December 31, 2009

Picture Resolutions

New beginnings are cleansing.  Like a newborn baby, or a new jar of peanut butter, or a first line in a story (you saw that coming, right?) there is nothing like a fresh start. Having said that, let me share my resolutions:

1.     Write 1,000 words five days a week using Write or Die.

2.     Tidy up the house (with the wisdom of Flylady).

3.     Set time limits - more time for family.

4.     USE my calendar (and the word "no").

"No, I'm sorry but I just CAN'T."

5.     Work on my art journal.

6.     Get rid of STUFF!

7.     Take family somewhere beautiful for vacation.

8.     Edit and submit my WIP.

My dearest Editor,

Happy New Year my sweet friends!!  I hope it brings you growth, happiness, beauty and life.

December 30, 2009

Wing Tip #4: Hook Your Reader

Update:  Les Edgerton commented on this!  Thank you Mr. Edgerton.

Want to grab your reader and keep them spellbound?  Here's what Les Edgerton says in Hooked:

...the single biggest reason manuscripts get rejected is because the writer begins in the wrong place.  What's ironic is that manuscripts don't get rejected because the majority of the story is good and only the beginning is flawed--they get rejected because the agent or editor never gets to the good part to begin with.  A story that begins in the wrong place won't be read much past that point.  If the good stuff occurs later on, in all likelihood it will never be reached by the agent or editor.  

Mr. Edgerton knows this because he's been an editor.

What most good hooks have in common is that they have strong inciting incidents that plunge the protagonist immediately into trouble--the trouble that's going to occupy the rest of the story.

The surest way to involve the reader is to begin with an opening scene that changes the protagonist's world profoundly and creates a story-worthy problem.

He goes on to warn against Five Red Flag openings:

Red Flag 1: Opening with a dream
Never, ever, ever begin a narrative with action and then reveal the character's merely dreaming it all.  Not unless you'd like your manuscript hurled across the room, accompanied by a series of curses.

Red Flag 2: Opening with an alarm clock buzzing
Don't open with your protagonist waking up to an alarm clock ringing, or to someone shaking her awake, or to a cute little birdie chirping from her bedroom window, or to a blazing sun shining through the window.

Red Flag 3:  Being unintentionally funny
Don't write sentences like: "Was she going to come in or stay out on the porch, he thought to himself."  It's been fairly well verified down through the annals of history that when a human being thinks, he almost always does so to himself.

Red Flag 4:  Too little dialogue
One of the primary red flags for many editors and agents is the absence of dialogue on the first few pages of a manuscript.  All editors--no matter what the material, screenplay or novel or short story--look for lots and lots of nice white space.

Red Flag 5:  Opening with dialogue
This kind of opening was popular at the turn of the last century; it looks musty now.  The problem with beginning a story with dialogue is that the reader knows absolutely nothing about the first character to appear in a story.

I love openings with the promise of great adventure and an underdog.  What hooks you?

December 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary Baby!

Today is my 19th wedding anniversary.   Four days after Christmas as newlyweds, we headed into a snow-caked day to start our adventure together.

In light of our nineteen years, here's nineteen observations I've made about marriage:
  1. Loving another person can draw out the best in you.
  2. It can also reveal the worst.
  3. It's nice to be loved in the middle of both.
  4. It's miraculous how two normal people can breed three geniuses.
  5. He will surprise you.
  6. It's doubtful you listened when they said marriage would be work.
  7. Now you know they were right.
  8. It's best to quickly admit your wrongs.
  9. And to be even quicker to forgive.
  10. Even after nineteen years, his smile can give you tingles.
  11. Say "I love you" everyday.
  12. Do the unexpected; it's fun to throw him off.
  13. Your parenting styles will be the opposite of each other.
  14. You'll learn to compromise.
  15. Compromise is harder than Sesame Street makes it seem.
  16. You'll laugh until you can't breath.
  17. You'll break each other's hearts.
  18. You'll work it out.
  19. And love each other deeper than you did in the beginning.

Once again, we celebrate by heading out into a snow-caked day.

December 28, 2009

Don't Bother About Originality

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about ORIGINALITY will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."  -- C.S. Lewis

I struggle with longing to produce what the market has never seen.  And because of that, there are times I let go of something I'm passionate about to try my hand at something I believe is marketable.  There's a fine line between the two. 

Do you agree with C.S. Lewis?  Do you attempt to be original?  Or simply aim to tell the truth?

P.S.  Check out the awesome book giveaway over at Book Dreaming! Two sets to choose from!!

December 26, 2009

Sunday Scribblings 195: Delicious

From the wheelchair, Lucille watched a young mother wrestle her four small children.  The mother's octopus hands snatched little fingers from probing outlets, tall vases and pudding cups left on end tables.  Her constant motion made Lucille sympathetic.  The mother noticed her staring and gave a weary smile.

"I had four," said Lucille.  She gazed at the sleeping newborn wrapped around the woman's chest.

"Did you?" asked the mother.  She retrieved her three-year-old from entering Silvia's room.  Silvia would've screamed for hours; it was good the mother was quick.  "How did you manage?"  She gave a pleading look.

"Hard to remember."  Lucille gazed at the sleeping bundle.  "But you seem to be doing fine."

The mother chuckled.  "That's kind of you."  Her smile faded.  "I'm not sure sometimes."  She glanced down the hallway softly bouncing the sleeping child.  "Karl is visiting his grandmother.  She gets tired of us all packed in her room so I try to give them some time alone."

Lucille nodded.  "My grandkids live in California.  Too far away to visit," she defended.  By the look on the young mother's face, she knew she hadn't been convincing.

The woman hurried off several more times collecting her three active children from racing down the nursing home hallway.  This time she made them sit in chairs and handed them plastic toys hidden inside her purse.  This pacified them for a bit.  She wiped a strand of auburn hair out of her eyes perspiring from the exertion.  When she sat down the sleeping baby awoke.  It began to squirm and kick.  She let out an audible sigh.

"May I?" asked Lucille.

The mother smiled with relief.  "Yes."  She unwound the baby sling and handed the fragile child into Lucille's arms.

Lucille rocked the pink footed baby.  The small face gazed at her and raised an arm aimlessly.  Lucille savored the newborn scent.  She lifted the girl's face next to hers and started to kiss the delicate cheek.  Then paused.  "Do you mind if I--"  Lucille faltered.  It seemed odd asking.

"Of course not," said the mother as she pulled the toddler into her lap.

Lucille put withered lips against the baby's cheek and kissed the delicious softness.

December 21, 2009

Missing You

I've been away for a bit and have sorely missed my friends in Blogland.  But I'm going to have to "officially" unplug for a few more days (visiting family).  I can't wait to get back and catch up on your blogs.  Until then,  Happy Holidays!!

December 20, 2009

Sunday Scribblings 194: Dare

She dared to have a Christmas party at her house, then pack and leave on a trip to visit family the very next day.  Now she wouldn't be able to write a story like she'd planned.

"Perhaps next week," she thought.

December 18, 2009

Wing Tip #3: The Glitter of Giving

 At the elementary school where I work, a young student paused to look at me.  She wore a coy look on her cherub five-year-old face.  At first I thought she was smirking at my hat (the Santa Claus kind).  I smiled back.  She grinned and something about her eyes glittered.  It puzzled me as she walked away with her half-smile.

A few moments later, I came upon the girl's mother.

"Oh wait," said the mother.  "I've got something for you from Jordan."  She handed me a gift, a sweet little something.  And I knew this is what had ignited those glittering eyes.  She knew I'd be receiving her present.

What is it about giving to others that makes us sparkle?  How does it leave us feeling lighter, happier, and more worthy?  (Bet you can guess my tip for the day.)

Wing tip #3:  Give.
(Not that any of you need me telling you this.  You already give so much through your blogs, but bear with me.)  Give from your knowledge, your stories, and your ideas.  Share with the world what you've gleaned.  Maybe you'll help some fledgling writer learn how to format their manuscript.  Or how to query.  Or what books are the best to read.  Maybe you'll inspire a young child.

And maybe, if all of us give like Jordan, the world could be a brilliant blaze of glittery eyes.

December 16, 2009

Frostbitten Uvulas

We've been passing around some sort of virus/flu at my house.  My husband has it now which is unusual because he never gets sick.  I shared the following story on another blog but I love it, so I'll share it again:

My son was eating a popsicle and he said, "My uvula has frostbite."  That phrase has become our running mantra for the illness.  Especially since we've gone through several boxes of popsicles and many homeade ones as well.

AND I'm gettting ready for a Christmas party we're supposed to have on Saturday night.  (Yes, I bought several cans of Lysol to spray everything down)  The house is halfway ready, but I want it glowing.  That's code for "not-gonna-be-writing-blogs-much-this-week".  So I'll see you on the other side. :)

December 14, 2009

Monday's Quote

A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it. -- Fred Allen

This quote reminds me that everyone has a story - even the meanest person (which probably influenced why they act the way they do).  Knowing this is helpful for showing compassion.

Sometimes I forget to have a story behind my characters.  Do you sketch your character's backstory before you write?  Or do you discover their story along the way?

December 13, 2009

Sunday Scribblings 193: Brave

I could only see my forehead in the bathroom mirror.  Mother dropped the brush as she ran down the hall--she never ran.  Prickles itched up my arm.  Dad was dead.

One of my pigtails hung neatly in place while the other was not yet assembled.  I wished Mom had finished it.

Mrs. Francis arrived.  We sat in the living room gazing at pictures on the wall.  The quiet compelled me to speak.

"Dad died," I said.

Mrs. Francis straightened with sad tenderness.  "Yes, I heard.  I'm so sorry."  Her hands folded at her knees.

My legs felt like they'd walk away from me if I didn't move.  I excused myself and hurried to the bathroom.  Stepping onto the stool I mimicked Mom's strokes trying to fix my hair.  My untrained hands did poorly.  Looping lumps formed at the crown.  The pigtail mocked me.  I swallowed hard.  I went back into the living room avoiding Mrs. Francis' gaze.  Her eyes rested on my half-hung pigtail.

She sniffed loudly.  I pretended not to notice and studied the family portrait over the fireplace with intensity.

"Aren't you brave," Mrs. Francis whispered, dabbing her eyes.

I triple crossed my legs.  "I was four in that one," I said, pointing to the portrait.

People arrived with food.  They came and went all afternoon.

And no one tried to fix my pigtail.

December 11, 2009

18 Steps Away from Perfect

I almost believe there are perfect people in the world.  You know, acquaintances you admire from a distance who never seem ruffled or speechless.  They look like they've just stepped off What to Wear.  They know what they want AND they do it.

I always feel about 18 (or 18,000) steps behind them.  And even though I know nobody's supposed to be perfect, I wonder.  What do you think?  Do perfect people exist or is it a farce?

On another note, I want to thank Mary and Diana for giving me the Scribblers Award and the Lovely Blog award.  You guys rock!  I'll pass those awards along later (I have to hurry with this post, my daughter is sick).

But for all my "perfect" followers, here is an award for you.  Enjoy!

December 10, 2009

Wing Tip #2: Thank you notes

(These are simple cards I crafted from scrapbook paper.)

As promised, I'm sharing a bit of what I've gleaned from Making A Literary Life (love this book).  The following is a summation in the author's words:

"The 18-minute version, simplicity itself, is in this paragraph:  a thousand words a day (or two hours of revision) five days a week, for the rest of your life, and--and!--one charming note (or phone call that makes your hands sweat),  five days a week, for the rest of your life."

"Why do I have to write notes?" you may ask.

"Life is a matter of courtship and wooing, flirting and chatting..." Carolyn answers.  "These notes are just notes.  You don't want to burden some poor wrench with the entire story of your life.  You absolutely don't want to ask them for a favor, as in: 'Hello, I really like you work.  Enclosed please find my 800-page manuscript on giant lizards who live under the earth--and throw massive lizard conventions!--in the state of Arizona.'  Don't offer to go and live with them.  Remember what your mother taught you about thank-you notes (if she bothered).  Be gracious.  You're entering into an emotional and spiritual courtship with the literary world that will last the rest of your life."

Learning from other writers (and my Mother), I started sending thank-you notes early--especially for rejections.  BECAUSE, those editors...they do a LOT.  And they rarely get thanked for it.  A thank-you feels like getting a present, it lifts them up.  And we want to lift them, right?  Because without editors...where would writers be?  (I know it's the chicken and egg thing--because without us where would they be, but work with me here)  This is one of those tasks that seems unnecessary, but I can vouch for what one little note can do.  I've found that I get much more detailed rejections (and acceptances) when I've been sending thank-you notes to that editor.  That's not why I send them, but I think it's worth mentioning.  They notice.

So Wing Tip #2 today is simple: Send thank-you notes.  Or "charming notes" as Carolyn See says.

December 9, 2009

Icy Cold Brainstorm

This morning as I stood in 20 degree weather (that felt like 5 degrees) on the crosswalk, I couldn't help thinking  (cold air tends to wake up the ole brain cells).

My  first thought, was about my eldest WIP.  You know, the one you keep coming back to, but never feel satisfied with?  All this talk on other blogs about revision got me mulling it over.  I've felt stuck in how my novel is RIGHT NOW.  I forgot how much power we authors have.  We can change or add whatever is needed.  So I've decided to go through my manuscript AGAIN and jot down what I need - on each page.  (Got this idea from a fabulous book called, Making a Literary Life --which I'll share more from on Thursday)  Doing this one simple step will help me because when I go back to make revisions, I'll have notes about where to start.  I won't get lost in re-reading the entire thing (which doesn't count as writing); I'll actually be making progress.  Such a simple thought.  You're probably thinking, "Well, duh!"  But it was an AHA moment for me.  Now I have a project to do and I'm filled with hope that perhaps, maybe, I might actually finish THIS WIP!!!!

My second thought, totally unrelated, was about the homeless.  Standing on the sidewalk, I wondered how it'd feel if I didn't have a time limit for being outside.  If I didn't know that coffee and warmth were waiting for me in thirty minutes.  There's an organization in my town that collects blankets for the homeless and, I'll be honest, I've only sent a few.  I've been very lackadaisical about it.  But this morning, the cold hard truth was whipping me in the face (literally).  And as I pulled my scarf up and jogged in place to keep warm, my heart softened.  I imagined all those throws, blankets and quilts stuck up in my linen closet.  And then I thought homeless people not welcome to warm up in places like restaurants and offices (although I've seen a few in libraries).  It made me cringe.  Needless to say, I'll be gathering up some blankets and sending them on their way.

December 7, 2009

Monday's Quote & Contest

"Writing is my form of celebration and prayer." -- Diane Ackerman

What is writing to you?  OR  How do you celebrate life?

Note:  One addition to this post.  There is a contest going on at Something to Write About for a $10 gift card at Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Powells.  Check it out!

December 6, 2009

Sunday Scribblings 191: Weird

It was the third day of their honeymoon and the first they'd ventured out.  Ice and snow glittered across the lawn, winking and beckoning them.  Kitty walked with careful steps down the sidewalk of their cottage to the purring car where Ed scraped the windows.  He looked up and smiled at her.  She blushed.  Everything about life was enhanced.  Even the bare twig trees seemed beautiful caked in snow.

"We'll have to go around on the old carriage road.  I can't back up."  Ed pointed to the small road that wound around a large mansion-like house.  The road stood against the house's large yard but the outer side dropped off.

Kitty nodded, wrapped tightly in scarfs and mittens.  She lowered herself into the warmth of the car.  Ed followed, giving her hand a squeeze.  She smiled.  Hadn't she always dreamed it would be just like this?  And now they were embarking on their first adventure together.  Ed pressed on the gas.  The car lurched and stuck for a moment then it broke free and whipped onto the road.  Ed let up on the gas and crept around the first turn.  On the second turn, the car slid just enough to hit the inside yard and start to spin.  Their eyes locked.  She wanted to scream but couldn't.

Was this was God's cruel way of giving her all she wanted and then snatching it back in three days?  Ed yanked on the emergency break as the car slid off the path.  The car stopped, teetering with only one wheel on the road.  Everything else dangled in the air.  For a moment, neither of them spoke.  Fear had taken the words off their lips

"We need to get out before it flips," Ed instructed. "You go first--"

A chill crept over her.  "I don't like that--"

He wasn't listening.  "Don't grab the side of the car when you get out. Yell when you're clear."

"If I get out, it may shift balance and flip with you in it," she argued.

He let silence sit between them for a moment.  "Kitty, no one else is here.  The owner left us the keys.  If you don't get out, we may both fall.  At least one of us should go for help and your side's closer to the ground."

His logic calmed her a little but her stomach ached with nerves.  She nodded.  She opened the door gently--no sudden movements.  Inching her way close to it, she gave him one final look.  He nodded.  She stepped out into the air.  The slope of ice beneath her was about two feet down.  She dropped, then slid and fisted her hands to keep from reaching for the car.  The impact knocked her down. She slid at a quick pace.  Too quick.  She sped endlessly down the long slope towards the bluff.  Grasping for trees, the ice and bark cut her hands.  She desperately reached for icicled grass trying anything to slow herself.  Finally, a large tree gave her leverage to stop.  Her arms wrapped it in a hug.  She looked up to see the car still teetering.

"Get out of the way!" yelled Ed.  His voice echoed down to her.

She tried to stab her feet into the ice and move further away but the slope was too steep and her shoes were no match for layered ice.

"Are you clear?"  he asked.

She wasn't, but she didn't want him to wait.  "Yes!"

He moved inch by inch onto her seat and ventured to the open door.  He leaped from it and slid as she had down the side of the mountain.  He managed to stop long before she'd been able to.  They waited, expecting the car to fall.  But it hung there, like Kitty hung to her tree.  Ed stomped holes into the ice like steps until he reached her.  It was a slow journey back up and they kept looking at the car with abated breath.  They managed to return to the cottage, and call for help.  Kitty watched out the picture window.  The car stayed in place until the tow truck arrived.

The truck driver got out and rubbed his head.  "Well if that isn't the weirdest thing."  He pulled out a camera from the back seat and snapped a picture.  After getting the car hitched up and back to safety, he turned to them.  "I don't know how you survived.  Never seen nothing like this car hanging on.  It's a plumb miracle."

Kitty shivered.  She knew he was right.

December 5, 2009

Wing Tip #1: Secrets of Scene

I read almost as many writing books as I read fiction.  So I'll be sharing a tip each week (probably on Thursdays) from what I've learned.  This excerpt comes from a writing conference I attended and unfortunately, I didn't write down the instructor's name.  If I find the brochure, I'll let you know.  This is a tip on working your scenes.

Conflict - Make sure there is some sort of problem, even if it's coming from within your character.

Action - Your character must DO something.

Surprise - We all love this!  Give your reader a bit of surprise.  OR give your character one.

Turn - The main character must enter the scene with one emotion and leave with another.  It can be small or dramatic.  If nothing changes, then nothing happened in the scene.

Senses - It's good to show some of the five senses, but BEST to have all of them.
    • Taste - food, gum, drink, blood, OR lack of food - growling stomach and hunger
    • Smell - coffee, leather, smoke, B.O.
    • Touch - even the steering wheel or the bumping of gravel when going off the pavement
    • Hear - not just who's speaking but other sounds in the scene
    • See - let the character see something new, familiar, disturbing, or dull
    Keep all these details in mind and your scenes will pop!

    December 4, 2009


     Diana and Girl with One Eye tagged me in a MeMe which looks like fun.  So here goes...(If anyone else wants to play along, let me know and I'll link to you)

    1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have? 
    Last thing:  NaNoWriMo Novel    First thing (that I still have):  Frantic in the Freezer (published in a small magazine when I was in high school and based on a true incident of me getting locked in a McDonald's freezer) 
    2. Write poetry?  I attempt sometimes. 
    3. Angsty poetry?  No, usually about odd things in life.  Or my kids.  Who are odd sometimes. 
    4. Favorite genre of writing?  Middle Grade  
    5. Most annoying character you've ever created?  Chloe. She has a habit of stopping mid-sentence and leaving everyone hanging. 
    6. Best Plot you've ever created?  It started with a problem...which led to a bigger problem...that created an even BIGGER problem...then got solved. 
    7. Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?  Don't know if I've created a really cool one yet. 
    8. How often do you get writer's block?  Every two days--give or take a day. 
    9. Write fan fiction?  No, but I've always been curious about it. 
    10. Do you type or write by hand?  Both.  I'm faster with the computer, but the flow of a pen is exciting.
    11. Do you save everything you write?  I try.  My computer has eaten a few. 
    12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?  Yes!  I flit, and float between WIPs. 
    13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?  Lilly's Loud Voice, a short-story fairytale about a little girl and her enormous voice.  (Diana, if it makes you feel better, it was bought by Highlights but hasn't been published YET.) 
    14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?  Not sure... 
    15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?  Romance, but not teen drama. 
    16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?  The mountains.  I grew up in the Ozarks. 
    17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?  Ummm, two picture books, three articles and one novel. 
    18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?  Yes, one from the Library Association and one from Writer's Digest Competition. 
    19. What are your five favorite words?  "Your book went to auction!" 
    20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?  Grace.  She loves making up words and tries to get her friends to start using them. 
    21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?  Everyone I know, have met, seen, or observed (even you). 
    22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?  Yes, I've received some great ideas that way. 
    23. Do you favor happy endings?  Yes.  But I also like bitter-sweet. 
    24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?  Oh yes, I'm a nerd in this category. 
    25. Does music help you write?  Absolutely!  I listen to soundtracks.  But they have to be instrumental or else I get distracted by singing along. 
    26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.  "Since the day they brought me home from the hospital, I've lived in a doghouse."


    Armed Robber in My Front Yard

    So an odd thing happened a few days ago when the kids and I got home from school.  Two police cars were sitting in the road near our mailbox.  One policeman yelled for everyone to get inside.  I scuttled the kids into the house and we watched through the blinds as four more police cars arrived.  Sniffing dogs emerged.

    Come to find out, a man committed armed robbery then ran from the police.  After a bit of a chase, he pulled into my neighbor's driveway, abandoned his car and took off running.  They found him. (We saw him, unconscious in the police car).  The getaway car was towed (for evidence I suppose). Paramedics came to check out the unconscious robber before the police hauled him off.

    And we watched it all happen from our front picture window.

    My daughter popped popcorn.
    (Not really)

    Now I'm dying to work this into a story...

    What crazy life situations have given you story ideas?

    December 2, 2009

    Honest Scrap Award!

    A Squirrel Amongst Lions awarded me this Honest Scrap Award.  (Hee-hee, it's my first award)  Thank you Girl with One Eye!  Honest Scrap is given to blogs that speak from the heart.  (Aww)  I'm so honored.  The rules for Honest Scrap are: I must tell 10 honest things about myself and award 10 other blogs.  (Rubbing my hands together...this'll be so much fun!)  I'm going to begin with the awards.

    *Drumroll*  Ahem.  I would like to award:

    Supermom Is Dead:  You make me laugh till I cry or snort!
    Grow Wings: You give me vision for what I'd like to be.
    MusingsI love pondering life with you.
    Lille FnuggYou and your little guy make me smile.
    Storyqueen's Castle: You're ten steps ahead of me and I love learning from you.
    Tinkerart: Your artwork and words inspire me.  AND I love of course I'd love Tinkerart!
    Sue Turner ArtYou bring beauty to my world.
    Something to Write AboutYou give me, well, something to write about.  Corny, but true.
    Robin's NestI love escaping into your stories.
    Stephanie PerkinsYour candor and motivation amaze me.

    I probably could have gone on and on (I tried to pick blogs I didn't think already had the award)...but I'll stop here at the ten mark.

    And now, for my ten honest things:
    1. I'm messy.  If you could see my'd agree.
    2. I bite my nails.  Ugh.  A disgusting habit, but I've heard as a writer it's great to have something quirky about yourself--maybe that will suffice.
    3. I sniff books.  Can't help it.  That sweet aroma just pulls me in.
    4. I'm an extroverted introvert.  My twin sister and Mom taught me how to small talk.
    5. I snort when I laugh really hard.
    6. I'm lactose intolerant.
    7. I watch the Disney channel when I'm alone and I like Miley Cyrus.  (I know, I'm a freak)
    8. My best writing music comes from soundtracks.  My favorites are: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Lord of the Rings.  (Fantasy writer, can you tell?)
    9. I dream big and fall hard.
    10. I want 100 followers by the end of 2010.  See what I mean about dreaming big?
    Thanks to all my blog friends for what you bring to my life each day!

    November 30, 2009

    It's done!

    My NaNoWriMo novel is finished.  I'm content with it.  It will take a lot of tinkering (doesn't it always?) but it's there.  Raw, meaty and bleeding.

    November 25, 2009

    Thanksgiving MeMe

    Shelli is posting Thanksgiving MeMe's on her blog so I thought I'd play along.

    1. How will you be spending your Thanksgiving this year?
    We are going to my Uncle's house.

    2. Will you be cooking or are you just an eater?
    I'm bringing broccoli casserole and cookies.  We have a big family so it's a light load.

    3. Do you watch the parade every year or football!!
    The men watch football.  Ugh.  The women talk and get shushed a lot.  Sometimes we watch a movie.

    4. Whats your favorite float?
    Snoopy is my favorite!

    5. Dark meat or white meat? Dark

    6. What is your favorite dish besides the turkey?
    A family tradition of coconut cake topped with fresh coconut.

    7. Homemade cranberry sauce or cranberry sauce from the can? Neither...the whip cream cranberry salad full of grapes and nuts!

    8. Do you decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving day?
    No, we do it on December 1st.  I refuse to decorate before December.

    9. What are some special family traditions?
    We try to tell each other what we're thankful for.  Not formally (well, sometimes it is) but more an informal thing.

    10. Pumpkin pie or pecan?

    11. What is your favorite thing to do with the leftovers?
    Turkey pot pie!

    12. How long will you spend eating your thanksgiving meal?
    We hang around the tables for an hour (not the kids-they exit when they're finished).

    13. Are you worried about putting on weight this Thanksgiving?

    14. What do you normally eat at Thanksgiving?
    Turkey, sage dressing, garden-fresh green beans, potato casserole, black olives, sweet potatoes with marshmellow topping, rolls, pie and lots of desserts!

    15. What will you be thankful for this Thanksgiving? 
    My family, my home, my friends (including you), great stories, coffee and pens

    16. What is your best Thanksgiving memory?
    About three years ago when my Uncle had a hayride, pony rides, a four-wheeler...we did more than just sit around that year.  It was a blast!

    17. Will you be waking up early to hit the sales?
    Yes, it's kind of a tradition.  I don't find as much for the kids as I used to since they're older but it's still fun.

    18. Are you planning on going shopping the day after Thanksgiving?
    Yes, Black Friday is fun!  Well, when you have sisters and friends to go with.

    Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your time off.

    November 23, 2009

    NaNoWriMo and the Grand Canyon

    My nails are scrawny nubs.  It's the last week of NaNoWriMo and I'm woefully behind.  It reminds me of the first time I met the Grand Canyon....{drifts into a procrastinating flashback}

    My family stood overlooking the expansive beauty of the Grand Canyon while I hung grippingly to the furthest rock away from the edge.

    "Isn't this something?" my husband asked.

    "Umm-hmm," I answered.  Beads of sweat lined my brow.

    We hiked up the path and while my children pointed out different aspects of the area, all I could see was the absence of a fence.  Anyone could step off into oblivion.  I made my husband promise to hold the hands of our two younger children, enlightening him on how to secure the death grip.

    My eleven year old daughter walked in front of me.  And everytime she crossed an inch over the center of the path, I cried out for her to get back in the middle.

    "This is great, huh?"  I said, trying to not seem so controlling.

    She shot me a look of exasperation. 

    I was making it miserable.  So I swallowed hard and tried not to call out again until she was at least two inches off the mark.  She clicked picture after picture while I avoided looking into the gap altogether. 

    My brain buzzed with dizziness and I didn't want to accidentally jump.  Something about being close to an edge always tempts me.  Not that I'm suicidal, it's just an impulse. And perhaps that's why I was so terrified.  I didn't trust myself to keep from skydiving minus a parachute.

    After an hour, we reached the top of our hike.  A path that merged into a simple bridge which led to a large, lookout boulder for tourists to take pictures.

    It seemed more like a place of insanity to me.  I froze.  Fear stole my voice as my husband neared the bridge.  I attempted to call out but only a sniveling whisper escaped my lips.

    He didn't hear me; didn't even turn around.  He stepped onto the bridge.  The handrail was simply two pipes with enough room between them for a toddler to crawl through.  I clinched my fists in terror as I watched my husband pull along my youngest daughter and son.

    My eldest daughter hadn't heard me either.  She strolled onto the bridge. 

    I thought nausea would overcome me. 

    She stopped at the center, pulled up the camera then bent against the railing to get a picture.

    Finding my voice, I screamed, "Get across the bridge!"

    Startled, she threw a scowl at me and hurried across.  Hindsight told me yelling probably wasn't the best decision.  Trembling, I sat in the crevice of a large rock as far away from the edge as I could.  I tried to focus on the little tree diagonal from me to gain perspective and calm my beating heart.

    Two older men came up the path.  I kept my eyes on the little tree.  When they got directly in front of me, they paused to take photos.  The buzz in my head grew stronger and the world began to swirl.  I blinked quickly.  One of the men took hold of the tree trunk I was gazing at.  He used it as leverage, leverage, and backed off the path.

    Were there no limits to this insanity?

    He took another step.

    With authority, I said, "Please, step away from the ledge!"

    The two men chuckled.  But then they caught sight of my panic-stricken face, and sobered.  He pulled himself back to the path and gave a little nod.

    "Of course, Ma'am.  I can see someone has a fear of heights."

    A desperate noise like broken laughter escaped my lips.  They skirted along the path quickly as if narrowly escaping the insane woman on the rock. 

    I heard my little boy's laugh.  He was chattering excitedly about what they'd seen.  When they reached me, my husband laid his hand on my shoulder in concern.  "Are you okay?"  I knew my ashen face and mascara-smeared eyes were telling.

    "I'm fine," I lied, trying to sound brave but coming out garbled.

    "Why didn't you go with us, Mommy?" my son asked.  He studied me a moment.  "Were you scared?"  He drew out the last word as if calling me a chicken.

    "A little."

    He took hold of my hand.  "You won't fall," he said, giving me a squeeze.  We walked down the sloping trail together.  He kept glancing at me to see if I was enjoying myself.  And for him I attempted, with great effort, to admire the view.  He was right, it was gorgeous.

    But despite the allure of the famous Grand Canyon, the most beautiful sight I saw that day was our car waiting patiently at the bottom of the path.

    {Back into reality with blank screen looming in front of me.}  I suppose this story has a moral.   If I can survive the Grand Canyon, I can survive NaNoWriMo.  Right?

    November 22, 2009

    Sunday Scribblings 190: Beauty

    At the school near the crosswalk, one side of the street is a drop off and the other side is not.  Friday morning, a car stopped on the wrong side stopping the flow of traffic (which sometimes happens to those who don't know the rules).  The mother jumped out of the passenger side and opened the back door for her student.

    "I'm sorry, Ma'am, they don't like you to drop off on this side--" I began, as I gripped my crosswalk stop sign.

    "I know."  She snapped, and pulled her little girl from the car.  "But thank you for telling me..."

    For a second I thought she was being sweet.  I smiled and nodded.

    "Because I wouldn't have known if you hadn't TOLD me," she finished sarcastically.

    My face fell.  I'm not a person who hides my feelings easily.  My face is sort of a neon sign for my emotions.  I really hate that.  She stomped past me marching her daughter to the school doors.  The person driving her vehicle turned around and came back to retrieve her on the proper side.  I thought of several choice things to say to her as she passed me again, but refrained.  However, I did allow myself to daydream I was a policeman handing her a hefty ticket.

    I hate to admit that it bothered me all day.  Which bothered me that it bothered me.

    That afternoon, I stood at the crosswalk again.  A beautiful woman holding a sweet newborn baby waited in a van a few feet from me.  I've seen her often. She walks past me almost every day to pick up her children and we always exchange pleasantries.  That day she went the extra mile.  She rolled down her window and began chatting.  She made the effort to find out my name.  She asked if my kids went to school here.  How did I like crosswalking?  Things like that.  She was...kind.

    It was soothing.

    And probably because her kindness stood in contrast with the hateful woman earlier that day--

    It was beautiful too.

    November 21, 2009

    The Thing About a Mudman is...

    My kids invented the mudman (above) when breezes were hot.  When they longed for snow and sparkling winter days.  They filled an empty flowerbed with water, stirring the dirt inside with a stick until it was nice and gooey.  Then they formed the lumpy-looking man.

    He doesn't have a scarf or carrot nose or a corn cob pipe.  His name isn't Frosty.  He's completely unknown, and made of mud.  Odd, misshapen, strange and unique.

    But the thing about a mudman is that he doesn't have to follow convention.  He is what he is.  He may never be recognized as great.  Most may see him as average at best.  But he doesn't mind.  He stands there with leaf eyes and billowing torso.  As tall as a mudman can stand.  He isn't hiding or wishing he was a snowman.

    He just is.

    Often (especially when plowing through the muck of my novel) I wish and dream of being something or someone else.  Someone whose writing comes easier.  Or who waxes more poetic.  More comedic.  More famous.  Brilliant.  Oh, and beautiful.  And organized.  AND able to keep her house pretty all the time.

    Do I ask too much?

    Sometimes I forget to just be.

    November 19, 2009

    The Hope Chest

    Mom called yesterday.  They're dividing everything at my Grandparent's house.  I couldn't help but think of the chest Papaw re-finished.  I sat with him for hours as he labored in the garage.  I loved that chest.  I talked about it so much that my husband bought me one for our first anniversary. 

    Papaw was playful and told spellbinding stories. He was so much fun.  I missed saying my last goodbye to him by thirty minutes.

    "I got you the chest," Mom said.

    I choked. 

    She continued, "I don't think they ever used it."  Tears began pouring down my face.  I pictured way Papaw had lovingly cared for it.

    Now it's coming to me--a gift from him.  Never used.

    I know it's just a thing.

    But I can touch it.  And it'll be like touching him again.

    November 16, 2009

    To Jump or Not to Jump?

    Ever want to jump ship?

    When I get half-way through my story, there's always a new idea perched on the bank beckoning to me.  It's so tempting...and fresh.  Looks like it has so much more potential than WIP.

    So I start thinking.  I could write much faster with THIS idea.  The ending would be so climactic...or the characters are so unique...

    I'm feeling that lure right now.  A good friend called me today asking how my NaNo novel was going.  I told her I liked it but didn't love it.

    "When do you ever love it?" she said, laughing.

    I puzzled over that.  Did I never love my stories?  Maybe they're dying from a lack of love.  Oh no!

    So I went back and re-read this.

    Don't worry little novel.  I won't give up on you!  I'll stay on this ship.

    November 15, 2009

    Tears and Dish Cloths

    I'm having such a good visit with my Grandmother.  Every night I tuck her into bed and we talk for a little while.  Each time it ends with her teary eyes as she thanks me for caring for her.  I can't help but get choked up along with her.  It's so SWEET!  AND THEN, to top that, there are only a few things she can still do for entertainment.  She does word searches, reads and knits.  Yesterday afternoon, she told me she wanted to give me something.  Out of her little knitting bag she pulled out a perfectly finished dish cloth.  "I want you to have this," she said.  I about cried.  Even with Alzheimer's, she's still so grateful and giving.

    Maybe that's what it means to get older and wiser.  You understand what's really important.

    I might add a character like in her in my NaNoWriMo story.  Perhaps that'll give it the boost it needs to get over the 25,000 word hump.  Of course that's nothing compared to Stephanie Perkins 14,000 in a DAY!  Zoowie!!

    November 13, 2009

    To Write Love on Her Arms

    "With the increasing number of people suffering from anxiety and depression, it has become important to find ways through which people will be able to lead a happy life and prevent themselves from attempting suicide or causing self-injury. On Friday, people in different parts of the world will take part in the non-profit movement “To Write Love On Her Arms”."

    I think TWLOHA is an outstanding organization and I just wanted to give a shout-out.

    November 12, 2009

    Crosswalk Police, Grandma and Writing

    I called the police about the crazy maniac driver.  They came to the school and sat in an out-of-way place fully hidden.  I was so excited that someone else would see this!  Then she came barreling up the side street where I could see her but they couldn't.  She almost ran the stop sign except a van cut her off.  She paused--long enough to spot the police.  UGH!  So she drove slow, staying in line and behaved herself.  I don't know whether to be frustrated or grateful.  Maybe she'll drive better knowing there COULD be policemen sitting there waiting. 

    I can hope.

    On a happier Grandmother is here for a visit.  My sister, uncle and I take turns watching her for a week every third month so my parents can have a break every month.  My Grandmother is such a sweet person.  Having her here reminds me of fudge, gum in cookie jars and great stories.  She doesn't talk much anymore but I can sometimes get her started when I bring up a memory from the past.  I hope I'll be as pleasant and peaceful as her someday.

    Still working on my manuscript situation and trying not to worry that I'm behind on my NaNoWriMo word count.  Still, as challenging as it can be, I won't lie...I love the thrill of it.

    November 11, 2009

    My Main Character's Doomed!

    I'm 17,000 words in.  I'm not re-doing.  Perhaps sleep would restore my creativity (the ultimate procrastination).

    I froze this time last November.  What is it about the second week of NaNoWriMo that makes my brain cease to work? 

    My main character's stuck in a precarious predicament and I have no idea how to get him out.  Poor little MC, he's doomed!

    Must.  Get.  More.  Coffee.

    November 10, 2009

    Crazy Killer Driver

    Every morning at the crosswalk (I'm the guard), I watch this one crazy lunatic driver speed in.  She passes all the other cars--barely missing most--and screeches to a stop at the front door.  She's almost side-swiped too many cars to count. 

    A few days ago, I stopped her and had a talk.  She was very agreeable and told me she'd be more careful.

    But this morning she outdid herself.

    Two pedestrians were walking across the parking lot.  She raced in at about 50mph.  I don't think she even saw them.  She SWERVED to miss one lady and almost HIT the other one.  It was SO CLOSE!! 

    I am done with her recklessness.  I'm calling the police.  Tomorrow morning I want them waiting for her.

    November 9, 2009

    Feeling Painty

    I don't know what it is about cleaning my house that makes me want to paint, but it does. I want a big, fat canvas to brush color on.  The only glitch is...I want it to be amazing on my first try.  Is that asking too much?

    It should be colorful and fun.  Adventurous and daring.  Not too overdone.

    But I'm not a painter.  I just dabble sometimes because it seems so romantic.

    Maybe I'll buy an ugly picture at Goodwill and paint over it.  Think I saw that done on a home improvement show.

    November 6, 2009

    The Set-Up

    I've been thinking lately about how we set ourselves up.  I have several different "set-ups". 

    When I think of my parenting skills, I compare myself to MY Mom.  She's a born organized person that keeps her house and life in great order.  Decorates for each season; takes tons of wonderful pictures; and always looks polished.  I, on the other hand, consider a room with a path to walk in clean; tennis shoes and jeans are my staples; and I inevitably FORGET my camera.

    As a writer, I tend to compare myself to the likes of Laini Taylor who is colorful and fun.  NOT to mention her amazing books.  I love her writing and imagination.  Mine is much simpler.  Or Jane Austin.  Her wit and artistic words astound me.  If be as timeless as she.  Or Rick Riordan.  I love the "voice" of Percy and all the exciting action.

    As a wife, I compare myself to several friends (of whom I won't mention here) who always seem to do it better than me.  More intimate dates.  More romantic surprises for their mates.  Letters of love.  And so forth and so on.

    So I set myself against these people and look rather dim.  Why do we do that?  Why do we compare?  Is it a born competition?  I don't know.  But I've been stewing over that fact and coming to a decision that I want to let go.  Stop the set-ups!  After all, I will never be that other person or live their journey.  I can only be myself.  Flawed, unique, bumbling, excited and climbing forward.  Me in all of my me-ness.

    November 3, 2009

    Crosswalk Characters

    I'm the crosswalk guard for an elementary school.  And don't tell anyone, but I LOVE it!  It's full of adventure and cuteness everyday.  Not to mention the amazing characters passing by.

    There's the sour-looking boy with long hair who never looked at me the first ten times I said a cheery hello.  Then, one week on Crazy Hat Day, he ventured to wear a tall, blue and white, Seuss-like hat.  I chuckled and told him I loved it.  He grinned.  I gasped and almost dropped the stop sign.  From then on, he said hello every morning.  Sometimes before I could say it to him!!  Double gasp.

    Then there is the fragile, petite boy with huge glasses.  He mutters quietly to himself and when I greet him he seems surprised.  Like he didn't notice I was there.  Then he smiles an innocent smile and returns my greeting.  I have to resist the urge to give him a big squeezy hug.

    One little girl strolls by who is full of purpose and direction.  She's the kind of child all the others listen to.  She's dressed impeccably everyday--though not in a snobby way.  It's more...a unique fashion all her own.  She looks me in the eyes and talks to me like we're both adults.  She smiles politely and tells me how she loves my rain boots but she wouldn't like standing in the rain.  She has the confidence I'd love to own.

    And then there is the little girl who seems too young to be walking alone but never seems afraid.  She notices the world around her in magnified form.  She giggles at everything I say to her and always tells me a tidbit from her day.  "This is the pumpkin I decorated today.  It's a girl clown."  Things like that.  And I have to wonder if there's anyone listening to her anywhere else.

    But that brings me back to why I love being a crossing guard.  Who could resist being among such interesting characters?  Even if these little ones don't get a smile for the rest of the day, I'll give them one after school and the morning after that, and the afternoon after that. 

    Sigh.  I love guarding the crosswalk.

    November 2, 2009

    NaNoWriMo Has Begun!

    What a rush to know writers all over the world are starting their novels!  Even more fun is imagining a novel complete in just one month.  Well--the rough draft anyways.  But that's the hardest part!  Plunking away through the jungle of a story is the most thrilling AND the most intimidating.

    Anna Myers says the rough draft is where people often quit.  So...if I actually write 50,000 words this month, then I'm ahead.  Right?

    Of course right!

    (Only 45,432 words to go.)

    October 28, 2009

    The Joy of Reading

    Reading another person's work is so inspiring.  Whether it's a manuscript to be critiqued or a new-found book, I thrill at seeing a stack of pages.  And I never walk away empty.  Even if it's written by a novice writer, I always, ALWAYS learn something.

    Now for my cup of coffee.  I've got some pages to read.

    October 27, 2009

    The One Thing

    Remember the movie City Slickers?  There's a line in it where the old cowboy is giving the city slicker a piece of advice.  He tells him the secret to life is one thing.  But we have to figure out what that one thing is.

    So I've decided that the secret of my future-artistic-life rests on one thing (for this month anyway)--the dishes.

    I resolve to wash my dishes every day.

    To load and reload.

    To go to infinity and beyond!

    October 26, 2009

    Merging from a Caterpillar

    Sometimes I dream of a clutter-free, vibrant-colored house. Clear of junk. But homey. Paint brushes standing in adorable little cans. A tiny laptop I can carry without twisting my spine out of place. Dainty decorated boxes full of luscious pictures/papers waiting to be cut and glued any way I wish onto thick journals. Pens from PenPlace neatly lined on my bookshelf. Flowers and vegetables blooming in the backyard without a single weed in sight. Comfy couches on the front porch sitting beside a flaming chiminea.

    Doesn't it sound cozy?

    I want it.

    But, I'm the last person to attempt it. I'm the girl who withOUT kids had a messy house. Granted, I've come a long way--thank you Flylady. There are clear paths in all the rooms of the my house (except maybe the girl's bathroom) but at least I've improved.

    Unfortunately I've hit a wall. My clean only goes so far and then it's done. I can't seem to get past the managing line to the zowie! line.

    I've decided (upon the advice of a wonderful friend) to combine something I love (writing) with something I hate (cleaning). And I'm going to blog about my progress. Be it small or large. I'll work to release the artist within. I'll let her be free in my stories, my body, and my home.

    So if you have any tips on how to get cobwebs permanently off ceiling fans, weeds out of a rock garden or any other juicy tidbits...please share!

    October 8, 2009

    Quote from Stargirl

    "She was illusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.” Leo

    September 29, 2009

    Inspiration Wildfire

    I have a few friends I share my writings with for feedback. Recently, I also gained a critique partner in the children's field. Very helpful. I was reading one of her stories today. It made me want to sit right down and begin writing.

    What is it about the creative juices of another that spark something in you? So many books have done that for me. Upon closing the last pages, I find myself drawn to the computer or notebook to write my own tales.

    I hope my stories do that someday. Here's to sparking a wildfire.

    September 16, 2009

    Job or Hobby?

    I've enjoyed focusing on my book and writing for leisure. But with the economic market going crazy, I've decided to try making money at it. If I need a job, why not make work in the writing industry, yeah? Yes, (sigh) I know the quote about the starving artist. Don't like it.

    I'm setting my sights on more than fiction. Learning about the huge market of non-fiction, it seems the lucrative path to pursue. History is part of that option so...being that I LOVE history, I may actually enjoy it. And since 1/2 of all the books I read are "how-to", maybe I was born to do this.

    We'll see...I'll let you know. I've got lots of stories, articles and queries out there right now. Well, a lot for me. For a month I've been sending 2-5 of them each week. With fingers crossed plowing the mail carrier each day, maybe there's a check coming soon.

    Hey, what's a writer without an imagination?

    March 5, 2009

    Happy Reading!

    I love reading. I suppose all writers do. Lately I've read lots of new books for the Library Adult Reading Program; and am soaking in thier beautiful words along with the nail-biting stories.

    It always refreshes me as a person. I'm happier and nicer to be with when I'm in the midst of a great story. Like the beginning of a new love, opening the fresh pages of a novel seems like finding a new life.

    These are some of my newest reads:

    Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - Take Twilight, make the vampires fairies, subtract over mushy plotline and add better writing--voila, you've got this book. It's wonderful!

    Magyk by Angie Sage - Likeable, daring, suspenseful and of course, dotted with magic! I rooted for the main characters right away--no one is too perfect but all delightfully brave. The book is not too dark, so it's great for young audiences.

    Stolen by the Sea by Anna Myers - This book had me from page one. It's based on a hurricane in Galveston during the early 1900's. The suspense was wonderfully drawn and the time period believable. Beautiful story of friendship sewn together with tragedy.

    When great books feed me, I find creative ideas spilling over the riverbanks. I must go write. Happy Reading!