Thursday, October 31, 2013


I'm getting ready to go man the fire. I sit in the driveway and pass out candy while my daughter takes the little one trick-or-treating. It's fun. There's a fire pit and a wee bit of the hard stuff and lots of candy to 'snitch.' 

In the midst of it all are the kids with their costumes. It's a little difficult trying to discern who is what. I'm not up on the latest - though I do know all the Pony's names and the Monster High kids, even a Captain America or two. 

I love watching the kids interplay. They have a language all their own (one reason I will not write contemporary children's books). They have cliques. They do not hide their feelings. What you see is what you get. It's very interesting, for an author.

I spent some time today editing Ch. 2 of 'Blue.' My characters are a bit like that. Though court-raised, they have been sheltered and are not as mature as they should be. This will cause all kinds of problems for my hero/heroine, but it's fun writing.

I am trying to use 'like' more often. Not the like of a Valley Girl, but like, her red shoes, like pincushions, .... see what I mean. Likes are good for a story. They conjure images. Who doesn't know what a witch looks like when we hear the word. Especially at this time of year. It's hard to imagine likes for all the different situations we put our characters through, but my friend D insists that I have a great imagination and should put more in my writing. She's correct, of course. She pushes me and makes me better. A good friend.

Must get ready now. Still not sure of my costume and I'll be leaving in about an hour. Nothing like waiting til the last minute.

Happy Halloween.

Life is scary.   (Tolkien's Smaug)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Up And Running

I think I might be up and running. These past couple of weeks have been as strange as the last few years of my life. I just have to cry 'uncle.' 

After a bit of feeling sorry for myself and such, I started back on editing 'Blue' - from the very beginning. It's not a word for word thing, but a making it more like my blog-writing. I've been told my blog writing is pretty good and that I should strive for the same kind of ambiance in 'Blue.'

Truth be told, 'Blue' has been a small disaster from near day one. I took it to an editor who asked for massive changes and what I came up with was never near to the ease of reading of the first draft. I continued on a down-hill spiral listening to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Disastrous.

I'm happy to be writing again. It seems like forever. I used to breathe writing. I used to have such joy at turning on the computer and wondering what would happen next. 

The last conference took all my joy away. It's been an uphill battle ever since, but I finally see the top of the mountain and I vow I'll get there.

I love 'Blue' and I refuse to chuck it like my last book. The reason I've hesitated for so long in starting up again is that I wasn't sure what to do. Now, I'm just writing it. Not thinking, just letting the Muse go. I've deleted quite a bit. There are now questions that my reader will be asking - but isn't that what I want? It's not fun if my reader isn't wondering. Keeps 'em reading, I hope.

Well, in the interim, I've been cleaning pieces of my life. Downsizing two years ago left me with a bunch of stuff cluttering the new one-bedroom condo. I haven't been happy with it at all. I don't like clutter. 

A friend has been de-cluttering, too, and we've made a pact that we'll do something every day to make our lives easier and better.

I'm glad I sat down and forced myself to look at Chapter One. I like what it does. I also changed my pitch. The main story is really about alchemy - how a world is changed and a child is changed - but the pitch didn't say any of that. 

Here's the new one: Alchemy, the ancient art of transformation, turns a world topsy-turvy. The sky is green, the grass is purple, and streams are pink. To save her world, a princess, through the magic of a dragon’s tear, transforms from a common girl into a special boy. But she’s not happy with it and neither is the boy who shares her body.

Life is interesting.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Big Bad Wolf

I've had a kind of epiphany. A lightening bolt thought. A shocker. One of those moments when you've delved a wee bit too deep and discovered something about yourself. Sometimes, these moments are good; sometimes they're bad.

I hate the job search process. Thankfully, I usually stay in one place for a long time, so the search isn't an ongoing thing. Nevertheless, I hate it. I stare at the computer, I rattle the Sunday paper, I jump into my bed and cover my head with the sheets. This is such a disheartening process. Because I'm not really sure of myself. I love what I do and I'm good at it, but to get that across to a potential employer, I find, is most frustrating, hurtful, and wicked.

After I get the job interview, then it's bite the nails time. Sitting and waiting in some cold foyer with elevator music playing. Going over my resume and cover letter and wondering why on earth I wrote THAT. And for my clothes, why did I ever pick the pink shirt to go with the blue suit. Honestly, it seemed logical this morning (well, last night when I picked it out.)

Finally, the interview and my passion overtakes me and I laugh at the repartee. I thrive at their trickses to see if I'll give away secrets. I puff myself up, with good intentions and knowing I'm good at what I do.

The call that I've been accepted for a second interview, or for the job, and I can breathe again.

Sorry for the long piece above, but I discovered that I look at the cover / query letter in the same way. And I'll be darned if I'll let that happen. It's an incredible thing to discover, that my insecurity at the job search process and my insecurity at the query letter process are one and the same. It's also mind-blowing. And freeing.

I've been spending the day looking at giraffes. I've got two publishers that I want to send it to, but my cover /query letters have felt lackluster. Of course they have! I've been caught up in the web of yuck. But I know it now. And I know what I must do.

The little one came home from school early. The arm's pain grew during the afternoon. Thankfully, today was my volunteer day at school so I took her home with me. I'm sure she is healing and this is part of the daily 'I'm getting better' thing, but the little one doesn't know that. She's not sure she's getting better; she's not sure she's healing. But she is. I'm hoping she doesn't call  to come home tomorrow. Thankfully, Friday is a no-school day and I've got plans for crafts and such for the both of us.

Life is eye-opening wonderful.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Staying Alive

I've spent the last two days with the little one. The docs said she could go back to school today, but when you see tears in her eyes and her holding her little splinted arm -- Her mom's cold, caught at the hospital, is in full gear and I find myself taking care of both of them and the three dogs. Though I believe the three dogs think they are on some mind-blowing vacation. Such fun, yipping and snapping at each other, eating each others' food, and knocking over every open container in the house.

I am exhausted and my bed is calling, but I thought I'd spend one moment chatting with you.

Tomorrow - I plan on taking Ch. 26 and 27 to a new restaurant. I hope they're open for breakfast. I should take the synopsis, too, but after the 'corner' sermon, I realize it's best not to take on too much at one fell swoop.

I wish I could say I'm learning some great and wondrous lesson through this all, but I've been through it way too many times with my own children, that I can't quite grasp what it is I'm supposed to be learning now that I didn't learn in years before.

One thing is - we all have history. Many moments in our lives that impact the way we handle a particular event or emergency. Kind of like Pavlov's dogs. I find I am quite cool and calm on the surface, but my Irish ancestry draws forth images of death and mangled limbs and 'troubles.'

I fight the good fight and don't let the thoughts into my mind for more than a second or two. However, that second or two impacts what the next thought is going to be and whether I have the wit and sense to remember to bring my keys and my purse and get someone to care for the dog while we're in the emergency room.

Those bits of history that cause us to react are important for our characters, too. I know that, no matter how much time I spend on Kathleen's biography, I'm missing stuff. I suppose I could write ad infinitum about what makes Kathleen tick, but I have to draw a line somewhere or the other. I hope I've got the incidents down that cause her knee-jerk reactions. We'll see.

Life is staying alive. 

Monday, October 21, 2013


PS - I know this is supposed to go at the bottom, but such is life.

Very glad I wrote this blog earlier today. The rest of the day was spent at the emergency ward of Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital. My little one fell off the monkey bars and broke both bones in her left forearm. We were at the hospital from 2:30pm to midnight. A long haul, but the little one held herself well. So - to post what I'd meant to post much earlier. Blessings!


Don't tell anyone. I'm not supposed to use multiple ? marks. Nor capital letters. Nor lots of oooo's at the end of a word. Some kind of unspoken literary rule. So don't tell anyone I used three ? marks in the title of this blog.

I am not ashamed of today's progress. Some would call it lack of progress, but it is one  H E double hockey sticks better than I've been doing.

I took Ch. 26 and Ch. 27 to my local eatery, ordered my steak and eggs, and decided I'd wait 'til after I ate before perusing the chapter notes from my friends/critique partners. Before the food came, I pulled out the latest edition of Writer's Digest. Another good one. I'll share later, but for now. the food came, I put down the magazine, ate, gathered my stuff and left. Not one word written or looked at.

BUT - (oh dear - capital letters!) - I did bring them. I put them into my little portfolio thingee and brought them with me. That is a start. That is better than yesterday. Way better than the day before, and ten thousand times better than a week ago when the Muse threw her hands up and left in a huff.

I am happy. To a degree. (oh dear - incomplete sentences!). I hate the new rule. Forgive me, whoever made it up. But putting ending marks outside the parenthesis looks absolutely stupid to me. When I learned grammar (oh dear - now I'm giving my age away!) - the exclamation mark stood next to its sentence and inside the parenthesis. Nowadays, I'm told the sentence ending mark should be outside the parenthesis.

(oh dear - incomplete sentences)! 

Does it not look weird to you? Don't tell it, but it is definitely out-of-place. Poor thing. 

I will go out again tomorrow with my portfolio (the papers are still in it) and try again. Perhaps tomorrow I will do a sentence or two. I'm not going to guess nor force myself into something I'm not yet ready for. The Muse can go stuff herself. 

Do you have any idea how many times she has made ME stand around waiting for her. Payback. Bwwaaahhaaahaaaa! 

Oh! I do so love this time of year with goblins and ghosties and Muse's stewing!

Life is never dull.

PS - Thanks D for all your prayers. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One Corner, One Scene, One Moment

In preparation for taking my office from my cramped bedroom into the dining room, I spent the day cleaning out the area where I'm going to relocate it. It astounds me how quickly spiders sneak in when the weather turns chilly. I'm sure they're the ones who brought in the dust. It wasn't me. 

Moving things, when one has a little one about, turns into a challenge. Pick up a little box and there are sequins, their shiny face upturned and giggling at me as I try to sweep them up in the vacuum. They taunt it. It spits them out, sometimes right at me. I put sticky tape on a broom handle and shove it into corners, but the sneaky little sprites turn over and run away. I prevailed. Mostly. I know there are a few of the crafty little things hiding, but I can't spend the entire day making them feel important.

After the cleaned and moved back box incident, I turned to the dog's cage. Lo and behold. Pippin had hidden great quantities of stuffing beneath the covers. I now know why the stuffed dog is so flat, why the stuffed bone lies limp at my feet, and why the couch's cushion is frazzled. The dog is mad about stuffing. So am I, if I consider Thanksgiving stuffing, both the bread kind and the stomach kind. But I don't hide it under my covers!

I moved a few more things, found dollies and dresses and stickers sticking out from impossible-to-reach cubbies. Ah well. The one corner of the room is now done. I only have three more to go. *sighs*

I didn't get to my writing today, but I am not sad. I am grateful that this one corner is done. I must remember that, as I tackle Ch. 26. I will do that tomorrow, but with the clear thought that if I can accomplish what I did in my 'office' with one corner, I can do the same with the one scene or the one moment that the Muse, I am sure, will hold before my face and scream, in mock fury, 'Do this now!'  (oh, there's that dratted ! mark on the inside of the quote mark.)

Life is one moment.

Friday, October 18, 2013

D and I met tonight (Thursday). We always find so much to talk about with rapid speech that rivals superheroes. 

After saving the world, we turned to 'Blue' and reviewed Ch. 27. Things worked out well, IMHO. Last week, she and I and a new friend went over Ch. 26. Major changes. 

Chapter 26 is probably the crux of the tale. It's where my heroine has to come to terms with who she is and what she is. The dialogue wasn't sharp enough. I had enough 14 year old angst, but not deep enough. The feelings just didn't go deep enough. 

I put it to the side. I have noted a pattern. When something is difficult I tend to put it aside. I avert my eyes. Oh! Don't you just love that phrase. During one of those classic West Wing moments,Allison Janney's character says it after she falls into a pool.  I miss that show.

I have put aside my synopsis and my 'pitch' for 'Blue' as they ask too much. I have to delve deeper to get these VIP (very important papers) off my desk and into the hands of an agent/publisher.

So - tomorrow I clean out my closet. ROTFL

After that, I'll spend the afternoon/evening looking at innocuous Ch. 27. 

One day - I'll go back to the synopsis and the pitch and Ch. 26.

Life is putting things off. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Top Priority?

There are definite days when writing is not a top priority. In fact (and I shudder to think about it), I don't even think about writing. This has not happened to me in a very long time. Usually, my characters are whispering details about a scene or how they're feeling or what the weather is like and if their allergies are driving them nuts. 

But the last few weeks have been dry. I don't feel like I'm up a creek without a paddle. I feel like I'm in the Mojave Desert without a camel. Or water. Or friends. 

In truth, I'm blessed with good friends. I've been 'growing' my retinue of writer-friends. They understand me so well that sometimes I only have to start a sentence and they nod and laugh and I know they've been there, done that. 

Saturday I met with such a friend. We both have lost our camels. I've seen this happen with other writers. One of the horrors of NOT writing is that it becomes a habit. And starting up again seems more a duty than a pleasure.

At times like these, I find arranging writing times with friends (at the local library or coffee shop) helps this nasty syndrome. I'm going to arrange such a writing session for this upcoming week-end. I refuse to fall into the cracks of not-writing. Horrid place.

Otherwise, I'm hanging in there. Another friend wrote that she had terrible times trying to get up the courage (or whatever on earth it takes) to send out querry letters. She received a response to one she'd forgotten she'd sent. Much rejoicing.

I found it interesting and heartening to know that others struggle with the same struggles I have. My editor told me that of all the attendees at writing conferences, less than 1/2 actually try to send out their MSs. And even less than that actually send them out. I am not alone.

Life is courage. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life Mirrors

Met with two author friends last night. We spent much of the time laughing. It is important to keep a 'stiff upper lip' and laughter works wonders to keep us ready to battle the writing demons.

One shared her series with us. D hadn't heard any of it, yet the story excited her, warmed her. I loved seeing her reaction because I too love this little tale, beautifully crafted. Then D shared some of her story with us. Our new friend found it compelling as well as (I don't like using as too often, but this is the first tonight :) chock full of interesting characters.

I shared the next two chapters of 'Blue.' However, we never did get to the second chapter because our new friend grasped the essence and challenged me to 'make it better.' She was right, of course. I took the criticism well (one can take such words from a friend so much easier than from a 'professional.')  

The entire story hinges on this chapter. It's where my MC opens her heart, to herself and her friend, while learning some hard things about herself. 

The evening ended with us discussing our own growing up time and the challenges and heartbreaks and such that 'made' us what we are today. It's heart-rending at times, what life throws at us, but it's also mind-blowing to think we overcome adversity and shine.

Life is shining.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Conference Notes

I usually write a little later in the evening - more like sometime after midnight - but the stuff I want to share is quite a bit and will take some thought, so I thought it best if I start earlier. (Not that I'm going to be writing lots - just want to get the meat of the conference down.)

As I stated earlier, I spent a bit of extra money and went to what SCBWI calls an 'intensive.' It was certainly that. The session lasted three hours. I attended the one offered by Rebecca Barnhouse. She's a professor of English at Youngstown (Ohio) State University. Boy - would I love to be close enough to attend her classes! She is the epitome of what a teacher should be. 

She started out with the typical questions about the MC for each of us, but the session really started rocking when she shared techniques for getting to know our characters. For me, it was one of those 'Ah ha!' moments. I should have known this. The most important one, IMHO, was the Maisie Dobbs Exercise. Now I've never heard of this but I've put the link below. turns out Maisie is a fictional character. I've got to go read the books to figure out why this exercise is called the Maisie Dobbs Exercise, but here's the gist. Figure out my MC's body in motion. 

I am an actor. Haven't done it for awhile, but I know how to act and know how to get into my character's mind so I can portray her as she requests. I should have seen the similarities between a character in a play for an actor and a character in a book. Rebecca had us stand up and walk around like our character would. Isn't that phenomenally simple!!! (I know the rule against multiple ! but it feels right to use them here.) We stood up and walked around the room, even out into the hallway, and imagined we were our character. It was eye-opening. Next, we talked like our character - out loud. Now, we didn't talk to our neighbors or anyone in the room, we spoke out loud as our character. Another crazy, yet awesome exercise. I learned a lot. 

Due to the fact that it's not polite to give out too much information about a conference speaker's talk, I'll curtail most of the rest of my excitement. But I will say this: the 'interview the character' exercise was excellent. My buddy, D, interviewed me one time, but as the author of my book. It was a great exercise and made me aware of some weaknesses in my plot and character development. This one, by Rebecca, forced me to learn more. I loved it. 

If you ever get a chance to go to a lecture, seminar, or class by Rebecca, please do so. She's awesome!

Life is learning.

PS - We didn't forget the other characters in our books. Remember - this was a three-hour intensive that taught me a truckload.