Friday, November 29, 2013

Success Palate-wise

We made the pumpkin pie and it was great. Now I'm not just saying that. My daughter's mother-in-law, not knowing the little one made it, welled with enthusiasm over the pie. 'Not dry. So many pies are dry, but this one is great. And the taste is wonderful.' Whoo hoo!

I got to my daughter's at 8am and started making the scones. They had to be in before 10am so they'd been done in time to start the turkey. Interesting. I make scones from scratch, but not today. Too many things going on. I had a 'bag' recipe that only needed butter, milk, and fruit added. Again, had to go with the gut. The resulting dough felt too try, but I have added milk to this kind of recipe with disastrous results. I kept cool and kept breaking the butter into the dough. It finally 'congealed' and I kneaded it and flattened it with my hand into a pie shape and cut it into six wedges. They turned out great. Said mother-in-law said they were the best scones she'd ever eaten!

Trust. My friend D and I were talking tonight about trust. We got together for after-turkey scones (they taste better the older they get.) Trusting ourselves to get it right, to get the story we want down on paper. That's the crux of the matter. Trusting our friends to find mistakes or offer ideas to better our tales. Trusting that we will succeed. One way or the other.

It feels good to be cooking again, but even better to be on the path to writing again. It's been so dry. Like scones with too little liquid. It's been so like floating down a river. Like scones with too much liquid.

Just right. That's what I'm working towards. Making it just right. And it will be. Once I trust myself. And the Muse. 

Life is trust.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't Stop

I haven't been cooking lately. It's hard to cook when you're only one and you've been used to cooking for five. Or even two. I'm not sure why, but I've started back at it. I made some fried chicken. It didn't turn out at all like my 'old' friend chicken. I used the wrong herbs. I made egg salad the other day. It was soupy. Soupy is not good for egg salad. Especially if you put it on toast. Soggy toast is not fun toast. I almost gave up. 

My little one is here for the night. School is out for the US Thanksgiving break. I made fried chicken tonight. She loved it. I also made a cauliflower casserole. She hates cauliflower so I hid it with a nice dose of butter and a couple handfuls of grated cheddar cheese. I didn't expect her to eat it. She loved it! Success! She like the fried chicken, too. Cooked in just a dollop of olive oil with a sprinkling of seasoning - the right stuff this time. She cleaned her plate. 

Then, we ate cookies that we bought at the hospital. My little one's cast came off today. (She also lost her top front tooth!). A day of firsts. The cookies were made by the staff - donations were for the cancer center. They made a very nice ending to an odd (and slightly fear-filled) day. She's now asleep with her cast-free arm. Very happy to be able to sleep the 'old' way without pillows and such propping up her arm. Life is good.

I vow to continue to cook. Tomorrow the little one and I are going to try our hand at pumpkin pie (saints preserve us!). I know I can do it. I just have to trust myself. The problem with the eggs were that I knew the sauce was too thin but didn't trust myself. I should have stopped with the 2nd dollop of mayonnaise. The same with the chicken. I shouldn't have used the herbs I did. I stopped and questioned myself, but I went on and made the mistake.

Same for writing. I vow to write everyday. I used to. I didn't need a vow to write. But I know I'm fighting things and must take a different path to my writing if I'm to continue and grow and love it again. 

Success with the casserole and the chicken have raised my self-esteem again. The same is true with my writing. I will succeed one of these days. I've put the thought of publishing far into the back of my mind, for the nonce, so that I can renew the love. 

Life is renewal.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I am not a devotee of the late Tom Clancy. Yet, when a new book of his came out, I'd be one of the first to buy it. For my son. He's an aficionado. In the latest WD mag, Clancy is quoted. I have to share this with you. It should be shared with all writers.

"Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words.

If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world."

I once got the autograph of Sir Francis Chichester. He was the first person to sail solo around the world with only one stop. I was very young and very impressionable. I worked at the local library and he came in. I had just read his book and was fascinated with the tale. He was incredibly kind to a tongue-tied young clerk. Borrow or buy a copy and read it.

So I know a bit about what it's like to sail single-handed, around the world. And I am impressed with myself. And very glad that Tom Clancy shared this thought. I needed it. I need to remember that lots of people start a book and never finish it. I've got four novels written and one children's picture book. Nothing has been published - yet. But - I have the victory.

D and I met tonight to go over a part of her book. It was good, as always. I made a few suggestions which she was very happy with. We then did a couple chapters of my 'Blue.' Worked out well.

But we are both just coming out of writers' slump or whatever you want to call it. I can't wait to share Tom's quote with her. It is a victory to keep writing, even in the midst of waves of wretchedness, attacks by sharks of self-doubt, and swamped by whitecaps of weariness. (I do so love words!)

I've got to post this on my bathroom mirror. I have won a victory! I have won FIVE victories! I have sailed single-handed around the world FIVE times.

Life is an adventure.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Little Things

Honestly, it's the little things that will kill a book. Or a movie. The new one, 'Gravity,' has been berated for Sandra Bullock's hair. It doesn't float about. Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson caught the blooper. You've all seen the movie vids that show the number of bloopers in some movies. Most of these are one little thing that tips us off that someone wasn't paying attention. And - unfortunately - it takes us out of the moment.

I was going over Ch. 4 of 'Blue' tonight and realized I had one such blooper. Kathleen is on the back of a dragon, sitting behind a necromancer, and having a lively conversation with said necromancer. How could Kathleen hear the witch's chatter? Air flying by (you know how hard it is to hear in a car with its windows open) and great wings beating the air. Couldn't hear if she tried. So I had to move her to the front of the bus, so to speak, and let the necromancer talk into her ear with Kathleen shouting her replies. It worked, thankfully.

If you have a good editor, or a good critique group, they should be helping you with things like this. I know I have to rely on myself, but I also rely on others. 

When I began in the work force, I was a legal admin. I was part of a huge national law firm. We were taught by the HR person how to proofread. We did it once ourselves, then we were instructed to use another admin in the 'pool' and read it aloud. These were important contracts and they had to be right. Really right. 

We don't do that anymore, I've noticed. People rely upon themselves and that's a good thing, and a dollar-saver. But it is also a wee bit dangerous.

The same is true for our writing. We really can't trust ourselves, even after the fortieth edit. We will invariably miss something. I think it's human nature. We know what we meant and we wrote it. But did we? Or did we forget that it's really noisy on a flying dragon?

Just a thought for my friends.

Life is full of little things.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Please do not think this is a morose posting. Nor is it a hopeless one. It is reality. I read an Ernest Hemingway quote: 'There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter (keyboard - my word) and bleed.'

I definitely am of the camp that suffering helps writing. Yet, I know lots of writers, good writers, who haven't suffered (in the eyes of the world) and yet write a wicked tale. I think it's like everything in this crazy world. 50/50. What works for some won't work for the masses. And vice versa.

A dear friend of mine, a great writer, loves when life throws something at her (well, probably not loves it). Five times out of ten, she's thinking about how she can use a twisted ankle to bulk up a character, how shoveling snow and sweating in the midst of twenty degree wind chills gives her perspective for her mountain-climbing hero, or the love she has for her husband that she uses for her tragic heroine. 

I bring this up because I've been doing a wee bit of suffering these last three years. At first, I thought of my writing and how to use emotions and hurts and such to make my stories even better, delving into these things in order to flesh out the characters and situations and the old arc!

At the moment, I'm in the midst of saying good-bye to the lifestyle I had before my medical conditions affected me to the point that I had to make major changes. I don't like this at all. I've lost the joy of 'suffering' for my stories. I suppose that sounds unhealthy, but I know you writers understand what I'm saying. It's the little things that chipped away at my joie de vivre. Now the big things are impacting me. I keep telling myself I will get well one day and resume my life, but I know it's probably not going to happen.

I find this frustrating besides. I want to write, but my energy is going to survival, at the moment. I know I'll write again. Heck, I'm putting on make-up again, and that is a very good thing! I am also almost finished with my paperwork. I've got two huge 'events' coming up, not fun ones, that insist on lots of paperwork. I feel good that I'm finally getting it all together. I can send it off to my attorney sometime next week. 

A friend says she thinks she knows what the 'nasty' critiquer meant by 'voice' and she wants to meet to discuss it. I'm looking forward to that. Thankfully, I have learned, over the years, to accept creative and concrete criticism. I'm learning all the time. 

The wounds of life need to be cauterized, but I will survive. I will write. I will continue to cajole my writing friends into greater deeds, and I will comfort those who are fighting the good fight.

Life is wonderful. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Am Happy

I hope you are, too. I hope the universe spreads out my happy dust to all. 

A dear friend called me on Skype tonight. I've been missing her like crazy. She moved to New Zealand eons ago. We kept in close touch, but this last year, what with the illnesses and such that have assailed me, we lost touch. Finally, the other night, I emailed her and said, 'Wha's up?' She emailed back that she's been struggling, health-wise, too. So we talked a bit and I told her, 'Please keep in touch.' 

Well, as I said, she Skyped me tonight. AND she fixed my camera. Well, the connection at least. I can't believe it - zillions of miles apart and she fixes my camera. Life is good.

I spent the last two days working on paperwork. Honest to goodness, how I will ever survive being a published author, I'll never know. If I can't keep the little old paperwork that assails me now, how will I ever keep the paperwork of school visits and author signings and such? *giddy smile* I'll have to suffer, won't I?

I found a good couple of writing books that had been lost amidst the paperwork on the dining room table. I've put them on the couch where I can reach them with only a modicum of effort. *g* 

I don't understand how paperwork proliferates. The dining room table is just that. It holds no magic, that I know of. Put a piece of paper down, a bill, a receipt, and it's like bunny rabbits. It mates with the table or something. I'm not sure how it works. *shudder* I don't want to know how it works. Perhaps there's some industrial strength anti-mating spray that I can use on the table. If I ever get it cleaned off. Sadly, some of the paperwork migrated to my office space, but thankfully, it doesn't seem to get impregnated from my desk like the poor paperwork on the dining room table. 

I must keep my eyes open and see if there other fertilizing places in my home. I hope not.

Tomorrow, I will continue my quest to free myself of paperwork. Then, I will write. I have to. D will be over on Thursday and I dare not not have something ready for the woman! I love having deadlines.

Life is remarkable.

PS - I hate MS spellcheck. 


My family throve on secrets. There was a divorce in the family in the early 1920's. Nobody divorced then. I have cousins that I don't know. I might even have aunts and uncles that I don't know. My mother's half-sister was an opera singer, but we don't have any record of her. 

Folks talk about having character bios. To me, they're very important. But a little mystery might help, too. I can have a bio and family tree up to a point and then, my character can start looking. I can explain away behavior that might not be consistent with the family she grew up with, not knowing she carries baggage and DNA from a totally separate group. Life can be fun!

Secrets about health drive me mad. Some of these secrets can kill a family member if they don't know that something like diabetes runs in the family. There they are with the symptoms and thinking, it can't be _____ or ____. There's no family history. 

Miss Marple would have a field day with secrets. I'm not a mystery writer myself, but I do enjoy them. And I can add a little mystery to my own stories to keep them fresh and alive. Nothing like a good dose of incest in a family, hidden for decades. *shivers*

I went to my Skyline meeting on Saturday and we talked about characters and how to keep them from being two-dimensional. We talked about bios and characters studies and using all kinds of 'tools' from other writers/presenters. 

Found an absolutely awesome one here. I'm printing them all out and will share them with my writing buddies. Hope you enjoy them, too. (This is an educational/teachers site, but I find it helpful.)

This one is totally focused towards character development. These are some of the basic questions we have to ask our Muse, but some of the questions towards the bottom delve deeper.

I like this one more. Definitely more introspective questions. Anything I can do to learn more about my character is great. However, I like her to surprise me, now and again.

As for the meeting: we had a great time. My MS was critiqued and I felt good about it. There were suggestions, but overall, I was told to keep writing. I take that as a compliment (if I don't delve too far. giggle giggle)

I had critiqued an MS and the member was there so I shared my thoughts with her. That's when we got into the discussion about character development.

All in all, a good two hours spent in total writing mode. Picked my enthusiasm up by the bootstraps. I left the meeting feeling exhilarated. I still do. 

Life is exhilarating.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Last night, I shared the first three chapters - the 'new' chapters of 'Blue' - with a writer friend. She applauded the changes. I had decided to go back and, not start over, but look at it with my own gut and my Muse's input and get rid of some of the 'stuff' that I put in as suggested by others. I, too, feel it's clearer.

I know we're supposed to have an editor and/or a critiquer going over our writing, to help find errors in content and fluidity, and also to make sure the characters are consistent and the arc flows. But putting my work into someone else's hands has not resulted in work that is true to me. Somewhere along the way, we have to take in and asses what others offer, but then be sure it is still our own work.

With these thoughts in mind, I have offered up the first three chapters of 'Blue' to my critique group (if anyone shows up). I told them the comments by the last 'professional' critiquer and asked them if they felt the same. It will be interesting - getting their input. I trust them.

As for being critiqued by professionals, I think I have paid my last dollar and given my last MS to a 'professional' critiquer. I'm not sure I am receiving good advise.

Life is convoluted.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Saving Myself

It's hard to do, but I am not about to throw in the towel. Too painful. And then what do I do? Stay in bed, hiding under the covers? No. I don't want that. Other alternatives do not present themselves well.

Sometimes, being a writer, feels like I am some Dickensonian character, holed up in a cobweb infested dining room waiting for my true love to return. (Snicker - I'm sure the Muse would like that image.) I can't fester under the covers; I can't hide in my office; I can't not write. 

Thankfully, I have support. Friends who cherish me, don't push me too hard, cajole now and again, and basically are there in case I need to scream. I treasure them. I try to keep them near. When they haven't heard from me in awhile, they know I'm in the doldrums and they contact me and I get better.

In the little writers' group that I belong to, we lost a charter member. His job took him elsewhere. We applauded his success and began, in hiding, to gnaw at our fingernails. This man was the back bone of the group. He was committed to his writing and to each one of the other members. There wasn't a jealous bone in his body. He gave comments with kindness. But he read every presented MS twice or more, he made gentle, but succinct comments, he had a quick mind and used it to evaluate what we presented. 

With this man gone, we knew we had to step up. The group committed to be better critiquers. But with all groups, attendance fluctuated, and feelings of new members were hurt. I had blasted medical issues and stayed away while healing. At times, there were only two members at the meetings compared to almost twenty in the spring. Rumblings began. Discontent grew. Talk of disbandment flew.

I wrote to the group, from my new-found resilience, and reminded them of other groups in the area - stifling, jealous people with no imagination and no ilk for a genre other than their own. People who love to hear themselves talk at the expense of the MS presenter. People who know only how to cut and not applaud, remonstrate and not cajole, criticize with no help offered. Oh, it was horrid being part of these groups. 

Thankfully, I found my new little group in 2009. A hodgepodge of writer styles and genres, one even a playwright. It was difficult, at first, to critique other genres that I wasn't familiar nor comfortable with, but I persevered. The members were kind during my fledgling days. They are still kind. 

But - they have lost their focus. I reminded them of their prior accomplishments, bringing up tidbits from the stories they presented in the past and reminding them how much they opened my eyes to worlds I'd not known before. I reminded them of how they helped me and how I have grown from their critiques. 

Thankfully, for once I inspired and the group is meeting again this Saturday. I don't know how many will be there or for how long, but I'm grateful the group is giving themselves another chance.

Writing is difficult and lonely work. If I can find others who share my joy and my sorrows, I am better for it and my writing is, too.

Life is saving me (and you.)

Monday, November 4, 2013


My kitchen was not stocked with enough tools. I made-do. If I needed one thing, I'd try to figure out how to use another in its place. We were on a very tight budget. I did well enough in the kitchen, but I began to think that if I had the right tools I could really do some fun food stuff. 

The same is true with writing. I've got to have the basics (cup, tsp, and tbs measurers, colanders, pots and pans with well fitting tops. A grater.) A thesaurus, a dictionary, a grammar book, good writing magazines. 

Once I've got those, and mastered them, then it's time for the extras. The conferences, the critique groups, the editor, the writing friends.

A friend shared a book with me recently. It's pretty darn good. Jennifer has input from about thirty different contributors. This is totally the business side of writing, much like the oven side of cooking. 
The Business of Writing by Jennifer Lyons.

There is so much information to be had/found, but it must be used like salt. With care. Otherwise, the food will be unpalatable. My query letter will be garbage. My story arc will be flat.

Ah! This writing thing is no easy task. Sometimes, it doesn't even feel worth the struggle. And yet, when a phrase like 'his nose was like a red pincushion' comes to me, I get giddy with delight. Words are awesome, entrancing, uplifting, freeing.

Back to Ch. 3 of 'Blue' now. Keep writing and reading and learning and growing and having fun!

Life is hysterical.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Change of Time

I'm waiting for the time when I can get my job done. The site I use has strict time censors and I have to wait until it's 'my' time to post. Just another five or so minutes. I'm exhausted, but not as bad as I usually am. Thank the powers above. Still, I want to get the job done and sneak into bed. :)

I met with friends this afternoon, writer friends, and we spent a good two plus hours chatting. it was nice. At the end of the session, I showed them the critique from the last conference. 

Sometimes, I get too close to things and I don't notice the obvious. My friend read the first line and said, 'This woman can't write. Where are her grammar skills?'

And she was right. The first sentence said, 'love the conceit.' Well, I knew she meant concept, but it doesn't matter. She didn't write concept, she wrote conceit. The grammar and sentence structure went down from there. As my friend pointed out mistake after mistake in the critiquer's writing, I realized that what my editor had said was true. This woman, two years ago, was a midwife. Now she's in publishing and supposed to be taken seriously? 

My self-esteem grew in leaps. Except for the fact that I am still amazed at the brains of the women I associate with. They see things that escape me. Their eyes are open. Now I'm not saying I'm a dimwit. I have my strengths, too. But when I see such intelligence around me, I sway to it. I feel like I'm in a dance of sorts, the force of the universe swirling me about. I drink in their intelligence and rejoice that I am party to such friends.

I try, on a daily basis, to keep my eyes open to the nuances of people's speech patterns and body language. I try to be open to nature, to see the beauty and the absurdity in it. The spectacular along with the mundane. I fail constantly, but I keep trying.

I want to talk my daughter into coming with me to a breakfast with the birds event tomorrow morning. She's not really into that, but I want my granddaughter to be part of it. The child is amazing and I want to keep her vistas open wide so that her part of the essence of the universe shines. Ah, what am I saying. She already shines. She wrote a book, I don't remember if I said anything here, about how she broke her arm. The title is: 'The real story of how I broke my arm.' Bless her heart, she wants to get it published and she wants to give it to all her friends. I'm going to take it to the local Office Max and see what can be done with it. 

Life is stunningly absurd.