story over to my laptop.

    So, this week I thought I'd share which albums I currently have in my playlist for my modern story dealing with tech and modern characters, the main character is named Angie (hence the name of the playlist). I created this list a few years ago, and now that I look it over, I think I need to add more Techno, like Oakenfold and Tiesto, and those E.S. Posthumus albums I mentioned.

    What do you listen to?

    PS If interested in sharing playlists, I just started using Spotify (user: AZAnne).

    26 August 2011

    #FridayFlash - Hunting to Come

    Another bit for your Friday Reading.


    Whisky. One of the few things that he enjoyed in this forsaken place. The last of his whisky burned its way down into his stomach. Everyday Edison Simpson thanked his ill fortune for all the amber liquid he found in abundance in these parts. Sometimes the peaty-flavored liquid gold was the only thing that kept him sane.

    He glanced at the men sitting next to him at the long table, worn soft by long years of use. Many of them were locals probably escaping from a nagging wife at home, but a few of them were travelers like himself, looking for a decent meal and decent drink at this village inn. He knew one of them had to have helpful information, know of someone, or have heard a story that didn’t ring true. He refused to accept the alternative.

    As he placed his cup on the wooden table, he decided they’d drunk enough of his offerings. Time to get what he wanted. With a casualness he didn’t feel, he asked, “Where is the closest stone circle?”

    The men kept their eyes on their plates and chewed their bland stew and bannocks, not even acknowledging they’d heard him. Not that he could blame them, folks avoided talking about the damned things. A superstitious lot with good reason, as he well knew.

    Minutes passed as spoons continued to scrape bowls and inane chatter drifted over from the other tables. The inn-keeper’s wife patrolled the room, stopping to talk to customers. He found it curious that she avoided his table, she probably knew something. How could he arrange to question her?

    He brought his attention back to his primary quarry. The men’s continued silence assaulted his hearing, as it did every time he asked these questions. He considered himself a patient man, but his growing desperation was chipping away much of his forbearance.

    Taking a deep breath, he realized he’d have to open the lines of communication a bit more, loosen their tongues. Glancing around, he caught the inn keeper’s attention and lifted the empty whisky jug. The man’s curt nod signaled that a new bottle would be coming soon, the frown on the man’s face expressed the man’s displeasure.

    Setting the jug down with more force that was necessary, Edison sat up straighter on his bench. He could care less what the judgmental man thought of all the drinking. Getting men drunk and letting them talk was a sight easier than beating an answer out of them. He’d learned that lesson in the army.

    What he wouldn’t give to be with his men right now searching for enemies among the grand plantations of those tobacco and cotton farms, even in the cold and damp winters. That’s where he belonged, not here in this run-down inn, plying men with liquor for the answer to his most important question, the question that he could never ask another living soul.

    He sighed. What had his men made of his disappearance? Given his service record, they probably thought him dead. His jaw tightened as he reasoned he might as well be given his current circumstances. With a shake of his head, he gave up feeling sorry for himself, there was no time for that.

    No matter. He intended to return to his men, to the war, to get away from this treeless, machineless, backwards, God-forsaken—

    The innkeeper set the jug in front of him interrupting his internal tirade. He nodded his thanks and poured himself a drink. Without putting the jug down, he tossed back the contents of his cup then refilled it before giving a portion to each of the men around him.

    The man next to him, nodded his thanks before he sampled more of the amber liquid. After an appreciative sigh, the man said, “Leave them be, man, strange happenings occur at those cursed stones. Dinna look for trouble.”

    Edison chuckled. “I’m not looking for trouble.” It was entirely too late for that. As a matter of fact, he was looking to get out of trouble, out of here, away from those cursed things that had ruined his life. He took another swig of his drink.

    The beady-eyed man with the red nose squinted at Edison from down the length of table, suspicion written clearly on his face. “Only fae and witches are play around those wicked places. Which would ye be?”

    Edison refused the impulse to challenge the man for his insolent accusation, instead he sent him a sharp glare. “Fairies and witches? What would you know about that?” Unable to stand the heat of Edison’s gaze, the beady-eyed man looked down to focus his attention on his meal before him. Edison muttered to himself, “I thought not.”

    Fairy tales and witches. He might as well be listening to slaves talk about their voodoo dolls. All of it nonsense. Except, for the strangeness of the stones, which he knew to be true. Knew all too well.

    He took another swallow of his whisky, welcoming the burn, forcing the memories of that day away. With all the whisky tonight, he would have no nightmares. Another reason to love whisky.

    The innkeeper took the empty plate from Edison and peered at him, suspicion clear on his face. “Are ye one of those who chase after witches?” The warning note in the old man’s voice wasn’t for Edison’s benefit, but for those sitting at the table. Damn the man for warning the others, and for no good reason.

    Edison leveled his gaze at the innkeeper, silently cursing the man. Edison wouldn’t lose what little in roads he’d gained, he needed answers. He’d have to use the tool handed him by the meddlesome old man. “It should be every man’s occupation to rid this world of evil. Don’t you agree?”

    Someone at the table behind him whispered the words that would, depending on the men’s sense of security, either make Edison’s gamble on this village and all the coin he’d spent on food and drink tonight a waste or boon.

    Witch hunter. Someone that sought out suspected evil doers, only to make them disappear, never to be heard from again.

    The irony that he should be considered at witch hunger struck him hilarious, but he refrained from laughing, allowing a corner of his mouth curl up. If his suddenly larger and very attentive audience should take his reaction as proof that he was a witch hunter, so be it. Particularly if it gained him the information he needed. Edison took another swig from his cup, all the while keeping his eyes on his audience.

    24 August 2011

    Bits & Pieces

    Bits: Inspired by Lisa Cohen's recent decision to share her short stories, I've decided to post more bits of my first story as #FridayFlash. (I've already posted a few scenes here, here, and here. Those posts inspired by Sylvia van Bruggen's posts.) My practice won't follow all the guidelines of the #FridayFlash community, but hopefully it captures the spirit: writing and sharing one's work. As a side benefit, it will force me to finish the story revision. Since I intend to focus most of my attentions on my other revision in process, my posts may be a bit sporadic. Why do this, beyond wanting to share? Akeva and Brian just won't let me be with Angie and Jason exclusively, so this is my compromise.

    Pieces: How is that 2nd story revision going? Well, another scene is done. My scenes-to-do list continues to shrink, one piece at a time. The next scene actually requires the revised back-story I created a few weeks ago. I  look forward to changing the dynamics between characters with this new information.

    Bits & Pieces Together: Yesterday, my husband asked if I had a plan in place to prep for November's NaNoWriMo. No, as I hadn't planned on participating this year. But since he mentioned it, of course I can't stop thinking about the thrill of a new story. Luckily, I've got something I could develop and wedge into my writing schedule. Anyone else planning on NaNoWriMo?

    17 August 2011

    Slow Progress

    I'm chugging along. Progress is slow. Slow as we settle into the kids new school year. How slow you ask?

    Well, since last week ... One Scene Done. Yes, Done. Just One, but Done. Only ~90 more to go.

    A lot of work left, right? Fortunately some of those scenes, which ended up as thinking/no-action scenes, will be folded into others. Or is it unfortunately as I'll have to work to blend information that originally wasn't intended in the other scene? I don't know.

    In this small progress, I'm reminded that revising takes so much more time than just writing a scene. Rereading, deleting, adding, rearranging, questions to ask and answer, picking the just perfect words, nailing the emotional impact, all while maintaining the flow.

    But completing that one scene, that small victory, appeased the Muse (btw: she still holds that sword) and gave me energy to keep working.

    Since the Muse watches me out of the corner of her eye while she sharpens that sword, and I desire that Victory High, I'm off to revise.

    (Don't ask if I like revising yet. At this stage, better to leave the question unasked. And unanswered.)

    10 August 2011

    MY Way

    This whole revision process stinks, especially the crossing out, scribbling on a copy of my manuscript with red ink without making any real changes in the actual file. Instead of feeling I'm creating a tighter, stronger story, all I feel is frustrated for not really accomplishing anything. And no, having my digital notebook rather than dead trees to do this is not enough to keep me going.

    This manuscript mark-up stage is why I stopped working on my 1st novel revision -- typing in over 300 handwritten pages of story with stickie notes, inserted chicken scratches and other instruction -- became too daunting.

    Just about everything else Holly Lisle has taught me, I can get behind as it speaks to my relatively logical and organized style. I get why she encourages this multiple-pass revision process... major changes made later while revising can be easily incorporated all in one swoop of the keyboard type-in. But it isn't working for me.

    So, I've decided, no, I've chosen not to follow her method to the T. Not this step. Nope. Not going to do it anymore.

    I'm doing it MY way.

    What is my way? Sort of like ...
    1. read scene
    2. make notes of what to change on the scene
    3. incorporate those changes in the file
    4. make sure all is good
    5. repeat steps 1-5 with next scene until all scenes done
    And while MY process is only slightly different than Holly's, making the choice to find a way that works for me, cliche as it sounds, leaves me feeling unencumbered. Like I can finish a revision without a bunch of busy work.

    So, tonight after the kids are in bed, I'll pull out the computer, my notes, and get working. And finally make some progress. MY Way.

    02 August 2011

    Answers => Constraints => Questions => Creativity

    Recently, I received answers and other helpful tidbits to some questions I'd asked of one of my experts. Receiving this information, from a bona fide expert, is thrilling.

    Based on the information I've received,  I have to work a different angle for my main characters' backstory and relationship. Nothing like a few constraints to get the creative juices flowing in my problem-solving/engineering-trained brain.

    Thrill and creativity in one week, what's a writer to do but revel in it all! Frankly, I sorely needed any jolt of energy I could get as I've yet to enjoy this revision process.

    So, I'll be thinking over my expert's answers over the next few days and developing new questions. This time, the answers I provide will hopefully lead to a stronger and richer story.

    PS Thanks, Expert!

    26 July 2011

    A Vocabulary Test

    I saw this post over at Lynn Viehl's blog and had to follow the links to this vocabulary test

    My result ...

    I fit in the average native English speaker range. Interested in where you land? Head on over and get your estimate.

    13 July 2011

    I Don't Love Revisions ... yet

    I don't even like revisions. Other writers at least enjoy this part of the process. Not me.

    Planning, creating, writing the story -- no problem. It's the unending search for weak structure, lame verbs, and lazy characters that seems insurmountable. Could be because I'm still learning the writing process and all that goes with it, like this revising thing. Or maybe I rebel because I was raised to do something right the first time, and having to revise is an admission that it wasn't right. And how do I know if it was right or not?

    Mt. Everest Photo by Chris Walker Innerwealth
    Hence reading the writing craft books lately and reviewing my two Holly Lisle writing courses, most of it not yet ingrained in my brain or writing process. So, all that information just adds up to a checklist from hell. And I have that checklist printed out next to me, glaring in its sheet protectors, along with the thick stack of my planning sheets, a paper notebook, a pen, my digital notebook (my computer + tablet), and my manuscript hard-copy. Doesn't it all seem like Mt. Everest?

    So, no more procrastinating with digital photos, the kids chores, my household chores, Kindle books, Deadliest Catch, knitting, Scrabble, this blog post.

    Who knows? Maybe I'll like the revision process ... once I'm done with it. (And, please, don't remind me that EVERY story has revision, that won't help.)

    05 July 2011

    I Love Research

    I do.

    I love all aspects of researching: asking questions, digging for answers, talking to experts, just learning new things. If I could be a professional student, always taking classes just so I would be learning something all the time, I would. Given my interests, my class list would be all over the map ... music theory, language, history, art, musical performance, movie production, photography, engineering, bio-materials, patent law, eugenics, ethics, chemistry, technology.

    So, anytime I can quench my thirst for research, I indulge. Like for my writing.

    I've begun revising another one of my novels, so I need to research the technical aspects of the story ... computer hacking, identity theft, and law enforcement. Fun stuff.☺ And makes the many hours of listening to Security Now! payoff in an unexpected way.

    But what makes this particular bout of research so fulfilling is that I'm reconnecting with an old friend, one who will hopefully agree to be one of the experts I go to for information.

    Just one more reason to love research, and of course, writing.

    03 July 2011

    A Last Sentence

    "... And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Excerpt from the US Declaration of Independence.

    11 June 2011

    Contest Entry: A Long Winded Thanks

    I know of a contest to win a book. Not just any book, but ONE OF THE BOOKS I think EVERYONE should have in their library, particularly fans of  Diana Gabaldon and her works. Karen over at Outlandish Observations is hosting a contest to give away a Herself-signed copy of  Outlander (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel by Diana. (For the uninitiated, Herself is the fandom's affectionate nickname for Diana.)

    What you need to do to enter the contest: Write a short (no more than 500 words, please!) description of what OUTLANDER means to you. Karen would love to have tons of entries, so for more details and a chance to win, head over to Karen's post! Even if it reduces my chance of winning the book. ;-D

    Speaking of my chances, I thought I'd post my contest submission as it does pertain to my writing existence. Enjoy.

    A Long Winded Thanks

    I don't remember when my best friend recommended I read "Outlander," but it was before the busy days of motherhood, otherwise I would’ve abandoned my kids and husband to read the story. Even on re-reads of the books, I still neglect my household duties. Fortunately, most of the books are available as unabridged audiobooks, so I can perform my wifely/motherly duties AND read the books without too many interruptions. Because no one can have enough Outlander, Claire, and Jamie.

    Through Diana’s various communication outlets, I devour any Outlander news, most especially her teasing excerpts on her podcasts, her blog, her tweets, and the Compuserve writing forum. I’ve even joined a few fan groups and read Outlander fan blogs. It’s nice to know what I’m not the only one obsessed over the story.

    While I absolutely love Jamie and Claire, Brianna and Roger, and wee Ian, it was learning about her writing process that affected me most.

    See, I’m an engineer turned stay-at-home mom. A few years ago, I’d realized that dealing with the ups and downs of raising a family didn’t provide the intellectual challenge my brain needed. I didn’t want to go back into the workforce as I wanted to be available for my kids. I’d been thinking about writing screenplays, yet I didn’t want to deal with film industry politics for the same reason that I left the workforce … my kids.

    Anyways, one day feeding my Outlander obsession, I listened to one of Diana’s podcasts in which she described a writing day during the holidays. She related that with the whirlwind of all her children’s activities and family traditions, she’d maybe written eight words the entire day, yet still worked on the story. A little bit here, a little bit there.

    I had an “Aha!” moment that made me stop in my tracks. I, too, with my little ones clamoring for my limited time, could write novels during naps and evenings. I could have the best of both worlds — I’d get my brain workout and would still  be available to be there for my children. And one day, maybe I could earn a small income to support my other obsession - technology and gadgets.

    Since that day, I’ve taken online courses, participated in three NaNoWriMos, submitted to a writing contest, and continue to chart my own writing career. With perseverance and some luck, I’ll be a published author some day.

    This unexpected turn in my life, becoming a writer, came about through a lot of twists, but was heavily influenced by Diana and the stories she created. And as a writer, I have a better appreciation for the work she exerts to create the fantastic world that I lose myself EVERY time I read her books.

    So …
    Thanks to my best friend for the recommendation,
    Thanks to all the other fans for being as obsessed as me, and
    Thanks to Diana for creating a wonderful world that inspires in magical ways.

    10 June 2011

    Meme: Ways to Stay Creative

    A little late, but I thought I'd play along with Lynn Viehl's latest meme.

    Directions: Copy the video and the list, bold the items on the list that you're already doing, cross off the ones that don't work for you, and star the ones you'd like to try..

    29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

    1. Make lists.
    2. Carry a notebook everywhere.
    3. Try free writing.
    4. Get away from the computer.
    5. Quit beating yourself up. **
    6. Take breaks.
    7. Sing in the shower. (Fun - but not sure it helps my writing.)
    8. Drink coffee. **
    9. Listen to new music.
    10. Be open.
    11. Surround yourself with creative people. **
    12. Get feedback.
    13. Collaborate. **
    14. Don't give up.
    15. Practice, practice, practice.
    16. Allow yourself to make mistakes. (Mistakes are all I make, as I don't know any different, yet.)
    17. Go somewhere new. **
    18. Count your blessings.
    19. Get lots of rest. (I think I need more.)

    20. Take risks. **
    21. Break the rules. ** (Need to know what they are first.)
    22. Don't force it. **
    23. Read a page of the dictionary. **
    24. Create a framework.
    25. Stop trying to be someone else's perfect. **
    26. Got an idea? Write it down.
    27. Clean your workspace.
    28. Have fun.
    29. Finish something.

    I'm not the only one to play along. Check out Charlene Teglia's post.

    30 May 2011

    US Memorial Day Rememberance

    "...Here we bow in holy revrence,
    Our bosoms heave the heart felt sigh.
    They fell like brave men, true as steel,
    And poured their blood like rain.
    We feel we owe them all we have,
    And can but kneel and weep again..."

    From the Hymn "Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping"

    Words by G. W. R.
    Music by Mrs. L. Nella Sweet

    Images of sheet music can be found at http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/b/b08/b0802/

    17 May 2011

    Story Engineering & Me

    Story EngineeringGiven that I majored in engineering, worked as an engineer for several years, and use engineering paper in my writing digital-notebook, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the title of Larry Brooks book, Story Engineering, spoke to me. The book's premise: that each successful story is constructed with six competencies and key plot points.

    The six competencies and my quick description of what they mean to me ...
    1. Character - how to view and develop a character
    2. Concept - distinctions between idea and concept and how to develop a concept from an idea
    3. Theme - how to look at theme and develop it in your story
    4. Story Structure - the breakdown of successful stories, and how to use key plot points to develop your story
    5. Scene Execution - how early or late to enter a scene, POV etc.
    6. Writing Voice - how to develop one
    The Story Structure competency, where one breaks down a story into core components, is the one that resonated most with me. It may sound formulaic to split a story into separate parts with plot points in certain locations, however Brooks suggests that's not the case with examples to bolster his point. I actually appreciated Brook's framework in order to develop a story/plot. (Reminded me of my product qualification days at Intel when we had to work to a plan to get product out of the factory door with minimal issues. No nostalgia. Really.) Since I'm navigating this creative writing gig, instruction included, on my own so far, I've struggled with the "What comes next?" and "Is that the right thing to write?" questions in my stories. His suggestions as what to consider and how to fit pieces together answered my questions. Not to mention they align to my very structured way of thinking and doing.

    I've already begun to incorporate what I've learned about story structure into my current revision. I've wanted people to connect with Akeva, my protagonist, but hadn't gotten the reaction with alpha readers I'd hoped for. Using Brook's framework, I realized that I hadn't set her up to be empathetic as there was no setup in her ordinary world. So I've added a scene with her and her family, the night before she leaves home, which will hopefully create some sympathy. There will be more opportunities for me to bolster that sympathy later in the story, which I fully intend to do.

    Another aspect that I like is how Brooks' instruction meshes so well with Holly Lisle's methods from the HTTS and HTRYN online courses, reinforcing each other yet adding something different. For instance he proposes the use of beat sheets, she utilizes sentences that can easily be converted to a story synopsis. They both agree that an author should write only what is necessary to tell the story, and to be hard on your story to make it the best it can be. Holly teaches her students to use scene and story twists as ways to make your story unique. Brooks suggests critical thinking when asking the "What if ...?" question to devise an original story. See, different yet similar.

    Overall, I'm pleased I've added this tool to my library and my writer's toolbox. Now off to finish reviewing my notecards, looking for other places to bolster or demolish, as necessary.☺

    PS Larry Brooks's blog, storyfix.com, is a good place to learn more about Brook's take on storytelling and Story Engineering.

    PPS I don't know Mr. Brooks, and won't receive a kickback from him for this mini-review. Just thought other writers might find my take on his book useful.

    06 May 2011

    #FridayFlash - Found

    A very short version of what I originally planned. And mostly the last one for a while. Enjoy...

    Brian Rose tightened the strap on his horse again. Delaying again, get on with it, man.

    He’d arrived at Faradoch den Beithe three days ago, prolonging his absence from home further by calling on his cousin, Meriel, and her family. That he would put up with Meriel’s insufferable husband, Ennis, was proof that he’d do just about anything to postpone dealing with his mother.

    He checked his bags again.

    A voice called from outside the barn. Glad for the interruption, he left his horse saddled and walked outside. 

    An unfamiliar voice said, “Finally.” Brian turned towards the voice and nearly bumped into a bonny lass, her shapely form clearly outlined in a soiled, sleeveless shirt and breeches that left her legs bare.

    Her green eyes opened in surprise, then her face lit up with relief. She reached out  to him, about to say something, then fainted. He lunged to catch her before she crashed to the ground.

    After wrestling off her black bag, he laid her on the ground. Searching for wounds, he found dirt, scratches, and bruises. Blue-black bruises, framed with yellow that blanketed every part of her, even her face. How could anyone deliver blows to leave marks such as these?

    Beads of sweat formed on her skin, yet her forehead felt cool to the touch. She needed help. Brian scooped up the lass and her satchel, then trekked back to the house.

    Brian glanced down at the limp body in his arms, he’d covered her with his kilt to give her protection from any curious onlookers they might encounter. The few strips of her clothing barely covered her, leaving nothing to the imagination about her womanly curves. Why was she no wearing skirts like a respectable lass?

    Her exposed legs and form fitting clothing weren’t the most shocking things about this stranger, nor the way she had literally dropped into his arms. Brian was not a squeamish person, but the sight of her bruises turned his stomach.