Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On Paper

We've had more snow in our area, just over the last week, than I can ever remember having in one stretch over the years. It's a lot of snow, a lot of cold, the need to think about when you're going where, and what you have on hand in case you can't go.

I just got off the phone with my mom, and we talked about those things. About how, because we're to get yet more of this white stuff, a trip to the store for supplies and such is gonna be necessary.

Toilet paper. I need toilet paper and I have to write that down, I said, because I don't want to be snowed in without any.

Which led to a discussion about what if you did run out of it while in a snowstorm, what then? What if you have no Puffs, no Kleenex (or have worked your way through them)?

Paper towels? Too scratchy. Maxi pads? Perhaps, but try talking my husband into that.

Hmm... Fabric would work, though. Say you have flannel sheets tucked away, haven't been used in years. Grab some scissors, cut into squares. And there you have it.

And there it was, the swift realization that one of my characters (in a current WIP) will go through this predicament. She'll be home, alone, snowed in. And she has nothing. But ta-da! A stray thought that, yeah, just might work, will work. It'll be a small scene, and I can already see it building. It'll fit with things, with the story, so well.

My mom, as I blabbered all this in her ear, was quiet. Like why-would-you-put-that-in-your-book quiet.

Stuff like that just doesn't convey well when you share it with others. I'm sure she didn't know how to respond. Maybe she couldn't imagine it.

But I can. Oh, I can. And it'll be great on paper.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Perfect Presents

Did you ever open a gift that, if it could vocalize, would scream your name?

Sometimes there's something you didn't even know existed, you'd never seen anything like, but the second you open it, you know it was meant to be yours.



My sister gave me this box for Christmas. It's heavy with a beautiful bronze finish, felted interior (ideal for stashing, oh, I don't know... chocolate?), a pile of pens on top, and is engraved with the quote THE WRITER MUST WRITE WHAT HE HAS TO SAY, NOT SPEAK IT. - Ernest Hemingway

I'm still speechless. And it looks perfect at its place of honor in my writing space.


What did you receive that couldn't have been more perfect?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Missing Person, A Writer

I already posted today, I know that. Right now I don't even care if you don't read my Christmas story. Read this. Read it first. I've just learned something that devastates me, and I have to share with anyone willing to read about it.

Kathleen McBroom, Kathleen McBroom, Kathleen McBroom. I will continue saying, thinking her name.

She is a mother, an Air Force veteran and a writer. She disappeared in October 2008, just vanished. While her husband and children wait, hope, question, pray, imagine, her case - while still considered "open" - has gotten little follow-up. There's been minimal public/media attention, even at the beginning, and none of the national missing persons websites list her case.

For more informational/background detail, visit Slam Dunk (thank you, new friend). He's a former policeman with special interest in such cases, and he's put a lot of time and effort into Kathleen's story.


Friends, any one of us from the writing community could have crossed paths with Kathleen. She had a blog, dabbled in fiction, wrote poetry. She NaNo'd. Just like you, just like me. I am mourning a friend I never had, but easily could have.
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Her posts can been seen here. I ask you to visit the site, to pull the warmth and love from her words. Honor her. And spread the word. What good are we for, dear writers, if we can't spread this word and continue the search for Kathleen and pray for her family?
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The last post (first visible when you go to her site) was published by her daughter, just days after she went missing. In the months past, 288 comments have been left, with well wishes and prayer.
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This, all of this, I had to share. I will be thinking of Kathleen. I will be praying for her and her family. Won't you join me?
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Photo one of her own, from her blog.

Christmas Spirit (repost)

This is fiction, written and originally posted this time last December. I've tweaked it in places, where my year-older written voice wouldn't leave it be. And who can resist tweaking, anyway?

Either way, I'd like to share its message again.

***

Cranky, that was me. Had been all day, to be honest. Because work hadn't gone well, and I learned my boyfriend would be out of town for Christmas, and I spilled rootbeer on my winter-white sweater at dinner.

Still felt soggy with stick. And I despised looking unkempt. Which was the exact effect of the muddish splatter high across my left boob, given the once-over the ticket counter lady gave me. Made me feel this big.

I crossed my arms, hiding the stain and all it made me feel, as I sat in the auditorium of my niece's high school. Merry people talked in excited circles around me, trapping me in my stiff third-row seat. Who makes that kind of seating anyway? It's so uncomf--

I felt a nubby jab on the tender underneath of my arm.

"Meggie, what's the deal?" my sister asked.

I shrugged but kept my mouth closed, knowing better than to unleash sour complaint.

"Well, perk up! It's a Christmas concert."

Right, I grumbled to my lap. Don't get me wrong - I loved vocal concerts, hearing holiday music, soaking up youthful talent. It was just really poor timing for me. I wasn't open to Christmas spirit.

My heart was sore at Jacob, who'd changed plans on me. Despite the fact we'd never been apart on Christmas Eve, not in eight years, and I'd been hoping for a special night, and a special proposal. Instead, he and his siblings were all going home, he'd said, without extending an invitation to me. I had--

The house lights went all but black, signaling the sea of audience to fall quiet.

"Mama!" A small boy's voice broke through the still. "There's somebody back there!"

Heads turned, short of unison, to the rear of the auditorium. Choir members in black robes slipped through the doors, and goosebumps poked my arms when I saw each held a candlestick. The small dancing flames lit their carriers' faces and they sang, the sound of their a capella voices rising with the room's acoustics. As they made for the stage, the pace of their single-file lines matched the unrushed tempo of the first song.

O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant...

I saw my niece, Jem, whose strong alto voice I heard melt into the hymn's harmony. The slightest of smiles appeared in the flicker from her candle, hazy, and my heart warmed.

O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem...

The rich voices - amazing, they were coming from teenagers - hugged me, and I pulled comfort from the lyrics.

Come and behold Him...

And suddenly my brain, that little part responsible for my mood, flipped as a switch. Love blew past the grumps, settled in. Contentment took its place. And gone were my cranky thoughts. They were replaced by... by... the Spirit.

Who cared about a rootbeer stain, really? And work was work; I'd no reason to dwell on one day. Jacob? I'd tell him I wanted to go on the trip with him. If he had some problem with that, well, then I'd stay with my own family, and reassess my relationship with him later.

Born the King of angels...

It was Christmas, after all. I should have been happy, focused on my God-given blessings.

I reached for my sister's hand and gave it a squeeze. She smiled and brushed a tear from her eye.

"I feel it, too," I whispered. "I feel it, too."

***

The 'nets have already slowed, and I think I'll be adding to its silence for a bit. Will catch up with you in a week or so.

May each of you be blessed. And Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coming Clean about Carols

I'm going to admit it. Right here, online.

*deep breath*

I get tired of Christmas songs.

No, no, don't get me wrong. I fully love and understand their intent. The hymns tell the most important of stories; they remind us of the season's purpose. And the fun ones just liven things up. But every year (earlier and earlier, it seems) they begin playing on the radio, and it's like I've heard Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree each day of my longish life. And too, hasn't every recording artist claimed their own version of a classic carol or two? Why would Mariah Carey and Josh Grobin and Bon Jovi and Dolly Parton all have to rehash the same lyrics? It can be too much.

Still, don't think me Scrooge. Christmas is important to me, and so is its song. There are some, like O' Come All Ye Faithful or O' Holy Night, that pump appreciation and awe through my veins, no matter the arrangement, no matter the delivery. And every once in a while, somebody comes out with something new, and I sit up, take notice.

Like this one.

This one gives me goosebumps. It starts straightforward, traditional. But then something happens, and you realize it's different, kinda cool. And when it's come to an end, you want to listen again. And again. Again.

Straight No Chaser, 12 Days of Christmas

[My efforts--multiple times on different computers--to imbed the video have been unsuccessful. Something, somewhere, has gone wonky. Please follow the link to experience the song. There's some talking at the beginning, but the goods will come, so do stick with it.]


So, what did you think?

How do you feel about radio play this time of year?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nail Your Novel

Author and blogger Roz Morris, she of Dirty White Candy, has a lot of experience. Not only have several (almost a dozen) of her novels been published, she freelances for a huge critiquing firm in London, too.

Me thinks she knows what she's doing. And now she wants to help others do it!


Roz graciously says:

I'm giving away FREE copies of the pdf of my book, Nail Your Novel.

Many writers fail to complete their novels because they don't know how to organise the work or solve the inevitable problems they encounter. Nail Your Novel tackles this problem head on. It's a complete methodology for writing a novel. It's aimed at any writer, experienced or not, who would like a coach to take them from the blank page to finished manuscript with submission documents. At around 100 pages, it's about half the length of other writing books - for effective writing advice without the waffle. Readers are telling me it's helped them battle through with manuscripts they thought they would have to abandon.

In theory the process should be simplicity itself - no registration, no need to give any email addresses or personal details - just download, save the file and start to enjoy! (If you try it and find otherwise, do tell me - and that includes the enjoyment part too...)


Sounds great, right?

To take Roz up on this fantastic offer, or learn more about her, visit her Nail Your Novel site. (Peruse her sidebar to find out why Dirty White Candy.) You can also see warm and informative advice from Roz, here, where she talks about writing, revising, and going on submission.

Thank you, Roz! You're great.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lobster Talk

I've had (and love, love) crab. I know its taste, what it takes to get at the meat. No so, lobster, which I've had only a taste of (and didn't care for). Which poses a pickle, because the main character in my WIP has just ordered one for dinner. This scene ties to a lot for my protagonist, and I need to build it right.

Say you've ordered a whole lobster.

How does it come from the kitchen? What's it look like? How in the world do you crack into it? What are those little crab-crackin' tools even called, and do you use the same thing for lobster? How's it taste? Does it come with butter? Anything else? Do you risk shots to the eye, as with crab? Doesn't a cheddar garlic biscuit sound delish right about now?

Tell me what you know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fuddled

"Do you want another waffle?" I'll say, as I hold a pancake inches from my daughter's plate.

"Honey, I need," I've said to my husband, pointing across the room, "that doohicky."

Sometimes I find it near impossible to verbally express myself.
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Picture from stoshmaster at photobucket.


But give me twenty minutes with a keyboard, and I'll tell you exactly what I mean.

Know what I mean?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Housekeeping (and a House)

For all those who are followers but don't comment... I'd love to visit your blogs! It's not always easy (or possible) to access your blog by linking through my followers window. Would you mind leaving a comment, so I could find you that way? I'd love to return the favor of a looksee, and say hey in your neck of the woods.

And speaking of...

Yesterday I got a beautiful picture in my neck of the woods: My house with freshly fallen snow, framed by trees. I'd like to share it.

But first, some of you remember we've been doing a full remodel (in and out), so let's look at the before...

And now, three years later...



I'm thinking maybe these pictures can serve as a reminder about writing. First drafts? They can be ugly. Like aged and unkempt houses, they often need a lot of work. But if the structure is good? If we focus on potential, and put forth what it takes, we can absolutely get beautiful results.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How Old is Your Soul?

I'm 31. I don't mind admitting it. It's young in the grand total of ages.

Sometimes I wonder if my soul isn't older.

I can be old-fashioned in my thinking. Sometimes I feel out-of-touch with my own generation and its wants, its pastimes. I might feel more comfortable among women twice my age, in conversation and connection, rather than those of my own generation. I've gone on and on here before about antiques--anything of age, really--and my love for them.

The main character in my WIP is 82; her kids, all in their fifties, are satisfying to write about. And I'm reading The Bondwoman's Narrative, which was written by a slavewoman sometime around the mid-eighteen hundreds. Her speech and words, the flow of her thinking, draw me in as if we communicated with such prose every day.

I once took a Facebook quiz about my soul's age, and it suggested 42. Part of me thinks even that's too young.

Not that I'd ever know for sure, because I'm 31. Ask my mom.


Do you ever wonder about your soul's age?

Friday, December 4, 2009

About Those Comments

I love your comments. They are as much a part of my day as my morning chai, the need for a shower, kisses from my family. Your shared thoughts provide me with continual moments of respite and reward.

It's always been important to me that I reply to you individually, within each post's comment section, and I've liked bringing the comment circle to completion. It's been my small attempt at hospitality, letting you know I appreciate the time you took to say something about my post.

The time has come for me to rethink this. I didn't want it to, but it has.

Between family, household, holidays, writing a novel, visiting others' blogs and all those other things that make up a life, responding in such a way isn't always going to be possible anymore. And I hate that, because it feels kind of like I'm taking away my part of a life line so crucial to, well, my life.

Sappy, ain't? (That's me, in a nutshell.)

I know you haven't expected it, anyway. I know this will be no skin off your noses, and I'm not trying to place some psuedo self-important purpose on this thing I've always done. I just wanted to be clear with you all that I will continue to relish your words. That your comments will feed me, they will bring warm and lifted moments to my days, even if I don't call attention to it by replying.

Thank you for being my readers. And please, do keep those comments coming. I appreciate them, and I appreciate you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Something Like a Legacy


Once upon a time this sweet Barbie ride was mine. I enjoyed it very much while it drove my imagination; while I dreamed life-like scenes and situations for my dolls, breathed them into some sort of reality.
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Now I have girls of my own who play with Barbies, and the Corvette has been rediscovered. Sure, it's a little dated. Styles have changed. Our idea of entertainment is not as it once was. But there's still enjoyment to be found with this toy. Its worth shines as it carries the next generation of dolls, and my daughters' own imaginations.

Photo from Idhanka



I hope the same for my writing. That while my words will over time will be forgotten, put away to storage as many toys are, they'll someday be rediscovered. My girls will come of an age when they can find new purpose, enjoyment, appreciation in the things their mother has written.

Styles will have changed. The life I've breathed into my characters, and what I've created as some sort of reality, may not shine as brightly in the years to come. Not as it did for me.

But if my writing is worthy, it will carry the next generation. Carry my daughters' imaginations, much like it has mine.


What does legacy mean to you?

Monday, November 30, 2009

With Just a Few Lyrics

"Wake up, kids, we've got the dreamer's disease..."
New Radicals, You Get What You Give

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
Semisonic, Closing Time

"I am invincible, as long as I'm alive."
John Mayer, No Such Thing

"I can only imagine..."
MercyMe, I Can Only Imagine


What lyrics speak to you, more than just words?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fiction Excerpt

From my work-in-progress.

My main character, Besty, is caught in a splendid and carefree moment, one of her first in quite some time. Her adult son has interrupted with a phone call, with his plans for the family trip she's been coordinating...

***

“I’m sending Virginia.”

Besty was weeding her garden, deep in the soil, wearing panties and a faded shirt of Silas’—not a stitch more. No custom gloves protected her smooth hands, no tools littered the bed of flowers. She didn’t have use for them. No want for them, either, not today.

The feel of the dirt, which now slimed the cordless telephone she held between head and shoulder, smudging her cheek, was like raw silk. It was a... an intimate feeling.

“Sending her? What do you mean, Charles?” The warm morning breeze, alive, stirred around her bare legs, making them long to dance.

“To the lake, Mom. I can’t come, but the wife can.”

She heard a tap tap tap, full of motivation, behind his voice.

“Virginia’s really excited about it. I'd bet she’s already packing.”

“That’s wonderful, love. But why can’t you come?” She rose to her feet, spun with experimentation. Didn’t lose her balance, hmm. She’d forever been envious of dancers, who moved their bodies with such powerful ease.

“Here’s the deal, Mom.” More tapping, woven with his voice.

Besty imagined it was the beat; she, the dancer.

“I’ve got procedures that week, there’s no telling how they’ll go, if there will be complications. And of course, there are always emergencies. I doubt things will clear up enough, Mom. I just don’t see how I can take vacation right now.”

“You’re certain?” Breathe, two, three. Breathe, two, three.

“I don’t want to make any promises I won’t be able to keep.”

A rock jammed her heel, puncturing her poise. Chagrin filled the space that had only moments before been occupied by beauty. Confidence.

She dropped to her knees. “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, Charles.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving


Look closely. Do you see them? The fingers of God? They reach thick and full and bright through the clouds, stretching toward that which is His. The land, every thing upon it, near, far, breathing, not. You, me. All is His, and He wants to touch, warm, remind of purpose and beauty. Call out His existence.
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I watch for and eagerly await those fingers. When I see them, and it's often if I'm looking, I know He's not far, not really. And I know He sees me, too, insignificant as I am from His highest perch. But I am. And you are. Each of us in this great big, hurting, beautiful, brilliant, lacking world.
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We are.
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For this, I am thankful.
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This holiday, what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Improvement? Or Just Change?

Over the weekend, I spent some time looking through my early blog posts, and short fiction and essays from a year or two (or longer) ago.

Good gravy, so much of it embarrasses me. Even the published stuff.

Once I was proud of each of those pieces. Now I don't want anyone else to lay eyes on them. It doesn't seem like the writing I know I'm capable of. And I don't want to be judged by that old stuff.

I can gauge how my voice and style have changed. And I wonder if it's those things that have changed more than it's marked improvement of my writing. Or, maybe it is improvement, which bled into the voice and style I've been working toward, and feel I've found within the last several months. I'm not entirely sure.

How do you suppose it works?

And when you look back at your old things, how do you feel about them? How and how much have you changed?

Friday, November 20, 2009

My First Time

I went to Borders this week.

I perused. I walked the aisles. And because the section I wanted was all but elusive, I asked in my most authorly tone, "Where are the writing books?"

"Right over here," the associate gushed. "We've got books that tell you how to write, and even how to get published!"

Apparently I didn't look the part.

I smiled, even though inside I frowned, followed her quietly, so as not to ruin her fun in introducing me to the world of writing.

***

As I considered the titles, my daughter plucked a floor-level book from the shelves at my back.

"This is a little book, Mommy!" she called, throwing herself across the carpeted aisle.

Too caught in the dilemma of which Grammar Girl book to choose, I murmured an unintelligible response.

Oh, and here's Strunk and White's book. I've been needing that one.

"Mommy, it's a doctor book!"

I wonder if they have The Fire in Fiction?

But then awareness set it. The trance broke, my gaze falling to my four-year-old. Who was flipping through the penciled drawings of an adult-content book of, erm, positions.

"Sweetie! You know, since you're not a doctor, let's put that book back. Hey look! I have candy!"

***

I placed my treasures -- The Elements of Style, The Grammar Devotional, Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens, a cat book for my daughter and a bucket of pink Legos -- on the counter.

"Looks like someone's writing a novel," the cashier surmised.

I flinched. No one's ever been so bold. Such things have always gone unnoticed for me before. "Er, yeah. I'm writing my second." But it felt kinda good to admit it somewhere in public. Not online, here in my world of writing, or among those family and friends who already know. Just, you know, to a person.

"What happened with your first?"

Another flinch. "It had a publisher's interest last year, but they turned it down." Dangitall. I was losing confidence, associate by associate.

"Oh, I'm sorry!"

"It's okay. Really. I've learned a lot since then. I'm moving on, trying to write better."

We had a pleasant, two-sided exhange. Turns out she's a writer herself, published in magazines. She gave up on her dream of writing children's books years back, though. I found that so sad.

I said to her, "From what I've learned, perseverance is key." To myself I said, "Don't you ever give up."

By then my transaction was complete. We wished each other luck, and my daughter and I left, happy with our purchases.

It was the first time I'd gone into a store and openly sought writing books, the experience wasn't lost on me. It was my first effort at small talk about being a writer. With another writer. In a book store, a shrine to writers everywhere.

Kinda neat.

Except for the sex book thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vacation is a Time to... Learn?

We're on a family trip.* And while I haven't figured out an analogy between snow-skiing and writing a novel, I think it's only a matter of time... *wink*
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I have figured out I do my best reading-as-research as a passenger in the car, though. For whatever reason, I can better absorb craft, technique, snappy dialogue, character development, etc.
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On our way to Colorado I read Sail, the newest suspense by James Patterson with Howard Roughin. (This was another recommendation by Melanie Avila.) While I won't get into the story itself (visit the link to see Amazon's summary), it was strung together so well, every aspect was an example of what to do.
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It was fast-paced, and what really struck a resonant chord with me was that for every step forward, there were one or two back. When the author could have made things easy, he (they) made it more difficult. While this book is suspense, and I don't write anything near that, it was a lesson in how to draw the reader into the characters' happenings, keep them engaged, and build tension.
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The storyline wasn't bad, either. *wink* (There's something in my eye. Really.)
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I also do my best brainstorming when I take my turn behind the wheel. The stretch of miles bode well to plot assessment. It's as if I can see my novel's idea on the interstate in front of me, where I define what's working and what isn't.
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I'm at a crucial mid-way point with my WIP right now, and I was happy to discover a key idea that (I hope) will turn my efforts into better payoff. I took notes, rooted the idea into the creative part of my brain, and can't wait to see the idea turn to fruition.
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Slated for our drive home is Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorite women's fiction authors...
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What are you reading now? Are you learning from it?
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And, when does your best brainstorming happen?
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*My return comments and visits to your blogs will be minimal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Now?

It's been months since our paths last crossed. She hasn't so much as acknowledged me, nor I her. Time has passed, life has been lived. I've been busy. Somewhere, somehow, she's been existing just fine on her own. And so I wasn't expecting this contact, so sudden.

I'm not sure what she wants from me.

No, that's a lie. I know exactly what she wants from me. Time. My undivided attention, all my guts and emotion. But I can't give it to her. I don't withhold it to be mean, because I do care. It's just that I have so much going on. Life won't slow down for me, let alone for her. And what, does she want me to drop my family? Forget about my commitments? My kids and their schooling, our home, social and church lives, and I'm trying to write a book, for goodness' sake. Now is not the right time.

You're going to think me so heartless when I tell you her story. She's recently divorced after a long, broken marriage. Ohh, and she feels so much guilt. So little worth. She has nothing, but can't see everything is within her grasp. She needs guidance, support, I admit, and she's chosen me, Lord knows why, to help her through.

Well.

She's going to have to be patient. It's all I ask. Because I already have a novel-in-progress, and she'll just have to wait until that story's finished.

Then I'll write hers.



Why is it new fiction ideas dig in and plant roots when you're in no need of raw material?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Words: Don't Fail Me Now

I can be talkative. I can be detailed. I can be wordy. And I'm really counting on that as I implement a new system to increase both discipline and output.

As of late last week, I'll be allowing myself internet access only after meeting a word count of 1000 words each day. No e-mail, no Facebook, no blogs. Writing first.

Thursday, my first day, had me off to a good start with 1200 words. Friday saw 1900! The weekend was a busy bust like weekends often are, but today is a new day, a new week. (I should be launching into today's production soon after this post publishes.)

I'm excited, I'm hopeful, I'm ready to get this rough draft done. By Christmas.

It can be done, I think. Because words and me? We're likethis.

***

What do your goals look like for the next little bit?

Do you have a system for your writing, and how does it break down?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Three Lives

It occurred to me with certain clarity this week that I live three lives. Three. All from this one body.

They're separate, but pieces of them overlap. Each is carried out by real parts of me.

Life in the Flesh
I am living, breathing, my body holds a spirit. I primp and present my physical self, nourish my person without regularly exercising it, drive an automatic SUV, read aloud, sing aloud, stir breakfast--and sometimes dinner--with my favorite wooden spatula, lose myself to folding laundry, loathe putting it away. I wince when the phone rings, but love to give hugs. My mind wanders while I'm in church, and I mutter ridiculous things to the family dog. I find solace and happiness and frustation and doubt in the act of writing, can't get enough kisses from my daughters, am never sated. This is real life. The one I've lived for thirty-one years, with emotion and experience and depth. Real time. Tangible existence.

Virtual Life
I am a presence. With pictures, sometimes, but most often with words. My thoughts and essence are on display, whether through blog posts or online statuses. I give of myself through a filter, the filter of this internet that is not my physical location, just designed representation. It's me, too, but with time delay. With edits. Smooth, composed. Confident. I banter, I share, I feel, I learn and love. Virtually.

Life through Fiction
I am what my mind creates. My characters are extensions of me, their stories fill me. New experiences, lived vicariously. Papered emotions, felt as if real and raw. People as real to me as the Postmaster, my daughters' teachers, the person driving behind me, my best friend's mother, because they are real, in some other place, even if only by manuscript or in Word document. Entirely made up, but true, honest at the same time. I exist so that they can exist. And because they exist.

These three Jannas, they feel individual, so different, so distinct. But I reconcile one with the others. Aren't I all of them? My three lives. Defining one existence.

What about yours?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quote to Consider

The line between failure and success is so fine. . . that we are often on the line and do not know it.
Elbert Hubbard
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Is there truth in this for you?
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Which direction from the line are you most often poised to step?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jody and Janna's Bloggy Buddy Birthday Bonanza!

So I promised something special was happening today...

Not only is it my birthday, it's fellow writer and friend Jody Hedlund's! We couldn't let the excitement of a twofer pass without celebration. And we want you to join us for a virtual birthday party!




You're invited to the comments section of this post, where cakes and decorations and excitement await. Bring your signature party recipes, silly games and special entertainment. Let's have fun!



If you don't know Jody, please visit her blog. She recently signed a three-book deal with Bethany House, which means you can both congratulate her and wish her a happy birthday. You'll enjoy her posts while you're there, too, for she's humble and forthright with her journey to publication.

Happy Birthday, Jody! And Happy Birthday, me! [This just in: It's Jenna's birthday, too! Three writers! Three Js! I never knew November 3rd could be so much fun.]

cake picture courtesy http://whinesisters.com/

Monday, November 2, 2009

Novel Troubles in lieu of NaNo

We've hit November!

It's National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo. Or NaNo, the four-letter word you can be certain will be spat from fiction writers' mouths all month.

Writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? I've yet to try it. I don't have the guts, the discipline, the time. (Any number of excuses, really. And some good reasons, too.)

I've been telling myself I'd really kick my WIP into gear instead of participating in NaNo. It's a good plan, but I've been stuck for a few weeks, and the mere promise of progress hasn't unstuck me.

The problem? My story is waiting for me to deal with the aftermath of an unexpected tragedy. (And by unexpected, I mean by me as much as by the characters.) This... thing... sort of happened, and I thought maybe it was a good turn of events, but now I'm unsure. Does it misalign the story? Will it affect the outcome I was after when I started? I think so. To both.

So I've come to this spot in the road. And a writer, at the fork, is to pick that which isn't quick and easy. And I wasn't going to, I just think the whole path may be wrong. I may have to backtrack just a bit. Find a new route, even. And then proceed.

It's a start to my November writing, anyway.

Have you ever tossed an idea, done a little backpeddling? How did you know it was the right move?



Good luck to all who are participating in NaNo 2009.

Come back tomorrow. Something special is happening...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Q&A with Qualman

My, but you aren't shy, are you? (And for that, I'm thankful.) I learned of favorite shows, hidden talents, past lives and honest motives. Good on ya!

You guys presented me with so many fun and thought-provoking questions, and I have no choice but to get right to 'em. May be a long post... but remember, you asked for it.

har har

ETA: I forgot one! Nadine brought to my attention that I never addressed her question, so I'm adding it now for everyone to see.
Q: What, if any, food allergies do you have?
A: Up until recently, I had none. But I tried a couple small bites of my sister-in-law's eggplant parmesan a few months ago. Within minutes, my heart kicked into a hyperspeed, and I couldn't breathe. It passed after several minutes, so there was no huge concern, but my husband and I assumed it was an allergy, and I shant eat eggplant again.
`
Q: Stef asked, If you had the attention of every single person on the entire planet, what would you say?
A: It's gonna sound trite, but it's absolutely what I'd say, whether people would listen or not: Love one another. It would solve so much.

Q: Rebecca asked, As a kid who did you most identify with from these '70's shows: Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels, MASH, Star Trek? (And then she wondered if I was old enough for that decade of television...)
A: I *cough cough* only saw those shows in reruns. The ones I remember loving during my childhood were Eight is Enough, Magnum PI, Knightrider, Our House, The Dukes of Hazzard, Crazy Like a Fox. But Alice. These days I identify with Alice. Always cookin', cleanin', bustling to and fro, stopping in to see Sam at the meat shop...

Q: Kelly asked, If you could sit down with one author or poet (living or dead) for a chat, who would you pick?
A: I'd definitely have a more contemporary bunch. Some of my favorites, who I'd really love to talk with and get to know personally are Jan Karon, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg, Garth Stein and, um, Richard Castle (fictitious or not). Definitely Rick Castle.

Q: Terri said, I want to know how far along you are in your WIP??? (And I love her for checking in with me on this.)
A: I'm at about the same place I was last time you asked me. *sour face* And that would be 31,603 words. *sour face* It wouldn't be so bad if I'd actually touched it recently.

*sour face*

Q: Barbara asked, Besides [being published], what's at the top of your list of things you want to accomplish?
A: I want to be the kind of mother my daughters will be thankful to have had, despite imperfections and mistakes.
`
Q: Tamika wondered, Do you indulge in a routine that sounds a bit silly to the rest of the world?
A: What I can think of is my shopping technique. I most often avoid full-priced items, and beeline straight for the clearance and sale sections. I love discount stores, thrift stores, recovered-freight and overstock places. I forage. I dig. I slobber over the hunt. (I may have just spit on myself.) And that's the best way to find the best deals. You can't be afraid to look. Love it!

Q: Tess asked, Cat or dog?
A: Every day of my life I'd have answered dog. Without thinking. But now, I'm thinking. I'm supposing my personality might actually work well with a cat. But I'm also supposing it doesn't really matter, since my husband is allergic to them.

Q: Lynnette's question was, You're making me think before I've finished my coffee? Okay, just kidding. Her more serious question was, When did you know you wanted to be a writer when you grew up?
A: Sometime around the age of twenty, as I was getting married. While I admit I still had much growing up to do, life shifted and new, deeper, more passionate goals rooted. I haven't stopped writing with the idea of publication since.

Q: Melanie. Can you believe the nerve of this one? She asked, Mocha frapp or brownies? *gasp*
A: I actually had this discussion with someone once. And while mood (and possibly hormones) might change the answer occasionally, I'd most often opt for the frapp. Definitely.

Q: Angie asked, If somebody gave you $10,000 right now, what would you do with it?
A: I'd pass it over to my dad, without a blink, for undisclosed reasons.

Q: Barry asked, Do you play an instrument of any kind?
A: I don't, no. As a kid I tried (read: tried) piano lessons. But like many young'uns, I didn't like to practice and my interests moved on. I do sing, though. I get nervous and sick-feeling every time, to the point I sometimes wonder why I do it (a church solo, for example). But they keep asking. And I keep going back. And I'm thankful for that talent.

Q: Natalie said, I'd love to hear about the novel you are writing!
A: This is a good question, Natalie, because I haven't given many (if any) details out about my current WIP. It's women's fiction, and my protagonist is in her eighties. She's lived a fulfilled life, has lived up to that word hidden in her name, Besty, but as the world around her begins to change, she realizes she may have never lived what was true to herself. Here's one of those one-sentence blurby things I'd worked up several weeks ago (and please keep in mind, I'm no good at all with one-sentence blurby things): A woman with neither time nor age on her side discovers it's never too late to find one's true self. The story is rolling and forming something all its own, so I'm not entirely sure what I'll have when it's done, but that's the root idea I began with. I'm about halfway through my first draft.

Q: JLC asked, Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?
A: Yes and no. I've plucked items from clearance sales for my girls, tucked them away. But I haven't made lists or done any shopping for other family members.

Q: Joy wanted to know, How many sisters and brothers do you have and do any of them write?
A: I have one of each, neither of whom writes as I do. The oldest is my brother, Dwayne. He recently retired after twenty-plus years of service in our United States Air Force. He's moved to a gorgeous place, found a civilian job and proposed to the woman he loves. I'd wager to say he's never been happier. My sister, Jill, is a computer Wonder Woman. She's a programmer/analyst/software developer, and she loves to read. She is very happily married, and quite well fills the role of step-mom to some awesome kids. Plus, she's a rockin' sister. And then there's me, the baby. You know me.

Q: Deb Shucka asked, Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Filling even just a little space of the Q shelf at bookstores and libraries. (With books, you know. My butt won't fit there.) And living migraine-free, I hope.

Q: Susan asked, What is your favorite thing to do besides reading and writing?
A: Shopping. I mentioned my technique above, and it's such an adrenaline rush. But I also find it therapuetic, if I've been stressed or need time to myself. I shop. I don't have to buy, though, it's the act of finding the bargain that I like so much.

Q: Cindy wondered, What genre would challenge you the most to write and would you ever try it?
A: Science-fiction or fantasy. Wow, those would be hard genres, I'm just not smart enough. My brain doesn't think that way, making up parallel worlds. I think anyone who's read my stuff, my blog, knows I write from my own truths, and there's nothing to work with when it comes to aliens or hobbits or other worlds or fantastical creations. I think it's best that I not try.

Q: Diane asked, What is your favorite room in your house and why?
A: It's a tie between what I call my writing space and my bedroom. The former because it's all mine: my pretty stuff, my crafty stuff, my laptop and writing things, books and a reading chair. (The only downfall is, it's the balcony, and ALL noise lifts from the house and hovers here.) And the latter because it offers that kind of respite a comfortable bedroom should. And I love its color scheme of navy, sage, golds and creams. I think my kitchen might be pretty fabulous, too, when its remodel is all done. Time will tell, I guess.
`
Q: Analisa asked, What is the worst job you ever had?
A: Would you believe I worked at a video game store? That was okay. I think it's all about who you work with, and I've worked with some great people. There was the front desk at the Hilton. Toys R Us, both at the store as a cashier/associate, and as their mascot Geoffrey Giraffe, at city-wide events and parties. I served at a restaurant, worked at an activity center for developmentally disabled adults, overnights on an adolescent psych unit. Those three shaped me the most. And as an account executive at a publishing company (yearbooks and commercial). I guess I can't say I've had a bad enough job to count as "worst." The one, from all of these, that sticks out the most as having had the least impression on my life and memories, is front desk work at the Hilton. I like people. But hospitality was not for me.

Q: Jill posed this, How would you describe your decorating style?
A: Warm. Cozy. Rustic mixed with contemporary. Old with new. I love splotches of antiques that give character to a room. I loves browns and blues and neutrals splashed with red, green, yellow, in flowers or fabrics.

Q: Deb Strange wanted to know, Any great opportunities from your past that you passed up and now regret missing out on?
A: There's a part of me that wishes I'd had a chance to live independently. I left my parents' home to marry and live with Misterwrites, and I really wish I'd tried to live in an apartment on my own for a while. I think there would have been so much benefit to that.

Q: Karen asked, What did your parents do?
A: My mom retired from corporate work, the last of which was at H&R Block's World Headquarters. (Not accounting, though, so don't ask me to ask her about numbers.) And she made being a working mom look easy. How'd she do it? She was devoted, to everything, but especially her family. That's all I know. In fact, I think that's the best word ever to describe my mom. Devoted.
My dad retired from a plastics company (think two-liters and salad dressing bottles and the like) where he was a go-to man. The title I remember was Master Technician, but he fixed things, supervised people, ordered parts, and I know without a doubt, befriended people, made them feel good about themselves and their day. What sticks out most, though, is all he did at home. If there was a problem, he fixed it. If there was a project, he did it. A silly joke to tell, he told it. Someone to give the shirt off his back to, he gave it. He will forever be The Man Who Does It All.

Q: T. Anne wondered, How many novels do you have awaiting publication?
A: Awaiting publication? None. My first has been shelved, and the one I'm working on now will be my second completed manuscript. I really do want to make it good enough for publication.

Q: Linda said, I would like to know what you dream of doing five years from now. (I do look at this a bit differently from Deb's question.)
A: I want to be living it all. A balanced life, with family, home, writing. I'd like to be published, of course, but it's more than that. I want my words to touch people, I want - more than to be listed on a writer's list - to have a following who cares about my stories. And I want to help my girls grow, learn, love. Continue with this marriage I've worked so hard at. And by golly, this whole-house remodel we've been at for three-and-a-half years better be done.
`
Q: Kathy's question was, What's your favorite day of the week?
A: I like Saturday. There's no work, no school, and most often we have no other reason to get up and out. I like to have a day in with my family. But I also like Sunday, because we go to church, and we love our congregation and its people. There are special friends and family, too, and I can't say I mind eating out after the service.
`
Q: Stephenie asked, Do people really ask what your favorite color is?
A: It's been known to happen. (Periwinkle or cornflower blue, to be specific.) Then again, I live with two little girls who think about that kind of thing often.
`
Q: Tricia asked, What super hero would you want to be and why?
A: Elastagirl, from The Incredibles. Did you see her? She was an incredible (pun intended) mother and wife, a woman realistic about her aging looks (and growing butt), and she could save people. I think that's the whole package, right there.
`
Q: Kelly asked, What is your favorite idiom?
A: I had to look up idiom at Merriam-Webster Online. And I'm still confused. How 'bout I just say, I believe in the phrase Everything happens for a reason. It doesn't mean I'm passive, or that I just let things be. I do my best to be proactive. It's just I believe there's a Higher Power at work, and He trumps all.
`
Q: Jen asked, Do you have any pets? What are their names?
A: I have this husband named... Just kidding. Really. We have a sweet dog, Lucy. She's been around longer than my oldest, and she's a character. Spastic, nervous, but smart and loyal.
`
Wow! Gosh. I think that's it (including those questions that came in this morning - thanks for those). What a lively conversation we've had. I know it's time for you to go, but please take a sweet along with you. Something to have later, and remember our visit by.
`
Hope you have a great weekend. And thanks, as always, for coming over. I love having you here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Let's Chat

Come on in, I've saved you a seat. This one here's my favorite; try it out. Cushy, huh? There's a throw in case you grow chilly. But no pillow. I won't have you falling asleep on me.

I'm glad you're here.

I thought we could have a snack, too, while we talk. You won't be surprised I've baked brownies. But then I've got muffins, as well, cinnamon struesel (but from a box, nothing fancy). And banana walnut bread. (Misterwrites asked us to save him a slab.) You're welcome to your choice of drink, too. We have coffee, chai, the requisite milk, juice and water, or, um, kool-aid. The purple stuff.

Are you comfortable? Excellent.

So you may be wondering about my reason for having you here. Really, it's because I want to get to know you better, that's all. That's why I'm having you over.

This is pleasant, right? Just, uh, don't mind the toys I've pushed to the corner. Or the shelves I haven't dusted in... a long while. I did vacuum, but listen to me, that's beside the point.

Why don't you tell me something about yourself? Something I don't already know? I'm very curious, would like to know you better.

Would you care for another brownie, while you think?

***

Please, do. Tell me in the comments section, something I may not know. Or - if you're a follower who's never commented - tell me something, anything. I'm curious about you, too.

And then you're welcome to ask something of me. I can feel them, some of the questions I know you'll ask, so I'll just cut to those answers: Blue. Mexican. Reading. And only when I sleep with my mouth open. *wink*

I'll dedicate Friday's post to answering your questions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Find the Story

I have no clue what to post about. My thoughts are jumbled and askew, and they won't lead me toward one cohesive theme. Want to muddle through this with me?

I considered not posting at all, but that would feel too much like not brushing my teeth, or having the wrong size jeans, or like a giant zit had found my forehead. I just wouldn't be comfortable with it.

I'll tell you we spent the weekend away, in the midst of extended family, for a cousin's wedding. Logic has me thinking there's some content there to be found, about the various personalities in attendance, how well they convert to paper. Or the romance of the gorgeous bride and her tall, dashing groom; how fairy tale-perfect their story is. Or I could share a picture of my girls dancing in their princess dresses at the reception, and tell you how time rushed past me as I tried not to envision them at their own weddings. That I had the best salad ever at Applebee's, sweet with sauce, crisp with almonds and Asian noodles, perfect with hunks of fried chicken; that my husband's siblings, their families and ours took nearly twenty seats, and we rounded the tables with love and connection. How I nearly lost the whole weekend to one miserable migraine, but made it through, anyway, with the help of a teeny pill, even if while wearing a pained and tired face and struggling to make conversation, or that my littlest had a bad earache, and that I spent a mid-night's hour driving a downtown metro city in search of children's tylenol and ear drops, when what I really, truly, desperately wanted was sleep...

There's a story in everything, isn't there?

Do you look for them, the stories?

Tell me about one from your own weekend.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

"Gritty, sensual and charged with dark secrets involving love, murder and a majestic, mute heroine." --Parade
`
Have you been to the circus? You've not seen it like this. Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants takes us behind the tent flaps of a fictional 1931 circus, as experienced by protagonist Jacob Jankowski.
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It's from his reluctant place in life as a nonagenarian that Jacob relives, in dreams, his youthful days as veterinarian to a menagerie of show animals. But the horses, the lions and chimps, they aren't the only cast of characters in Gruen's novel. We read, too, of the performers and sideshow freaks, the laborers and the seedy frontmen -- and the sickening existence that surrounded them all. Still, if it hadn't been for that existence, and how it came to define him, Jacob would have had nothing.
`
Through heartache, error in judgment and moral disappointment, Jacob remained ever the hero. After loss, deception, near destruction, he found purpose and redemption. Happiness.
`
Parts were difficult to read, because of content and implication. But this fiction does what fiction can do so well: It takes us to the depths and darkness of the human condition, makes us feel it like it's hurting for real... just before shining the bright light of goodness.
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I was particularly interested in this book because, like Jacob Jankowski, the main character of my current WIP is of an advanced age. And I wondered, how does that play out on the page? Can it be unforced and endearing, something that doesn't distract from the story?
`
Turns out it can be quite good. Especially if you throw in a scene-stealing elephant.
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Thanks to Melanie Avila, for the recommendation of Water for Elephants. And thanks to Tess Hilmo, for the Amazon gift card that paid for the paperback.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Five Words into Fiction

The idea of taking five words and creating a post with them is floating the internet. It was so fun to take part, and if you'd like your own five words to play with, let me know. I'd be happy to offer you some.

My words, from Wendy Miller of All In a Day's Thought, were contentment, water, childhood, grasp, and art. I wanted to create fiction with them, and I hope you'll enjoy this vignette I've written.

***

People ask about my inspiration. Much like the attention of artist-hungry women, I’ve come to expect the question. What inspires you? And I have to steel myself before every show, bite the inside of my lip before I answer.

Of course, they pick up on the water theme woven throughout; it’s plain in every painting. But they assume it’s all borne of contentment, a man’s life spent on the lake. And they want to hear tell of creation spurred by deep, happy memory.

They’re right. That’s part of it, because I grew up at the water’s edge, and in its depths. It defined my childhood, my activity, the cool, smooth personality friends have long insisted is mine. It explains the fluid peace of my outer world. Fuels my art, too.

But what they don’t see, what I ensure is impossible for my audience to grasp, is the loss each piece represents. They’d never guess my work isn’t just from memory; it’s also in memoriam.

My brother’s initials are forever tucked away, whether carved into the fluff of a cloud, hidden beneath a boat stern, along the bushy tail of a treed squirrel. And in the twists and twirls of current, in the blue wisps of slight wave, I again and again feel the emotion of the day he died on the water we both loved.

Sometimes it’s too much. Other times, not enough. And I can’t stop, either way, because I’m driven. It is what inspires me.

It's what I can’t tell them, those people who ask.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What's What

I don't have a true post prepared today - we were out of town and I couldn't whip one up - but the good news is, it's not difficult to thank you. Your comments after Friday's post first surprised and overwhelmed me, and then took great steps in humbling me. Thank you. You're all such very special people, and I rather like that you've joined this online journey with me. I can't appreciate you enough.

***

Wendy Miller recently "gifted" me with five words and I'll be working them into a written piece of some kind for the next couple days. Come back Wednesday, when I'll post the finished product.

***

And Friday I'll talk about Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which I finished reading over the weekend - and very much loved. I'll tell you what the book's about, and why it was an important book for me to read in regards to my novel-in-progress.

Now smile! It's only Monday. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Me and My Ear

Today I was going to continue with the week's string of promotions, which seemed to emerge of its own accord. But something else has been pressed upon me, and I hope this isn't a mistake. Because I'm nervous. Because I'm going to share something with you, and I'll hope you'll be understanding.

My purpose? I want to be brave, to show one of my sensitivities. I hope sharing a little vulnerability and imperfection will make me stronger. And maybe remind us that everyone has something about which they're self-conscious.

I have this scar. It's called a keloid, and it's borne of a ridiculously stubborn tissue that likes to grow and itch and zing with pain. And grow, did I mention it likes to grow? That's the root problem of a keloid, which forms in ways abnormal from your standard pink, if not cute, scar.

It's on the side of my head, right smack on my earlobe. There for everyone to see, were I to let them; there for people to gross out over.

I wear my hair down, smooth and stage it dozens of times a day, so no one gets an eyeful. I cut my own hair. I offer the other ear to whispered secrets, to the thermometer at the doctor's office. When my hair goes up, for boat rides or yoga class, it's with low pigtails that hide, or a stylish scarf that covers and distracts. Windy days stress me.

It's horrifying. Only my family and a few close friends have seen it.

I've had surgery - deemed medically necessary because of the itching and zing - four times for removal of the ugly. It takes pain and preparation, weeks of steroid shots loaded directly into the toughened site. Ouch. But each of the four times? The keloid has grown back as the surgical incision healed. Because it's scar tissue in itself and of itself. My ear doesn't know how to regenerate the proper way, it would seem.

I've accepted the ugly, by way of my usual tricks and deceptions. And I slather vitamin E and Mederma cream; wear a home-fashioned compression clip I can't quite pass off as Blue Tooth on my ear, which softens the scar so it's bearable. But it's really for naught, since the scar may be part of me and the rest of my life as much as my brown eyes.

Wince now, get it out, because I'm going to show you, quick, before I change my mind. And I want you to know I had to step out of myself to take this picture. This was hard. All I can see is the 1-inch shooter marble that claims my right ear.


So now that I've done it, I've shared and showed what I've always hidden, what? Will you be able to visit me without seeing the keloid scar? Without attention to my vulnerability?
Do you still see me as you did before?

I hope so, oh, I do. And I hope you'll feel less alone with whatever it is for you. I hope you find strength - ugly ear or no - and step out of it. I'll go with you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rose & Thorn Literary Journal

Friends and writers Angie Ledbetter (resident Gumbo Writer) and Kathryn Magendie (she of Tender Graces) have been busy ladies of late. As Co-Editors/Publishers of Rose & Thorn Journal, an online literary offering, they've been tweaking and reworking and beautifying its site. Now, after all their hard work, it's ready to launch in its new and dazzling form!

Please visit today (or any day, really) for their grand Open House. You can sign up for their newsletter, have a little looksee in all its nooks and crannies, find out about the writing they'll feature, and more! I know they'd love having you by.

Thank you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Kindle and a Viking

I have a new favorite thing. As far as things go, anyway.

It's an e-reader, the Kindle 2. It's small, sleek, easy to navigate, and I.love.it. More than I thought I would. In fact, I've had trouble picking through my stack of hard copy books (but I will not give them up, no I will not) since this came to live with me. It's awesome technology, and it's just plain fun.

Oh right, and this Viking I mentioned? He's hot. *ahem*

He's the work of Kristen Painter, who I met last spring. She's smart, sassy, confident, and she knows how to weave a yarn. Erm, yarn a tale. *sigh* She's a very good writer!

Hers was the first book I bought for my Kindle, because how cool is it that I could download it easy peasy, and throw a little support her way? (Uber cool, if you must know.) Anyway, All Fired Up was released September 1st by Samhain Publishing. Here's the book's summary:


Alrik Gunn knows from bitter experience that change isn't always for the better. From the woman who annihilated his Viking clan to the goddess who tricked him into centuries of slavery, betrayal has dogged his existence. The Goddess of Love is going to let him avenge his family, but for a price. As a Phoenix-a merchant of change-he must grant a human woman three chances to change her life.

When former Irish dancer Calleigh McCarthy tosses a carved-bird statue that belonged to her ex into a roaring bonfire, she unwittingly summons an honest-to-god Phoenix. A sexy, irresistible Viking who offers her an unbelievable bonus-three get-out-of-her-crappy-life-free cards. She'll take it, even if it means guarding her cautious heart against the dark pain behind Alrik's eyes.

Alrik has vowed never to let love sway him again, but Calleigh's innocence and kindness throw him off balance. Yet even as his need for revenge fades and his love for her grows, he is bound to let her make her choices without interfering.

One wrongly chosen word, and any chance for happiness-for either of them-will go up in flames.

What a fun story this was! Kristen's writing is flawless, filled with humor and heat. All Fired Up has stellar character development, perfect pacing and, well, a lovely hunk of man. Chivalrous, Viking man. I mean, whew!

I recommend it, the book.

And the Kindle.

But especially the Viking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Party in Pink

Who? All of us! Invited by FringeGirl, our sweet and sassy hostess, who celebrates her one year blogiversary today.


What? A Party in Pink, to celebrate those who've survived breast cancer, to support those living it; to honor them all.


Where? At Something She Wrote. On The Domestic Fringe, and across the blogosphere, too. Visit here for more details and linkage.


When? October 7th, 2009 - TODAY


Why? Because pink is pretty -- and it's the color of breast cancer awareness.


How? Spread the word, share the button, your link, step into your party shoes of pink. My family's dressed and ready.




Alright, my littlest was sleeping, so I had to improvise. Her intentions are sincere.




Okay, so my husband has no party shoes. Nor does he have pink ones. But he humors me.


Cute shoes and sillies aside, I invite you to honor someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer. Leave their name and/or story in the comments section for this post. Warm thoughts and prayers will be offered for each.


Happy Party in Pink Day! Join us, won't you?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Showcase Yourself

Creation. Expression. Communication. Platform. Our blogs, they are so many things.

But do we use them to share our writing?

Is it important to share not only the mechanics, the ins and outs of this craft, and our individual journeys, but to showcase our written voices?

How is anyone to know me as a writer if I don't share my voice?

Do you share yours?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Don Your Armour: Safety in Writing

As I've been exploring the content of my WIP, and thinking about the best way to write my characters' story, I've considered the hard stuff. You know, emotion. Contention. Stuff even, perhaps, of controversy.

Once upon a manuscript I wouldn't touch any of it, wouldn't go so deep. I thought I had to stick to light, fluffy, superficial. I thought I had to write about what's right, about what characters should do, how they should be.

But first of all, how cramped-in-a-box is that word right? And who am I to manipulate my characters? They live their own lives, individual of mine.

I'll be honest, this back-and-forth in my head is because I'm a Christian. I have a particular set of beliefs, and they shape who I am, personally. It's worth saying that extends to my writing. But I once believed it meant I had to stick to a certain kind of content; the heartwarming, the redemptive. Safe.

While there are some lines I won't cross, there are others I've discovered I'm willing to throw myself past. Why? Because writing doesn't have to be safe to be good, or filled with meaning, invoking. Stories are about what people - all of us - go through. The challenges, the uncertainty, the disappointment, loss, struggle. Little of it's pretty.

And is life?

It's from out of all that mess that the most feeling, the most redemption comes. It's when you feel most rooted to your beliefs, perhaps more heavily convicted.

That's what I've found, and it's what propels my writing.

Tell me, do you agree or disagree? And how about you, do you write safe? If you're not a writer, do you read safe?




For my initial look at this line of thinking, view a previous post, Christians Who Write.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Unique is the Calling

My daughter, with a friend who was telling jokes, grinned and giggled as young ones do. Once it became too much to handle, she begged of him, "Stop! Before I start bursting out my laughs!"

Her fresh phrase lit my radar, pinged somewhere really close.

Writers are called to be unique with wordage. We are charged with the task of new expression; with saying in a different way, burst out laughing.

If she can do it, without even thinking, I can do it. And so can you. We can do it.

So let's.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Delicious Pile of Books

I'd guess we all have bedside tables. I'd bet each is piled with books.

Wanna peek at mine?


The stack to the right is of those I've started reading. They are The Help by Kathryn Stockett (love it, flawless, will finish it first so it can return to the library), dwelling places by Vinita Hampton Wright (beautiful voice, excited to try her other titles), and Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (want to finish the series, you know... and oh yes, Team Jacob).

Those on the left were purchased over the weekend. Brand new, under $2 a piece. (I made my husband drag me from the store, because I needed more books like a need a cracked tailbone.) I got Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (RIP), Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman, A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand, and The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts. Each of their spines drew me in, as did their premises (save McCourt's, and his was the familiar name that did it).

Seriously, is there anything more appealing than a towering stack of books? (Well yes, but a towering stack of fudgy brownies has its own delicious benefits.)


Tell me, have you read any from my table? And what's yours look like?

Friday, September 25, 2009

10 Years

Today, but it was ten years ago. The weather was warm, the strong wind a relief. Anticipation flew on that wind, high above the beauty, lighting each place it pleased.

What we knew was, family and friends, some we'd not seen in months, years, would descend, observe, feast. Emotion would run high, celebration would commence. Our intention carried the day.

What we didn't know, the years ahead and all they would hold. Argument and misunderstanding, sorrow and mistakes. Doubt and a will to give up, days it didn't make sense.

But there's more.

Love, laughter, shared blessings no one knows but we two. And babies, precious babies. Learning you can communicate, that maybe you're together for a reason bigger than comprehension. Different people, different personalities. You can be that person to one another.

Ten years ago today, when I married him, I didn't know how difficult a journey it would be. I may have thought twice, three times, had I.

Nor did I know the struggles would make us stronger, help us build a better team, a better family. And that today, a decade after, I'd be thankful I stuck around, loving him more, loving him better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

National Punctuation Day


You know, I don't normally post on Thursdays, but this is worth sharing...

It's National Punctuation Day!

It's fun. It's informative. And just a little bit nerdy.

Check the details here.










Photo found: http://www.kingmanstudios.com/images/art_scene/pop_art/Exclamation%20Point.png

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stranded

My car refused to go, and so I sat, neighbor to barb-wire and a broken-down barn on a rural highway, waiting for rescue.

I was kicking myself for not grabbing that paperback I passed before leaving home. It's a new author, a new voice; it could have been research, a passing of the time.

Kicking myself, wishing I'd taken my laptop - if I'd only known - since I'd had to up and go, mid-zone. I'd left my WIP hanging. We could have been hanging together.

So I sat there, waiting to be claimed. Wishing this and wishing that, but getting none of it.

Have you ever been stranded? For what did you wish?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Can't Explain

I went to the library, all by myself. My intention to look for a particular title was waylaid. There were no instigations, no distractions from other people, no. What kept me from my plan, for only moments, was something not just anyone noticed. Not the way I noticed.

I stood, still and in awe, eyes and heart engaged.

New releases. They were lined just so, how do you call it? Staggered. So you could peep a view of each cover, get that first impression. Each stood, bold and proud. They announced arrival, but moreso attainment of a writer's destination.

I wanted to turn to other patrons and shout, "Do you see these? Do you understand how beautiful, how important they are? Do you know what these represent?"

And when the head librarian passed by, asking if she could help with anything, I wanted to cry, "This is my goal, do you know? Do you feel it! One day you and I will stand here together, and my book will occupy this spot we see."

I felt it. It was powerful, for only moments.

I just can't explain.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obsession

I have a sister-in-law who is obsessed with Celtic Woman. Yes, obsessed, and she'll admit to it. She buys every c.d., every concert DVD, follows forums, hoardes details, travels nationwide for their shows. Obsessed.

I have a friend who's obsessed with vampires, a la Twilight. She admits it, too, and her obsession has spread to any number of the new vampiric television shows, and all the novels she can, um, sink her teeth into.

Obsession as defined by merriam-webster.com : a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; compelling motivation.

It dawned on me moments ago that I should own up to my own obsession. You know, writing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

narrative vs. DIALOGUE

I struggle to balance them. Both are crucial, I admit. But for me, one's weight does not match the other.

I've learned I write with less narrative. My nature is to keep it at a minimum, to manipulate the words so that less narrative gives the more powerful effect I'm looking for. Because if I try to flesh things out, just for the sake of more, I lose the meaning and feel I was after.

Dialogue tips my scale the other way. I feel like so much of my story is told through characters' words. Details unfold, inflections and nuances hide. In longer works, I'm most comfortable in and around dialogue.

How is it for you? Is one heavier than the other?

Is there a "right" way, a perfect balance? Or, as with so many other aspects of writing, is it open to the writer's interpretation, the story, the voice?

Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reality

I asked my husband to read a little something I wrote. It's rare I do such a thing, because A) he's one busy dude and B) he's not my target audience. But he humored me. And when he didn't offer an immediate comment, I thought maybe my piece had touched a soft spot in him, in a way he had to absorb before sharing. That maybe he was moved by my talent, proud to have such a creative wife.

I finally asked his opinion, ready for praise. [Insert ego here.]

"It's way too detailed. Reading it wore me out."

I admit I was surprised--that's not what I thought. And then a little bummed--because that's not what I thought. But I didn't argue, didn't get defensive. I considered his simple words, and came to decide I was okay with them.

Because I'd asked to know what he thought, and I needed to be a big girl about his honest (if blunt) feedback. And because my potential is not hinged on his sole offering.

But mainly? It was a lesson to me. That among the good critiques and supportive comments, there will be those less so. That there will be people who don't like my writing. And I have to accept that. That's the reality.

Have you had a similar dose of reality?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gone*

Just for the weekend ahead. We'll leave this afternoon, aim east and then, ultimately, south.

Why south? you ask.

Because that's where love is.

And what's love?

Many things, actually, but it's first knowing there's a reason to go. Reason full of excitement and anticipation, and it gives way to need.

It's the journey, driving distant yet familiar roads; those that stretch out before you, and the ones back to your heart, too.

Love is the arrival; pulling up on memory from before, history, well-aware there is more where that came from.

It's the gathering of people you've known your entire life; people whose airs, mannerisms, noses reflect your own. Who have connection through blood, marriage, experience and name. It's hugs, laughter, music, food, reminiscence, games, pictures, stories and tears...

Love.

I sometimes think there's none greater.

So I'll be gone for a family reunion. I know I'll have a special weekend, and I hope you do, too.


*Remembering those lost 9/11/2001.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does This Hat Make My Head Look Big?

I like you very much. And you like me, I'm pretty sure. I can tell because you're ever so kind with encouragement and compliments and well wishes.

You do wonders for my confidence. You inspire me greatly, and you flatter me.

But you're giving me a big head, and that just won't do.

So, to balance things out, could you maybe call me a name or somethin'? Pass an insult or criticism? Something to bring me back down after all your great comments?

Because I'm resolved to keeping my feet on the ground. I don't ever want to assume too much, or lose my appreciation, through any part of my journey, especially the further I get. Thanks and humility are incredibly important to me.

So I need you to stop bein' so stinkin' nice.

Sheesh.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Hobby I Call Writing

If you have a hobby, raise your hand.

I raised mine, as many around me did that day. I was eager to show my hand, to claim the thing I love, the one that takes my time.

But seconds later, as my hand returned to my lap, guilt settled nearby.

Mere hobby?

Can a hobby be so profound? So deep-seated as writing?

How silly of me to mislabel it. A hobby.

It won't happen again.

***

If you'd allow me a little more time, I'd love you to check out my flash fiction piece at Joyful Online. So Much More Than Hair appears through September, and is company to several touching stories. Read down the list if you're inclined, I know you'll enjoy them. Thanks!

And laboring or not, have a great Labor Day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Window to Where?

It's just an old window frame. But I like to look beyond it and imagine.

What do you see through the window?
`
`

Friday, September 4, 2009

Something She Ate

Fall weather is pressing upon my part of the States, and it makes my palate picky. I want warm, aromatic, hearty meals. Quite like this simple meat and taters meal, here. Each part is a favorite and, well, when thrown together, it just sits well.

At the start of your day, place any frozen beef roast in your slow cooker. Open a can of Ro-Tel and drown the meat with its juices, tomatoes and peppers. That's all, no water needed. Set to low and let simmer all day. You'll love the smell as it fills the house, I promise.

Later in the evening, thinly slice potatoes of your choice. (4-6 small ones work for my family of 4.) Toss into a glass baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil (to taste), and liberally sprinkle with minced onions, sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper (also to taste). Stir well to mix and evenly cover potatoes. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for an hour to an hour-and-a-half -- adding a Tbs butter and stirring halfway through. (Alter time or temp if necessary.) This is my new favorite potato dish, especially when some slices are browned and crisp. *mwah*

Prepare a green vegetable side, like asparagus. Trim ends and place stalks in glass dish. Season with something like McCormick's parmesan herb, add a few pats of butter, cover with foil and "steam" in oven alongside those potatoes. Bake 20 minutes, or until tender.

Serve with homemade cornbread. Just use your favorite recipe.

Enjoy!

And perhaps follow up with a chocolate crisp and vanilla ice cream...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

House Rules

As determined last night, dictated by each of my girls.

My six-year-old:
.1 Don't throw away plates until [the eater] says they are done.
.2 Don't hurt each other.
.3 Don't bug people.
.4 Don't lay on top of a truck.
.5 Hug people.
.6 Don't pick your nose.
.7 Don't slurp.

My four-year-old:
3. Don't pick up shoes.
4. Pick up toys in your room.
5. Pick up your house.
4. Pick up your Barbies.
5. Pick up your kitchen stuff.
3. Clean up any of your messes in the sink.
3. Always, always, always let your dog take a bath.

Rules worth living by, don't you think?

And here are my own:
Love one another.
Remember humility.
Believe in yourself.
Be yourself, with no excuses.
Whatever your favorite thing, allow it often.


What house rules would you add?