18 December 2013

A Fun List of Gift Ideas for The Family that Has it All

It's that time of year again, when we try to figure out what to buy our friends and family. I thought I'd share a few gift recommendations that I came up for a family that's especially hard to shop for: Mother Nature, Father Time, and their Offspring. The recommendations might come in especially handy: Mother Nature is planning her next party. You might be on the invite list.

If you do get one of her gilded invitations, and you plan on going (crazy person you), you'll want to help keep spirits bright, and tensions low (especially important when you get all six of them together in one room). You'll need gifts that will help you stay under the radar. Or pacify them. (A nugget of truth forms every myth and legend, and is why humans used to offer sacrifices of all sorts to the gods. Although, they aren't as blood thirsty as they used to be.)

Father Time: He loves single malt Scotch whisky. Get him the peatiest available, like a Laphroig or Talisker. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that the Immortal’s Edinburgh estate contains its own wing just for his favorite bottles. It’s the thought that counts. (Pun not intended.) But if you insist on trying to impress him with your knowledge of rarities, and no-limit credit card, try one of these at this site.

Mother Nature: This techno wizard, with macros for her macros in her spreadsheets, will sneak away from the party to check on her creation and climate-tracking models. The ideal Hostess Gift: a digital thermometer that sends alerts via her smartphone so she doesn’t burn dinner again.

Atoño (Autumn): What to get the bachelor with the mischievous streak? Something that can’t come back and bite you. (And that will keep him too busy to notice that you are still in that swoon over his good looks, assuming you're female. If you’re male - then to keep Atoño from paying too much attention to your date). Bring beta versions of all the video games currently in development. Here’s a starting point of the best selling games for 2013.

Nieva (Winter): Ever since she founded that tango dance school down in Buenos Aires, she is always on the look out for great tango music. Bajofundo and Otros Aires are a few of her favorites. Fly the bands in for a live performance. They love her almost as much as she loves them.

Marcela (Spring): Her siblings call her PrimaDona for good reason. (Not to her face. They may be Immortal, but they aren’t crazy.) With access to the top designers at all the major fashion houses, it’s nearly impossible to get her anything that she doesn’t already have. So, bring one of the best portrait photographers with you and give her a personal photo shoot.

For Vera (Summer): Direct and to the point, Summer is. Anything that reminds her of fun in the sun is sure to please her. And if you know anything about Summer and her pleasures, bringing an up and coming male model with a personality that can stand up to her is your best bet. Lately she’s been into a wild and scruffy look, so bring someone who looks like this model to help entertain her.

Hope you have a great time. (Me? I'll be hiding in the bunker until after the party.)

[These characters appear in Winter's Tango - my story that is waiting for me while I work on my time travel/alternate universe/witch hunt story. After writing this list, I wish I was immersed in Nieva's story again. Just more incentive to get Akeva's story finished.]

11 December 2013

My 2013 Christmas List

This year I'm asking for three external hard drives. I know, I know: not sexy, exciting, or sentimental, but practical.

One drive I'll use to to keep my photo library (opening up space to write and store that bestselling series), the second drive will serve as the photo backup, and one more drive so I can run a journaling backup of the laptop's internal drive. With the one drive that I already have to mirror the laptop drive, I'll have a total of four hard drives.

Yes, I'm a little obsessed about backups. But after losing a drive once and all the data on it, I swore to never be in that situation again. I gotta protect my stories, right? One day when I have an income, I'll get that Drobo that I've been pining for.

In the meantime, I'll also ask for a couple more things. Debbie Ohi, an illustrator and writer, does a great job of capturing what else I'd like...

Don't worry. I won't hold my breath that I'll get the time to write or the gripping opening sentence, but a writer has got to dream.

07 December 2013

Books of 2013 per NPR's Book Concierge App

The Internet is full of places to look for book to recommendations: Facebook,  Twitter, GoodReads, LibraryThing, Project Gutenberg, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Audible, Bookish. Then there are the sites by the publishers, Indie booksellers, individual author websites, podcasts, and online book clubs. Millions of places.

Another one is making a ripple in my social networks: the NPR Book Concierge app

I've only played around for a minute or two. I like it so far. It's fairly easy to use and appealing to the eye with all those book covers. The folks at NPR compiled a list of books and added filters that a user can use to find books that fit the user's unique tastes.

I used the Love Stories and Sci-Fi/Fantasy filters to give me this...

more books for my GoodReads Want-to-Read shelf, and to look for at our local library. If I like them well enough, I'll have to buy a copy to keep. (My husband won't mind. Much. Especially if they're ebooks. Right?) I plan to play with the filters some more and see what other recommendations and covers catch my eye.

Has anyone else played with the app? Or have a good book recommendation site that I didn't mention? Or have book recommendations? Let me know in the comments.

20 November 2013

NaNoWriMo, 6798 words, and Progress

Remember how I said I wouldn't win NaNoWriMo? Not only will I not win, but at my current rate, I'll lose at epic proportions.

If I had produced the minimum daily word count of 1667, I would've had 33,333 words by the end of today. As of the writing of this blog post, I have written 6798 words. Yep, just 6798.

Just reading that number makes my chest tighten with anxiety. If I could, I'd ignore everything and just write to catch up. But I can't.

I could list all the reasons and excuses why I haven't been able to keep up for this year's NaNoWriMo. But I won't do that either.

Instead, I'm taking my coach's suggestions and realizing that any progress is, well, progress. Those are 6798 words that move me forward in the story. Those are 6798 words that didn't exist at the beginning of the month. Progress.

Ten more days to go in this year's game. Still time to generate more words. Win or lose, I'll be proud of the story I'm shaping. The story won't stop picking at me, so I'll keep writing into December and beyond to finish it. Along the way, I'll keep in mind +Sylvia van Bruggen's reminder to enjoy the journey. And make Progress.

30 October 2013

The Excitement is Back!

My husband gave me some feedback on my outline that correlated to what I'd thought was missing: the fear and reality of the witch hunts. Sure, the protagonist runs and hides from witch hunters and gets caught by one and escapes, but the outline didn't include the other aspects of having witch hunts: the trials and executions. How to fix that hole?

I researched via the trusty internet and found useful tidbits in Wikipedia and different Scottish history sites to help me better understand witch hunts. The best source was The Great Scottish Witchhunt of 1661-1662. This PDF, while expensive for this non-income earning writer, was exactly what I needed. The paper dovetailed so perfectly with my story (or is it the other way around?) ...

  • The majority of my story is set exactly in those years.
  • The witch hunts were centered in Midlothian, Scotland, just south of where my characters spend most of their time.
  • George MacKenzie, who helped free many of the "witches," is the same age as one of the major characters. Perfect for some fictional artistic license: he'll be an old school buddy of a main character and help the protagonist's cause.
The author of the paper listed several references, so should I need more info, I could search for those documents. However, I suspect they aren't as available to someone out in Arizona without a substantial fee. (Had I been in England, I could've popped into Cambridge and made a copy of the document. Would that I had a revenue stream large enough to do research on site.)

With this new information in hand, I've been amending and adding scenes that bring the trial and execution nose-to-nose with the protagonist. An added bonus: It made the story and process exciting again. It's been a while since I've felt this way with this story. Definitely full of Make-Me-Smile moments.

Now, to finish the outline so that I'm ready for NaNoWriMo in two days.

(Don't worry, I'm not going to rush through NaNoWriMo like always. I'll be thoughtful as I work this revision while trying to get as much done as possible. There is something about that looming deadline that motivates.)

02 October 2013

To NaNoWriMo?

It's that time of year: the month before NaNoWriMo. The fine folks at NaNoWriMo.org have emailed past participants, reminding us that the first of November fast approaches. Writers from all over tweet/post/G+ tidbits about their preparations for the game that starts in just a few weeks.

All the chatter raises the question: To NaNoWriMo? It's like a big, red, question mark.

Before NaNoWriMo 2008, I'd been studying fiction-writing books, completing exercises, flirting with writing. Eventually I figured it was time to stop talking about writing and to just write. So I took the leap in 2008 and signed up for NaNoWriMo. With the mantle of "Writer" around my shoulders, I forged ahead with an outline, a new laptop, and family that gave me time to write in the interstices of our life.

Two drafts of that story later, four other novels, and a new bio focused on my writing endeavors, the question is back. To NaNoWriMo?

I can think of a few reasons why NOT:
  • After working with my editor, I've learned that just getting words on a page can be helpful to achieving a 1st draft. However, the adventure can lead to a never-ending, torturous revision. (As I found out.)
  • Working on a NaNoWriMo story, no matter how exciting it is to create something from those blank pages and clicks on a keyboard, means that my other stories continue to languish in the recesses of my hard drive.
But the temptation of NaNoWriMo calls...
  • To be part of a world-wide community in which each person commits to write 50k words in one of the busiest months of the year, without all the messy social entanglements.
  • A game against myself... Can I win this year? How good/cohesive can I make the story?
  • NaNoWriMo is the rabbit hole that brought me to this writing world, so it holds a soft spot in my heart.
  • Those dang t-shirts.
To get that infernal red thing out of my head, I've decided to NaNoWriMo this year. 

But I won't be following the rules exactly. I won't be writing a new story per say, but working on the revision of that 2008 NaNoWriMo adventure. The 3rd-draft outline is nearly complete, and the second half of the story deviates from the 1st-draft. The story is different enough, I think, to be a "new" story.

So, short story long, that's my declaration: To NaNoWriMo.

26 September 2013

Musing on Parents, Kids and Banned Books

I'm a parent of three children, one junior high student and two elementary school students. I'm a hovering sort of parent, keeping them in my line of sight. I don't like leaving the kids at their various activities alone. It's also not because I don't trust the instructors or other parents to act in my best interest should something terrible happen, but because they are my kids and my responsibility. (I want to be there for and with them.)

My husband and I want our children to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society. We take this responsibility seriously. We strongly encourage (ok, sometimes bribe) the kids to each their veggies, make sure they get their 8-10 hours of sleep, make sure that we know their friends, and introduce ourselves to the parents of their close friends. We think of ourselves as involved parents who know what is going on in our kids lives, at least most of the time.

Which might make you think that we censor our kids' music, books, and movies. We don't. Nickelback, with their racy lyrics, is on our kids' playlists. We've bought them all their own copies of the Harry Potter Series books. We watched "The Help" together. (Yes, even the little one watched. Her expression was priceless when we explained the type of pie that Miss Hilly ate.)

Don't get me wrong, we won't let our 1st grader read "Lord of the Flies" yet. Only because she wouldn't understand it at this point in her educational career. However, when the kids get around to reading it, I'll certainly be interested in hearing their opinions.

Our policy is to not ban the media, so long as it's mostly age-appropriate. Instead we talk about it as we listen, watch, or read it together. We discuss the questionable content, why we don't agree with it, why certain words are not to be repeated, why certain attitudes and actions are or aren't allowed in our house, and why it's important to respect the opinion of others, especially if you don't agree with them.

So it always surprises me when Banned Week comes around and I read that parents challenge and get books banned from a school's curriculum or library. Prohibiting your child from reading something? That seems like waving the red cape in front of the angry bull, making the book all the more alluring. (Or at least, it does for my kids.)

Many of these challenged books reveal something about human nature that shocks and angers. (Human nature isn't all love and empathy. Shocking, I know.) There may be a few individuals who read these stories and think the sex, violence, abusive language, questionable behavior depicted something to act out. However, they are the few. From my own observations, most people don't react that way. (No one from my high school graduating class has gone tried a "Lord of the Flies" camp with anyone. Thank goodness.)

I respect that some parents may prohibit their children to read certain stories. That is within their responsibility and right. Every parent has the right to determine, with their child's best interests at heart, what story and when said story can be read. I object when a few parents take it to the extreme and decide for everyone else.

So in support of Banned Books Week, here are some links that I suggest you check out.
FWIW: After perusing the list at the Wikipedia, I'll be reading "The Pillars of the Earth" in honor of Banned Books week. I'll also have the kids pick out a book or two.

19 September 2013

What I'm Up To (if not revising)

This month I signed up for 21 Moments - Round 4 and Platform Bingo - Round 2.  Like I needed more work to do, but when else would I take on developing my writer's platform or writing just for the sake of writing? Exactly. There isn't ever a better time.

For these writing challenges, I'm handwriting everything in notebooks. Thought I'd try out someone's theory of getting more written by longhand instead of typing. I can say, that while the thoughts aren't laid out as nice as I'd like, getting to 200-300 words for the 21 Moments is much easier since I can't use the delete button. Which makes keeping caught up a breeze. It's also nice to have the work in one, tangible place. I will say that I've gotten some interesting bits from the 21 Moments.

Platform Bingo, Round 1, highlighted that I have some work to do with my platform. With time, effort, and published works, eventually my platform will mature. Round 2 started with interesting tasks, which brought up the question of when to get my very own website. Still thinking about that.

Until I figure that out, I thought I'd share of a bit of the work that I've completed from Platform Bingo, Round 1. Christina's task for the last day of round was to write a Bio. It took a while, but I finally finished it. Read it below, dissect it, give me feedback - if you like.

Anne Velosa loves a challenge. Which is why the former materials engineer became a writer. That and because she loves a good story. 
Writing a story that whisks a reader away on a mini-vacation, raises interesting questions, and plucks the heartstrings has proven quite a challenge for Anne, but one she gladly takes on. She enjoys reading different genres, so her novels contain elements of romance, history, science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. Sometimes, her fascination with technology and gadgets sneaks into her writing.  
Other challenges in Anne's life include managing a family of five,
shepherding her three children around Tucson, AZ for their various activities, and trying not to interrupt her work-from-home husband with her "Aha!" writing moments. Somehow, she also wedges in digital photography and yarn crafting into her busy days. 
Story excerpts and Anne's musing on her writing life can be found on her blog. http://mywritingexistence.blogspot.com/

11 September 2013

Hooky, Serendipity, and 11 Sep 2001

I played hooky today. Today was just one of those days where my brain rebelled against duty, obligation, and my Muse. I needed a break, and as I can't take a break from the kids or their activities, writing took the hit.

However, I couldn't just not do anything during my hooky, so I edited some photos.

One photo sticks with me given today's date. I took it after the 1st Grade Career Day Parade at the elementary school today. It was a perfect shot: a few of the kids dressed up as fire fighters and policemen standing near the lowered flags. Somehow my Hooky led to Serendipity. Unplanned. Timely. Touching. In remembrance.

05 September 2013

Me and My Blog

I know for a fact that two people that read this blog: my husband and my best friend. I know because of their encouraging email responses to Blogger's email of the post. One time I actually received an internet High Five from my friend. (There it is.==>)  These are two people that will probably read anything that I write, even if it's useless and pure garbage. That's one of the great things about family and great friends.

However, it's the rest of my potential audience that makes me question what to blather on blog about. With other writers like  LJ Cohen, Lynn Viehl, Diana Gabaldon, Rosina Lippi, and countless others offering elegant wisdom, why should anyone read what I have to say?

Leave it to the internet to lead me down that sometimes dark, this time brilliant search where I rediscovered this...

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
Steve Jobs

Just what I needed.

While I don't think I'm living someone else's life, I do find that I care an awful lot about what others may think about me and my efforts. Which leaves me shy and hesitant to put myself and my writing out there for all to see, questioning what to share in this space.

No more questioning. What I say or write may not be profound, elegant, or Earth shaking, but it touched me in some way. It might be a new-to-me service or a cool tool, something that bothered me or made me smile, a story that I wanted to read or something that my Muse insisted I put down in words.

I'll share these things just in case you, my audience, might find them entertaining, useful, or something you can relate to. Maybe it will bring
you a smile.

Could be that you'll have something to share back, and I guarantee that it will be another Made-Me-Smile moment.

So, here's to putting myself out there. Inelegance, smiles and all.

28 August 2013

A Writer's Internet Find: BrainyQuote

I was working on a blog post when I went in search of a quote and I found a great site called BrainyQuote.com.

This site is loaded with quotes about everything. When I searched for voice, this is what I got. Over 40 pages of quotes. Incredible.

The site utilizes Google Search to query the internet and list the results for your perusal. At least, that's how it seems. A bit wonky if you ask me, but it gets the job done. However the search works, I've bookmarked the site for future use.

If you've ever wanted to use a quote for your writing, or anything else, this might be the place to check out. Do you have a favorite place to get your quotes? Share in the comments.

(Bet you can guess that my next post has something to do with voice.)

21 August 2013

Back to the Drawing Board

Yep. Back to the ol' Drawing Board. Time to review and tweak my outline.

Why? Because of my editor's comments. She gave me lots to think about, but the piece of feedback that will take the most amount of work deals with my setting. She highlighted something I hadn't considered. My story takes place in 17th century Scotland, which is very popular with other writers. So, she asked, how was I going to make my story stand out from the rest?

Um... After a few days of letting her question percolate, I have an idea. An idea that means lots of research and playing with facts and maybe even physics.

Fortunately, the work I've done so far won't be a complete waste as I can use most of my material. However, I predict major tweaks to how the setting interacts with my characters and vice versa. I think. At this stage, it's hard for me to predict how it will all come out.

While this problem-solving/creating effort, if not exactly exciting, is enticing, it means that the finish date of the story just got pushed out even further to some undetermined date. (Can you hear my frustrated sigh?) No, I haven't succumbed to the urge to ditch the story. And fortunately, my coach reminded me that any movement is better than no movement. So, I'll just suck it up and get it done.

To that end, I've printed out my latest outline and begun my research. Let the tweaking and twisting begin. How diabolical unique can I be? Time will tell.

In the meantime, I hope the Drawing Board is ready, cuz here I come.

14 August 2013

A Writer's Platform? Really? Yes.

Seasoned writers, coaches, agents, and the like all talk about platform, and how a writer, published or not, needs to have one. The rule-following person that I am, I started my platform with this blog many moons ago.

Which is sort of anemic. Yes, I noticed.

Truth is I struggle with what to blog about. Memes? My writing journey? A story draft? What? There are only so many times I can rant and rave about the long and tedious revision process. And significantly less times that you'll read it.

Twitter, Google+, LinkdIn, Pinterest? I have profiles in each of those social networking sites that I keep for writing related topics, not that I do much with them. That's going to change.

I just signed up for Platform Bingo with Christina Katz. This is the first offering
by Christina designed to help writers of all backgrounds and experiences to develop and maintain a platform. I'm looking forward to getting ideas that help me understand the platform concept and how to make one that reflects me and my writing. The game starts tomorrow.

Any one else interested in some platform coaching? We can try it out together. Just follow the link.

Keep an eye out for this space. Plans to be afoot.

07 August 2013

Time. I need More Time.

Who doesn't need more time? Ask anyone. If they could have more, they'd take it. I know I would. (Power would be good too. However, that might be a greedy to ask for both time and power.)

We all get the same amount of time in a day, yet the 86,400 seconds still aren't enough. Or so it seems. With exercising, cooking, eating, cleaning, chauffering, volunteering, sleeping, and general mothering and wife-ing, sometimes it's difficult to wedge in photographing and writing. But wedge them in I must.

With the guidance of my life coach, I've been scheduling in that writing time and setting realistic goals. And now that school started today, I can already hear the uninterrupted writing time calling me.

What will I do with all that time? Keep working on the revision that seems to never end.

What do you wish you had more time for? Let me know in the comments.

04 July 2013

My Life Coach and Me

When I won a week's worth of life coaching with Susan Duncan in a raffle, I thought I was helping out a friend jumpstart her new business  Turns out that I, a queen of organizing, goal setting and doing, needed the help instead.

At the start of the coaching session, I hadn't gotten any writing done in several weeks, due to other family activities. So I figured it would be best to work on that aspect of my life. During those first coaching sessions, I was reminded that planning is all good, but if it isn't set on realistic goals, heartache is an unintended consequence.

How many times can I set and not reach the goal of querying my story by the end of the year, and not see the flaw? Quite a few, particularly since I want to get to the other part of being an writer... published.

That's where Coach put her hands up and asked me to calculate, yes calculate, given my current rate of revision, a realistic date to send out the story queries. When the calculation came out to week 52 of 2014, I won't lie, that depressed me. But now I knew, and knowing is half the battle. Thanks to Susan, I realized I was too close, and impatient, to see how I was setting myself up for heartache. 

Which brings up something else Coach is helping me set up, an opposite of heartache: a reward system. This system includes a little rewards at set intervals if I complete my writing goals for a week. (I'm looking forward to some new music soon.) She also encouraged me to get the whole family involved, as they are my primary support system. So, the hubby, kids, and I have agreed to give High Fives and Family Hugs when anyone, not just me, meets interim goals as well as the regular celebrations when the big goals are achieved.

Another aspect Susan is working with me is to readjust my mindset when my daily writing goals are interrupted. It's sounds easy: reset the daily goal and mindset to see something positive of the situation. Operative words, sounds easy. Not so much, especially when that end of 2014 goal gets pushed into 2015. That is why she asked me to place the inspirational/motivational poster she asked me to make right next to my computer. A cheerleader always present and ready to encourage.

Just like with my decision to contract with my editor, I'm glad that I engaged with Susan on my writing life. I look forward to what else Susan has up her sleeve to help me to setup my success. Thanks, Coach!

28 June 2013

Can you tell the difference?

I thought I'd let you be the judge.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm working on my time travel/romance story with an editor. One of the scenes I've been working on with Rosina is one that I'd posted on my blog before. This is where you can judge.

Here is the link to an older version of the scene. Below is the scene after my edits based on Rosina's initial comments. There will probably be more fixes to do, but until then...

Can you tell the difference between the two versions? Let me know in the comments.


The whisky burned on its way down, and Edison Simpson welcomed it. Some days, the drink was the only thing that kept him sane. He put down his cup and fought the temptation to pour himself more. Too much of the stuff and he’d miss what he came here for.

Chatter in the room picked up as people finished their meals. The innkeeper and his wife moved among the tables as they checked on customers and took empty bowls back to the kitchen. Travelers sat at the edge of the room. Locals sat in the middle. He didn’t belong in either group. Had he gambled on the right group when he’d seated himself with the locals?

A few of men at his table leaned back in their chairs with their bellies full. A few of them made noises about going home, yet hadn’t moved off their chairs. Soon the conversation at the table came to a lull.

Now was his chance. With a friendly tone he said, “So, I heard some strange stories about them stone circles.”

The men froze in their chairs. Not even the man at the end of the table, who had an opinion on everything tonight, said a word. He couldn’t blame them, but if everyone shut down every time he mentioned the stones, he’d never get home.
“I did not mean…”

Maybe they needed more help to loosen their tongues. Edison grasped the whisky bottle only to find that it was empty. He lifted it in the air and waited until he received a nod from the innkeeper.

He didn’t care for the innkeeper’s frown or care what the innkeeper thought. Who was he to judge Edison? If it meant plying men with whisky or pretending to be their friend, he’d do it. Edison would do what he needed to get back home. 

Home. Wife. Children. His army men. His stomach tightened into a knot. There had to be a way. After all, that stone circle here in Scotland and that cave in his Shenandoah Valley had been connected. But how? 

The innkeeper set the jug in front of him. Edison took it and poured himself some. Jug still in hand, he tossed back the whisky then refilled his cup. He took a moment to focus on the burn, then gave more to each of the men around him. The men uttered words of thanks as they drank.

One of them, the man next to Edison, raised his cup to Edison then took a long drink. When he was done, he wiped his mouth and sighed. Angus leaned towards Edison. “Leave them be, man. The stones are cursed. Dinna be looking for trouble.”

Edison stifled a snigger. Trouble? As if Edison didn’t know.

From down the table, the man with all the opinions called out. “Only fae and witches play at the stones. Which would ye be?” Edison turned towards the voice and found the Talker glaring at him.

Edison’s hand tightened into a fist as he stared back. “Fairies and witches? How would you know?” The two men locked gazes for several seconds before the man looked away.

Fairy tales and witches. He might as well be listening to escaped slaves talk about their voodoo dolls. Edison took another swallow of his whisky to drown his impatience.

The innkeeper returned and took the empty plate from Edison. “Are ye one of those witch hunters?” Another silence fell in the room.

Edison needed answers. If it was what he needed to do to get what he want, he’d utilize the tool handed him by the old man. He leveled his gaze at the innkeeper. “It should be every man’s occupation to rid this world of evil. Don’t you agree?”

From around the room, people whispered the words. “Witch hunter.” Edison wanted to seek out each person who had said the name. Read their faces. See the set of their shoulders. Watch their eyes. Instead, he was stuck glaring back at the innkeeper.

Yet, that he should be considered a witch hunter struck him as hilarious. If only they knew the truth. He bit back a laugh, but allowed a corner of his mouth to curl up. The innkeeper turned away.

Would calling himself a witch hunter help him? He’d traveled through tens of villages he’d travel through and asked about the stones. Not once had he gotten him what he wanted. He glanced around. Many of the men began to count out their coins. A few of them shifted in their chairs but cast looks his way. The Talker smiled in his direction. Already a difference. This new title just might be what he’d needed.

Edison picked up his cup again. If nothing else, at least he had his whisky.

21 June 2013

My Editor and Me

Thought I'd share about my experience working with an editor, just in case anyone else is contemplating this path.

 My editor isn't just any editor, she's one of my favorite authors. Even though it's usually full of things to do, I squee when I see a new message in my inbox from Rosina Lippi. You may be familiar with her pen name Sara Donati. Yes, THE author of the Into The Wilderness series. Turns out that in addition to being a wife, a mother, an author, a communications consultant, a researcher, she's also an editor. Beyond the squee factor, I chose to work with her because of her writing experience, her great stories, and her professionalism as witnessed from her weblog and services page.

A surprising thing, which shouldn't have been had I thought about it, is that she took the time to really understand what I wanted out of working with her. As time goes on, and her editing hours stack up, she continues to make sure that we are both efficient in improving my craft.

So far she's worked on the prologue and first chapter of my time travel story in its first revision form. I've worked on Akeva's story for a long time via Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel course, so it was the one most polished.

I expected lots of issues to be highlighted most polished or not. Boy, did I deliver. Rosina pointed out some bad habits that I didn't realize I had. Like...

  • My words creep in and replace the characters' words.
  • I use adverb phrases.
  • I use more words than necessary.

I hadn't noticed those issues before. But now, I can now see these issues all over the place in my writing and am working to break these habits. I keep a cheat sheet next to me as I work to make sure that I work on those issues. I'm revising the next chapter with her comments in mind, then I'll send it to Rosina. We'll see how well I did.

I'm glad I took the plunge and engaged with Rosina. So much so, that I'm figuring out how to continue this relationship as I revise the rest of this story and future ones.

18 June 2013

It's Been a While

I know, I know. I've neglected this blog. I've been busy with the kids and fitting writing in when I can. So, until I can get more time to spend on the blog (hopefully soon), here's something that was inspired by my Life Coach.

I've placed a copy of this on my desk, right next to the monitor, to remind me ... No matter how long, I'll get it done.

26 May 2013

My Take: Finding Frances ... Love Letters from a Flight Lieutenant

I've met some incredible people in this world of Irish Dance. And it's not just the dancers that share their passion and talent...

Catherine Harris, AKA as E.C. -- English Cathy, a former rock band agent who managed a teenage band called Van Halen, gives much of her heart and time to the Irish Community here in Tucson. Somehow, while working with the  St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, the Celtic Academy of Tucson, her family business, and her other responsibilities, she found time to research and write the book "Finding Frances... Love Letters from a Flight Lieutenant."

From the publisher's website:
"Eric Hutchin was 17 when he joined the Royal Air Force to fight the Nazis in World War II. He trained as a fighter pilot at Falcon Field, a Hollywood-financed military base built in Mesa, in the Arizona desert, and there he fell in love with 17-year-old Frances Mackenzie. For the remainder of that savage war, Eric flew iconic Spitfires and Typhoons, protecting the shores of England, intercepting V-1 rockets, liberating Holland. And writing to Frances. Clever and poignant, his love letters, sketches and photos form the personal chronicle of one young flight lieutenant and his love for his special girl, but of course this is also a universal story — the coming-of-age tale of every young man who goes to war."
Through Catherine's careful arrangement of her uncle's letters and photographs,
I witnessed Eric's love grow for his girl Frances. Whether stationed in Arizona, England, or unspecified locations, Eric's words reminded me that love doesn't recognize political boundaries or edicts issued by commanders or tyrants. Be it the incessant waiting, rolling the dice with Death each time he got in that cockpit, or losing friends, Eric's love for Frances helped him navigate the day-to-day ugliness of war.

While primarily a love story, Catherine weaved factual tidbits throughout the book. Such as explaining how Hollywood financed a military site, complete with a swimming pool, that allowed the US to collaborate with England in training pilots before the US had officially joined the war. Catherine also included glimpses into how locals, regardless of location, supported the US and English soldiers.

This story captured my heart because of the love shared between Eric and Frances, for Catherine's tribute to her Uncle, and for showing one young man's dedication to his country and family.

This Memorial Day Weekend, I thank Catherine for sharing her tribute to her Uncle Eric. I also thank the many men and women that sacrificed much for their countries in the name of freedom. Including Eric Hutchin.

(edited 5/26/13 to add Photo of bookcover.)

03 May 2013

#FridayFlash: Says The Master

Two years ago, my older daughter, lured by the pretty dresses and tapping shoes, pulled us into Irish Dance. When she began classes, this hispanic family knew absolutely nothing about Irish Dance. Reel? Jig? Hard shoes? It all might as well have been Gaelic as far as we were concerned.

The dance school family embraced us with open arms. The dance instructors, the dancers, and the parents helped our daughter, and the rest of the our family, to understand and love the sometimes crazy, but always fantastic life of Irish Dance. Now, our younger daughter has joined the ranks, we've made life long friends, and we know more about trebles than I think possible.

Recently, a fellow Irish Dance parent/writer challenged me to write a piece for something like an Irish Dance Storytime. So, me being me, I searched the internet for the history of Irish Dance. I came across information about Dance Masters, instructors that traveled across the land teaching villagers Irish Dance.

That history, as well as Darren Maguire's commitment to Irish Dance and his students, are the inspiration for this little poem that I wrote for my 21 Moments writing challenge.


Says The Master

To the beat. With grace.
This foot here. That foot there.
Dance with your heart.
Says The Master.

Dancing gets the chores done.
Dancing brings the neighbors to call.
Dancing starts the ceili.
Says The Master.

In the morn, Dance to school
In the eve, Dance in the streets.
In the night, Dance in your dreams.
Says the Master.

Dance to forget.
Dance to remember.
Dance to love.
Says The Master.

Dance is life.
Life is Dance.
Love Life. 
Love Dance.
Says the Master.

23 April 2013

A Tech Tip - Personalizing your Digital Workspace: Google Mail

A writer forum leader recently charged members to personalize their writing area. So far, people have added plants, organized paper stacks, painted walls, hung colorful or inspirational posters, generally spruced up their spaces.

There is also the digital makeover, which is just as easy to do. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Clean up the computer desktop.
  • Delete old files.
  • Rearrange icons.
  • Change out your computer desktop with a favorite photo or something related to your current work in progress.
  • If you can, set your computer desktop to rotate through a series of photos, then you'll have something fresh to look at every few hours.
  • If you use GMail in a browser, you can customize your Google Mail Tab background with a theme, a stock photo, or even one of your own photos.
    • Just click on your Setting Gear, click on Themes, scroll down to Change Your Background Photo Image, then select/upload one of your own. Voila, now you might actually get to Inbox Zero so you can see the picture. (It's the little things that make the difference.)

Here is a screenshot of my Google Mail background. The uncluttered and calming blue photo is of the North Sea. (I took the pic on our family trip to Scotland last year.) Perfect and uniquely mine.

Be it the physical space or the digital, play around with it, try different themes, make it uniquely your own.

16 April 2013

Did I tell you...

... that I contracted with an editor? Just last week. While I'm excited to be working with one of my favorite authors, her first exercise for me is giving me lots to think about: details.

I consider myself a detail-oriented person. Let me show you spreadsheets of details and you'd see data in rows and columns, color-coded. However, it seems that I don't convey details well in narrative writing. Probably because I don't like reading it.

Back in high school, I had to read Lord of the Flies. There was a passage about the jungle, and I'm sure I'm remembering this wrong, but one paragraph was longer than one whole page. It took me forever to slog through that passage. Even now, I find myself skipping long paragraphs that are mostly description. Give me action or dialogue and I'll gulp it down, but long descriptions -- ugh.

So adding description and the right details, all from the perspective of the POV character, is proving a bit more difficult that I thought. It's not just describing the setting, but how a character thinks, senses, reacts. A word here or a phrase there can be powerful and add richness. Something I didn't realize that was missing from my writing.

Working with an editor this early in the game was the right thing for me to do.

25 March 2013

My Take on the "The Plot Whisperer"

In my continuing self-education for my writing craft, I read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Aldersen.

Before I start my review, I have a confession of sorts. Many of the writing books I read lately sound the same to me: Show, Don't Tell; Details Matter; Dig Deep; Develop unique Characters; Conflict in Every Scene, etc. I get that these are important story elements, and that the authors of these books can't assume the reader has read other writing books. However, reading the same advice for what seems like over and over again, doesn't reinforce the concepts for me, but makes me want to put the book down. I haven't done that yet, keeping an open mind that I just might find a new way of improving my writing craft. Not that I haven't been tempted. Confession over.

So, given that, I'll focus on the aspects that stood out as unique.

Much of Alderson's approach in the book concerns her almost meta take on writing. She asserts that as one writes, one also undergoes a story arc, almost parallel to the main character of the story. Throughout the writing process, she suggests taking moments to realize one's own place in the story arc. She also includes journaling ideas to help get at the root of any resistance one may have during the writing process.  (Something I'll explore to see if I can get over my revision dislike.)

Source: http://www.blockbusterplots.com/resc/PP.html
She introduces the Plot Planner, a visual representation of the story's plot, traced out on a large pieces of banner paper. For a more complete description of her method, see her blog post about it here. Uses sticky notes representing certain aspects of the story, like characters and theme, one graphs out the story plot while keeping track of external and internal conflicts.

I can see how this might be a useful tool, keeping track of the who, what, and when of a story. Her structure, with the beginning, middle, and end, dovetails nicely with Larry Brooks' Story Engineering structure.

Source: http://www.blockbusterplots.com/resc/ST.html
She also uses a scene tracker, a spreadsheet of sorts that tracks each scene. Holly Lisle and Larry Brooks both use scene tools, this one is unique in that it lists emotional change, thematic details, and goals. I'll be adding these extra elements to my scene essentials such as POV character, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, setting, and twist to my meta-data in Scrivener. Perhaps, by adding these few extra details in the outlining process, I might have less to do in the revision process. And an easy add to my meta-data in Scrivener. Always a blessing.

I'd recommend this book to any level writer. Less experienced writers will get good advice on the basics. More experienced writers will get a deeper understanding of the how and why of their writing, getting breakthroughs that could get them to the next level.

Aldersen maintains a blog in which she discusses various aspects of the Plot Planner and other tools she's developed. I've just added her blog feed to my RSS reader.

Until next time ...

06 March 2013

Playing with Book Covers

Playing around in Photoshop Elements with some of my own photos, I made two temp book covers for the two stories I'm working on.

Death's Choice: The composite is made from a very red Tucson sunrise and a desaturated bloom from my travel in Scotland.

Stranded by Lightning: The landscape is from outside Dunrobin castle, the stone (all three the same stone) from a cairn near Inverness, and the person is my youngest daughter from a photo where she is rushing to get out of a tunnel from  under St. Andrews Castle.

They may not be the right format, but for the moment, they'll do. Besides, if I publishing these stories, I'll seek professional services. (I don't think my youngest daughter will appreciate the photo in years to come.)

And not all my time has been spent playing around. Via Google+, I may have found a writing buddy. Looking forward to her critique on Death's Choice.

27 February 2013

New Plan

Yep. I changed my plan.

I'm sure I've mentioned that I don't deal with change well. So this changing of my writing plan required lots of thought and activation energy. But, in keeping with "Going with the Flow" I said I'd adopt, and in doing something that excites me, and hopefully others given that I want my writing to eventually reach lots of others, I've chosen a new course of action.

My new plan consists of three main activities:

  1. Death's Revision: Figure out what needs to be done to the 1st draft to make the story shine and get it done. 
  2. Akeva's Revision: As it is mostly revised, finish the type-in I started a while ago. Once I have enough of it in the computer, I'll figure out a schedule  and publish it to my blog. 
  3. Shorts: Keep writing moments and snippets from various writing prompts, do those writing exercises that I skipped over, and post to my blog.
Putting this plan here on my blog declares my intentions, so that I stick to it and get it done. 

With that said, I'm off to find working titles and cover images for both stories.  Until next time.

21 February 2013

Which one?

What path to take?

That's the question. Not the question of self-published or traditional. For that one, I'm chosing both. Eventually.

The question deals with the Eventually bit --  The Which Story to Revise and Finish Question.

I now have four stories in different stages of revision, and I can't seem focus on just one of them.

My husband suggests working on Death's story, if only to take a break from Winter's story. I've received positive responses from a few of my blog readers on a few excerpts of Akeva's story. After asking some old friends for their take and expertise on Angie's story, I feel obligated to get that one finished and queried. (Sentence summaries for each of the stories are below.)

Do I drive myself mad and do them all at once? Do I focus on one and deal with the guilt of letting the others languish? Nevermind the bits of Jerl's (I think that's his name) story that burst out in my 21 Moment writing challenges.

Can you see my dilemma?

Out of curiosity, which story would you like to see first? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I'll work on ... something.

Winter's Story: Jack Frost's betrayal of his fiance, Winter -- The Winter Goddess and child of Mother Nature and Father Time, will result in a devastating ice age unless Winter can find her passion in time to stop him. (Working Title: Winter's Tango)

Akeva's Story: Lightning strikes and turns Akeva Riordan's world upside down, and back centuries. Struggling to live and love without that which she left behind in the modern world, Akeva's happiness and life are at risk again, this time from a traveler desperate to get back to his own time.

Angie's Story: Angie Cruz, a struggling computer specialist, comes face to face with her old boyfriend, who she thought had been The One, and in order to keep from going bankrupt, she must pretend to be his fiance to catch a cyber identity thief.

Death's Story: The only one who can save mankind from a forgotten god's vengeance also benefits from their destruction ... Death. Can she be convinced that the human race is worth saving?

01 February 2013

My Take on "Revision and Self-Editing for Publication"

After taking James Scott Bell's free webinar, "Novel Revision: Craft a Story Readers Can't Put Down", I bought his Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd edition.

As I've yet to embrace the revision side of writing, I was hoping that this book would give me some tools to make revising less hellish.

Here's My Take on the book...

The majority of the book, Part 1: Self-Editing, contains chapters on story fundamentals like characters, scenes, dialogue, and exposition. Bell briefly describes each topic, then offers advice on how to tighten, deepen, or heighten the tension in your story based on the most common mistakes that writers make. Each chapter ends with a summary and exercises to develop your craft for that story element.

In the Character chapter, Bell suggests creating a Character Voice Journal. This free-form journal would be used to capture a character's stream of consciousness,  to develop a unique voice for a character. The idea of using a journal for a character was new to me and something that I plan on using in the future.

The rest of the book, Part 2: Revision, offers advice on how to tackle a revision. The last chapter contains "The Ultimate Revision Checklist." This checklist covers each of the story elements he touched on in Part 1 with questions to consider for each element and common fixes for problem areas.

Bell included something he calls The Three O questions, which revolve around Objective, Obstacle, and Outcome, and are designed to fix the worst scenes in a story. The questions require brainstorming and going beyond the obvious or easy solution to find unique O's to make the story fresh and unique. I can see this being a useful tool for my revisions to avoid predictable stories.

Much of Bell's advice has been covered in other writing craft books that I've read, and served as a great reminder. I appreciated his suggestions to correct common issues. I'll try out a few of them in my next revision and maybe while outlining my next story.

I wished that the Ultimate Revision Checklist was available as downloadable content. However, I typed a majority of the checklist so that I can have it on my computer and tablet for easy reference.

Did I get what I wanted from the book? No. I think I wanted a magic wand that would give me a way of revising that would be easy. But based on what I've experienced and seen in Bell's book, I'm realizing that revising isn't supposed to be effortless. (I just wish it wasn't so painful.)

Would I recommend the book to other writers? Yes. For new writers, it's a good overview of issues to look for with advice on how to tackle them. More experienced writers could use this book as a refresher and quick reference tool.

So that's My Take. Has anyone out there read or used this book? In the comments, give me Your Take, Let me know what worked, or didn't work, for you.

30 January 2013

Nuggets of Goodness

On top of signing up for another session of 21 Moments, I found another nugget of goodness today. Thanks to Larry Brooks for posting the video on his blog. I dare you to not smile when he chastises Robert Frost.

BTW, today is the last day to register for Christina Katz'a February session of 21 Moments. Interested but still not convinced, read Christina's 21 reasons to participate.

23 January 2013

A Moment: The Moment It Is Loud Enough

Below is text from one of my 21 Moments this month. Something that really struck me in the heart.  (Now to translate that feeling into my other writing.)

Hope you enjoy.

The Moment It Is Loud Enough

Not any music will do.

Notes, flat, sharp, or accidental, clash, harmonize, emote. You feel it vibrate in your bones.

Truth and angst scream along the staff, knocking down anything that stands in its way. You feel it in your heart.

Bass thunders pushing the air out of the lungs, you must struggle to inhale. You feel it in the words that rush out with your exhalation.

Guitars. Horns. Drums. Cymbals. Strings. Piano. Pounding voices, shrill and deep and in between, call to you. 

Tears swell. Fears rise and fall.

You can’t hear yourself. You can’t see for the sound. You are blind to your physical yourself, but see into your soul.  

Hate loves. Love hates.

You are trapped. You are free. Transfixed in a moment of space, you are gone.

A drought of doubt. A shower of sound.

An immersion of music.

Not until after, with a raw throat and ears that ring in the deafening silence, will you know. You can’t, you couldn’t, know before. Because the flood of sound keeps you from noticing anything else.

In that moment of unknowing, nothing else matters.

In that moment, it is loud enough.

16 January 2013

21 Moments, Mind Maps, and Me

I signed up for a writing challenge, 21 Moments, with +Christina Katz. In the month of January, I commit to writing about 21 moments, using (or not depending on my Muse) the excerpts that Christina sends to my inbox every morning as inspiration.

I'm a little behind where I wanted to be on this 16th day of the challenge, moment #14 is waiting for me in Scrivener.

This 21 Moment challenge opened up a pathway for me to write anything. And I mean anything. On the practical side, I used one of the moments to list my projects and what each one needs to be complete, and another moment to sketch out the business side of my writing endeavors. On the less practical, one moment relates how I hate how my family is subjected to one person's selfishness. Another, about how I didn't let someone shine in the glow of a compliment. Moment #8 was taken over by a character, giving me a sliver of insight into his hell. These non-practical moments are real, raw and unedited.

But on those days that my brain hasn't engaged, and I stare at the blank screen, wishing the Muse would do something, I think of a topic and mind map.

Inspired by +Sylvia van Bruggen, I've used mind maps a few times, but I'd let the tool fall to the bottom of my toolbox. A recent post by +Tami Veldura inspired me to pull out mind maps again.

So now, when I'm stuck, I grab a pen and put a word in the middle of a sheet of paper (yes, I'm using old school implements - I'll try using digital tools soon) and record all that I can think up associated with that word. Then, once the page is at least half full, I start writing my moment. The words from the map find their way onto the computer screen, making me and my Muse happy.

But that's not the end of the mind map. I've started a dictionary of sorts, placing the mind maps in a 3-ring binder for future reference, future stories and moments, or just plain inspiration. (Or a blog post.)

With apologies to Christina, as I'm NOT following the letter of the 21 Moments (that in itself is a breakthrough for this Follower-of-all-Rules), I'm glad I signed up for the challenge. I'm pleased with my progress, how I rediscovered a tool, my enjoyment of getting a moment recorded, and the catharsis of the more personal moments.

For any writer, non-writer, want-to-be a writer, or any one looking for a way to Not to waste time on the internet, head over to Christina's site and see if 21 Moments is for you.