Monday, December 29, 2014

My Favorite Things...

As 2014 closes (thankfully!), I'm doing a little retrospective. I'm not going to list my favorite books or best places, because those things can change day to to day, but my favorite things overall.

(In no order of preference)

1- The rescuing of a person or animal. When someone risks his or her life to save a stranger, or an animal in distress, my heart melts and I really feel hope that the human race will ascend to a higher level.

2- Good news stories. These are uplifting both spiritually and emotionally, and I think we need more of these. If news stations had a segment on good things (no, not celeb news, please!) but about and by average people, I think it would make us all more thoughtful people.

3- Music. How can anyone say that music isn't the greatest gift to humanity? It inspires, soothes, excites, incites, and one tune can forever change a life. Everyone can appreciate it in one of its many forms.

4- Language. Birds can whistle a tune, whales can sing; animals have music. Only people have written/read words. Once a bird dies, it's song will never be heard, but books and the printed word can be read over and over for centuries. And everyone has the capacity to read and write.

5- Mother Earth. This planet is a universe of wonder in itself. There are mountains, oceans, deserts, rivers, plains, farmlands, lakes, and caves. There are abundant varieties of people, animals, and plants. Sunsets and sunrises mark our days. Storms and earthquakes and upheavals constantly change our world. And it really infuriates me when companies and individuals treat the Earth as their personal property or garbage dump.

6- Family. Whether they are related by blood or connection (or both), family keeps us grounded, picks us up, works our emotions--and keeps us tied to our humanity.

7- Faith. Whether we believe in one god, many, none, the power within ourselves, or something entirely different, faith keeps us going when we're ground into the dirt, drowning in despair. From within or without, faith is something that I have and it's important and personal to me.

8- Science. What is more amazing than seeing pictures of supernovas from the Hubble Space Telescope? Or learning that some dread disease has a cure? Science is our friend and we must embrace true science, because it will be our lifesaver.

9- Art. When I see Van Gogh's Starry Night, I'm breathless. It's not the most expensive painting, some may argue not the best, nor is it an exact depiction of a starry night. It's Van Gogh's impression and it stirs something in my soul. So does a Pulitzer prize winning photo of firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero. Life without art would leave an empty space within each of us and all the world.

10- An Unforgettable Act. One year for Christmas, my stepdad handed me an envelope. It was big enough to be a stock certificate (nope), a deed (if only), or an itinerary for a tropical vacation (hah, good one). It was a gift certificate, hand-drawn, from him to me--for 40 hours of labor. My husband and I had a lot of work that needed to be done on our first house. We both worked full time and went to school at night part-time. Weekends were spent doing laundry, food shopping, homework, mowing the lawn, etc. It would have taken us years to get everything done. But my stepdad zipped through our list. It was hard work: painting, repairing, cleaning, etc. It was the best gift I ever got because his time was more valuable than a store gift certificate.

And that's my list. What's your favorite things?


Monday, December 22, 2014

Alice... Lost in Space

Early this fall, Leap Books announced a call for YA short stories about Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland to celebrate the 150th anniversary of that children's classic. All stories had to feature Alice, with the White Rabbit as a protagonist in an anthology called BEWARE THE  LITTLE WHITE RABBIT.

I'm in!

My short story is called Alice Through the Wormhole and in it, a futuristic Alice speeds through the cosmos because the White Rabbit has taken something precious from her...

So imagine Alice like this- forget the pinafore, the patent leather shoes, and falling down the rabbit hole, this Alice is kickass and she'll chase that rabbit across the universe if she has to...

Stay tuned for more details!

(pictures courtesy of NASA Hubble and

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sending Some Your Way...

No, I'm not going to share my cold/cough/bronchitis (although I'd be just delighted if you took it). I'm sending you a moment of niceness. We need it desperately right now- in our world, our nation, our town, maybe even in our own families or ourselves. So, take a few moments to just BE; no worrying about edits, holiday errands, work, troubles, etc. Whether you celebrate the holidays or not,  inhale deeply, think of something joyful, and let go of stress.

It won't last long because of busyness of our lives, but it only takes a moment to appreciate all the good things.



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Going Into Survival Mode....

This is what Thanksgiving looked like:

The food began with the antipasto:

(Obviously my husband is Italian, so we started with this traditional dish before we moved to the pasta, then the turkey, then dessert.) When we were finished (six and a half hours later) this is what I felt like:

Now the Christmas/Channukah/New Year's season has begun. I love the holidays, but yes, they can be a bit frantic. There is so much I want to do: see concerts, decorate, get together with friends, visit family, revise that NaNoWriMo novel, do well at books signings, etc. Sometimes it can make a person anxious, depressed, angry, sad, exhausted, disappointed, and/or afraid. For those of us with loved ones-family or friends-who suffer from a chronic condition, whether it's a physical or mental illness, it's important to keep a handle on things that are stressors. The National Alliance on Mental Illness put together these guidelines which they share every holiday season and I want to pass along to everyone:

1)      Talk with one another about your expectations of the holiday season. In particular ask your loved one what they envision as the best scenario and then discuss your own… make concessions on both sides and have a plan for dealing with problems.
2)      Anticipate problem areas such as situations that your relative (and you) cannot handle well.
3)      Make some strategic plans for handling these potential hot spots.
4)      Remember, visitors can always rent a hotel room. Neither you nor they have to stay with extended family. Limit time exposed to relatives or friends that hurt more than help.
5)      Develop a secret code that means “get me out of here!”
6)      Don’t let adult children fall back into the “child” role when visiting.
7)      Don’t over-schedule yourselves.
8)      Work on creating good memories.
9)      Start new family traditions. Do what is most comfortable.
10)   Remember to focus on your relationships and not on getting things done.
11)   Make time to have fun or attain peace and quiet.
12)   If there’s something you really don’t want to do during the holidays, say so.
13)   Be gentle with yourself. The ideal holiday doesn’t exist.
14)   Don’t compare yourself with others, or judge yourself or others.
15)   Find a place where you can be completely alone each day even if it is just for a little while and retreat.
16)   Prioritize what is important – Eliminate what is not.
17)   Learn the difference between complaining that relieves tension and complaining that causes it.
18)   At the end of each day focus on what is good.
19)   As you fall asleep make a realistic mental list of what is crucial to be accomplished next day. You really should blank on this one because nothing beats taking care of yourself and your loved one and avoiding stress is important.
20)   Learn to say NO, thank you.
21)   Holiday cards … not really necessary … or just write them out as you get them from others if it bothers you.
22)   Gifts … does anyone really need another kitchen gadget? Give the gift of time or food. Discuss in advance that you won’t be exchanging gifts, very understandable in this current economic environment.
23)   Decorations … keep it simple. Don’t make work for yourself unless it is a source of relaxation and pleasure.
24)   Visitors, company … Holidays are too intense. See them after holidays. Set aside a time. Large crowds can be disturbing and bring about different opinions and expectations. Our ill relatives don’t understand that when company is there your attention has to be focused on them.
25)   Go out and do something different … go to a movie, walk in a park, ride the ferry. You do not need to do anything.
26)   Make plans that exclude your ill relative – if it is ok with them then it should be ok with you. Guilt should not be part of the decision.
Some helpful websites:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness

PsychCentral holiday survival guide:

Psychology Today holiday tips:

There is nothing to 'celebrate' if we're miserable, so I wish you all a comfortable, peaceful, holiday.


Artwork courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art
Holiday list courtesy of NAMI of Somerset County

Monday, November 24, 2014

It is... finished.

Yay! I'm done! My NaNoWriMo novel is finished. Now before you get green faced, let me explain that this is a middle grade novel, which means that 50,000 words is a tad long. Yes, there are MG books that are that long-and longer, but this one won't be. That doesn't mean there won't be more words to add--there will be as I fine tune my research (questions always pop up about tiny details that you need to have answered). And as I revise, I'll find sections that need more description or clarification.

And before you think thoughts of me being an over-achiever because I finished well before time (this is such a crazy month- WHO picked November? Wouldn't the doldrums of January have been better? Or the emptiness of February? The isolation of March?) Let me tell you that my novel currently stands at 28,741 words.

Don't scream that I'm cheating- I've worked on a short story (which adds another 4,272 words to my  count because hey, it's writing and I had to get it in under deadline and I'm counting it), kept up (pretty much) with my blog posts, and dabbled in a few other things that didn't contribute to my word count. (I didn't add Facebook or Twitter chatter, emails, or texts, even if writing related either.) All that might total up to 50,000.

The purposed of National Novel Writing Month is to write that novel--which I have done so I have achieved the goal. This is an historical fiction and I see it as a two year project. More research,  revisions, and writing are required before I even breathe a word to my agent. Last year's NaNo project, Lethal Dose, is currently making submission rounds, and a middle grade project I finished just prior to starting NaNoWriMo 2014 is with a critique group. I have a lot of work to do.

But that's another facet of NaNoWriMo; to get you used to writing/working consistently. No one does the same amount every day, but to write everyday (okay, I slacked off when I was sick, but there were days I wrote double the guideline of 1,700 words), I have achieved this.

So I'm calling this a win: novel drafted and finished, wrote almost every day.

How is your NaNo journey going?


Monday, November 17, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and the Really Nasty

The Good: I have a great idea for my NaNoWriMo project.
The Bad- I'm stuck on the title and how to connect to the ending.
The Nasty- I'm 3 days behind.

The Good- I'm over my intestinal infection.
The Bad- I have bronchitis, horrible sore throat, and congestion.
The Nasty- all that green gunk coming out of my lungs and sinuses.

The Good- I have antibiotics to clear up the green gunk.
The Bad- I've had so many antibiotics lately my gastro tract feels like I've gotten punched in the gut.
The Nasty- Bathroom issues, 'nuff said.

The Good- I made it through our bell performance at church yesterday with only 2 missed notes.
The Bad- The performance was in the middle of the service so I had to sit, sick, in church while I waited to play.
The Nasty- I forgot my son at church and had to send someone to pick him up.

The Good- It's not snowing.
The Bad- It's a driving, dripping, rain.
The Nasty- Had to go out to doctor's and pharmacist in it.

The Good- I have 2 kitties, a fireplace, and a cup of tea.
The Bad- I have to hunt down the kitties for a snuggle, go downstairs for the fireplace, and my teacup is empty.
The Nasty- I just want to pass out from exhaustion, but there's so much to do.

The Good- (all out)
The Bad- (too many more to list)
The Nasty- It's Monday


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Catching Up--and Sprinting Ahead

I'm ahead on my NaNoWriMo word count. By the estimate on the NaNo site, I should be done by November 29th.

I want to be done sooner.

No, I'm not trying to overachieve, or hoping to say I was the first done, or gloat when others talk about the daily word struggle.

I'm antsy. I see the story and I just want it written because there are story ideas lining up, like airplanes on the tarmac, waiting for takeoff.

I don't think I'll live long enough to write all the stories from ideas that are jotted down in my notebooks, swimming in my head, or that invade my dreams. So many ideas, not enough time... Even if I lived to be 100 (and there's a very good likelihood of that since I come from a line of long-lived relatives), I still won't have enough time. Immortality, which is sadly unobtainable, would be the only way I could write down everything. Maybe.

Stuck? Hey, so was I, two days ago. How did I get past it? Did I mull it over while doing something else? No, my garden is nothing but dead stuff and that's usually where I do my mulling. Now it's just a place to be depressed until spring. I can't sit in front of the words on my laptop when I don't know what comes next. That just frustrates me and makes the writer's block seem insurmountable.

So I just skipped it. I went around the blockade, the writer's wall of doom.

There was a scene that would come later in the book so I just started writing from there. Eventually I'll have to stitch them together, but as Aragorn says in The Lord of the Rings when the companies of Middle Earth are about to face doom at Sauron's gate and their courage may fail, "Today is not that day." I'll worry about piecing it all together on a snowy cold day in January when I start serious edits. (December is off limits for editing and writing if I can get away with it. If a book deal comes through that requires revisions, well, I'll hop to it.) But for now, writing that scene has jumped started the creative pulses and the race is on to finish. And as I wrote, my head swirled with how to incorporate the new scene into the manuscript. Sometime it does come together that easily, other times, not.

The successful hurdle of this block has let me stay in the race at my own pace. I'll wait for you at the finish line--unless you beat me there first.

Keep writing, and NaNo NaNo!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just. Do. It.

Yeah, you're busy. Who isn't?
I understand- you don't like/trust/want any of the candidates offered to win. That's the choice.
You feel your vote doesn't matter. Past elections prove you wrong.
Why did we fight two wars for independence (Revolutionary War, War of 1812- read your history) if you're not going to use the rights you have? That's like spending all your money on a fancy car--and letting it sit in the garage, unused.

Get off your lazy duff and exercise- your body, your mind, and your rights.

In some countries, voting your conscience is a death penalty. Be defiant- VOTE.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Racers, To The Starting Line!

Okay all you brave souls, it's


NaNoWriMo 2014!
Are you ready?
Have you: signed up at NaNoWriMo ?
Written a cursory outline of your project?
Gathered all the materials you'll need?
Stocked up on comfort foods so you don't have to stop in the midst of inspiration?
Warned everyone that you'll be crazy at least once a day until you write?
Surrounded yourself with pictures, objects, texts to help you through a block?
Reminded yourself that it's about writing, not about perfection, and that if you don't finish, you're still a good person?
So many people are doing this. You are NOT alone. Reach out if you're struggling. Let's all cheer each other along. There is no prize other than personal satisfaction and knowing that unlike so many people who talk about writing, you're actually DOING it.
I'll be posting here and there (I won't be counting my blog as part of my NaNoWriMo word count because it's not my project), so I may miss a day or two.
Come December 1st, let's all catch up, take a breather and push off any revisions until January when there are no holidays and only long stretches of winter which is perfect for going back to work.
Until Saturday....

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bully For You!

It's October: National Anti-bullying Month.
In a discussion, you express your opinion on Facebook or Twitter and someone responds with a nasty, personal attack on you.

At the lunch table in school, your smart friend makes fun of you for getting a lower score on a test.

Your dad calls you a loser because you didn't make that score at the game.

Returning a paper with a failing grade, your teacher says you're the worst student she's ever had.

They are all bullies: that FB person, that friend, that father, that teacher. There was nothing constructive in their comments. The comments were meant to hurt, not to help.

October is Anti-Bullying Month. Almost all of us can share stories about being bullied. The more we talk and think about this issue, the sooner we can help end it.

Let's all be a hero- starting with ourselves.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Bwahahahahahahahaha! Did I Scare You?

It's time for Halloween!

Some of us love it, hate it or are obsessed with it. In the spirit of a happy medium. I'm taking a simple poll: What are your fave scary/Halloween movies? The categories, and my humble opinion, are:

Vampires: My absolute is Dracula, with Frank Langella (1979). Why? Because he made evil attractive, and death a nuisance- a trait I think humans maybe too gladly embrace. (But I was torn with Underworld Evolution (2006- loved Kate Beckinsale!)

Werewolves: Without a doubt, The Howling (1981). Dee Wallace is blithely ignoring danger signals--we know what's lurking in the woods. The best scene is when someone is in the psychiatrist's office, spying, and a werewolf hand reaches over to take the file. OMG.

Zombies: This is a toss up: I adored Warm Bodies (2013) because no matter how evil a person is perceived to be (aka R in the movie) we all think (and hope) that there is a spark of humanity in the worst of us. The other choice is Zombieland (2009). It shows that it's not always might--but basic common sense--that determines who lives. And, I like how the gals are not screaming, helpless twits who constantly need to be saved or are the victims.

Mummies: Without a doubt I don't think there is any competition--it has to be The Mummy (1999) with Brandon Fraser. Although, I would love to see a movie of Anne Rice's Rameses The Damned. I think it has potential to be the best mummy movie ever.

Witches/witchcraft: This is a hard one because you have funny movies like Hocus Pocus (1993, and the sequel coming!) or dramatic ones like Practical Magic (1998), but I'd have to choose The Witches of Eastwick (1987) because again, it all starts out so innocently...

Ghost: I could go the romantic route with Patrick Swayze in Ghost (1997), because we'd all love to believe our loved ones could touch our lives once more before moving on to a paradise. But for pure scare I nominate The Woman In Black (2012) with Daniel Radcliffe because of the ending. Others, like the Paranormal series, made me squeal, but I think this movie portrayed the essential elements of a ghost story- fright, uncertainty, doubt in one's mental state- and the important twist at the end.

Haunted place: The Legend of Hell House (1973) ties with The Shining (1980). Both creeped me out because you never knew if the person next to you was caught up in the weird occurrences--until it's too late.

Now there are lots of movies that were more frightening, but I chose these for the overall feel of believability (although I don't think there ever will be zombies, vamps, werewolves, etc.), because sometimes we're not sure if it's real or just our imagination...


Have a Happy Halloween!


(All pics courtesy of Microsoft)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Seeing Red...

It's been a crazy week, and the next two are going to be just as frantic. So I'm going to take a little breather and give us all a few moments of serenity and beauty:

Take a deep breath:

Close your eyes:

And just be in the moment:

Enjoy life. It's not all work. It's not all writing. It's not all doing everything that needs to be done immediately. It's about living.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Time for a Change...

I'm making a change to my blog; Fridays will become "Fiction Fridays" in which I will host a fiction writer. They may be brand new or established, but they will always be interesting. There may not be a new one every week, but I am happy for interested writers to message me (through my blog, FB, Twitter, email, or phone) if they would like to appear.

I've occasionally featured writers, but I'm very happy to have as my first in this new endeavor:

by my friend, Darlene Beck Jacobsen, fellow Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators member, and a hardworking writer.
Darlene loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head.  Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs.  She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.
            Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties.  She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day. Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters.  Check out her website here:

I asked Darlene a few questions so that you could get to know her book better:
What was the most surprising thing you learned in your research?

The biggest surprise was discovering how Washington DC looked at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Even though it was the nation’s capital and center of government, it was very rural. With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce - there was only gas lighting and no electricity. Indoor plumbing was still a novelty. Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies. Many goods were still made by hand. Those facts were instrumental in helping me set the scene and render an accurate time and place.
Did your research give you ideas for a sequel or other books?

I don’t envision a sequel to Emily’s story.  Her tale has been told.  It might be fun to find out what happens to Emily’s nemesis, Beatrice Peabody and her family.  How does Mrs. P survive the changes coming to her family as Beatrice discovers a different life at boarding school – a life away from her domineering mother.
What fascinated you about this subject/era most?

There was so much change that took place in such a short time.  From 1900 to WWI, people witnessed the birth of automobiles, airplanes, electricity, factory made goods, train travel across the continent, telephones, and modern conveniences such as canned foods, vacuum cleaners, washers and dryers and the like. Some of the changes were exciting as well as frightening. I tried to convey that ambivalence in the story.
Would you want to live in the era, or be your character?

Life was very difficult for girls and women 100 years ago. So much time and energy was spent in completing everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and childcare. Women kept households running, but had little or no say in how they spent their own lives. It took two world wars for women to test their own courage and break away from the strict confines of home and out into the working world. Thanks to our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, our choices are unlimited.

What sources did you use in your research?

Primary sources included an invitation my grandmother received to a reception held by Teddy Roosevelt, a letter from the National Archives confirming that she met the President. I read his personal letters, visited a working buggy museum and forge, read numerous books on American culture at the turn of the century, corresponded via e-mail to experts at the Smithsonian, Sagamore Hill, Historical Society of DC and others whenever I had questions. I also perused old cookbooks, maps, Sears Catalogs, and newspapers to get a feel for the era. 

Here's a link to her book trailer:            
Kirkus Reviews says: "The strength of the text lies in Jacobson’s ability to evoke a different era and to endear readers to the protagonist. The prose is straightforward and well-researched, heavily peppered with historical references and containing enough action to keep readers’ attention."
 So stop by and say hello to Darlene and check out her book.

And remember, if you're a fiction author and want to be featured her on a Friday, let me know! (Please keep in mind that I write for middle grade, young adult, and new adult. Romance okay, erotica no.)


Monday, September 22, 2014

F word in review...


Yeah, I use the F word occasionally. Like when you fall on your butt while hiking and break your tailbone. It's almost expected and anticipated that you're going to let loose the F bomb.

But in book reviews?

I'm not a fan.

I understand some people are very free with the word, that's their style. But if you're judging me on my writing and style, you need to show some. I mean, how can anyone take you seriously if your vocabulary is constrained by constant F bomb usage?

And if it's in your novel dialogue, I understand if that's part of the character, but constantly wading through a stream of them does not add substance to the writing, it detracts from it. I think of prison criminals or street thugs yakking it up when there are more than a few.

When my sons let loose the flying Fs, I always tell them that it shows lack of imagination, especially when they are using it in context with someone being, well, an asshole. It's so mundane. Boring. Trite. Unimpressive. All good insults are those which the person being insulted isn't aware they were until they think about it. Think of Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: "I don't know half of you as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." I still giggle over that one, and wish I had an opportunity to use it. Maybe at my own eleventy first birthday.

Then there are the tee shirts with that word or other obscenities printed on them. Okay, you made your point, "Look at me. Gasp. Be offended." Because sometimes, we are offended. Especially when my kids were younger, I didn't want to go to a theme park and see that or worse. I still don't like to see it. Wear it at home and annoy your family.

In the end, repetitious use is like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds..." which means if you can only do the same thing over and over (i.e. dropping the F bomb) you're not too bright.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Put It On The List

To Do

  • vacuum
  • put pool stuff away
  • paint shed window
  • caulk kitchen counter
  • clean all curtains/drapes
This is just part of one of many lists. I like lists. They help me keep order, taming the chaos of so many things that need to get done. With a list, I can see exactly what needs to be done, which task is more important, which one I can do in a certain time frame, and add on whenever something new needs to be done.

And it lets me see the satisfaction of accomplishment with every item I cross off. Sure, some days only one thing gets eliminated--but it's a big one, like 'finish manuscript edits.' And then there are days with lots of cross offs--like make a phone call, send a particular email, dust the living room furniture. They are easy-peasey things, but I still feel good when they are done. 

I have lists for everything: household chores, errands to run, signings to set up, writing tasks, yardwork, etc. It's a great matter of pride to crumple up a list that has nothing left undone. 

Do you use lists? If not, what works for you? Share it with us.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Namely, Cheating.

Not a very original title for a post about naming your characters. Plus, I've done posts where I've interviewed a number of YA authors (some VERY well known) about how they go about naming their characters. Some have complex rules about syllables in the first name than last, some mix and match sounds, some do research for cosmic significance, some go through the family tree, etc.

I'm too lazy. Plus, (shhh!  a secret here-) not everyone in the family deserves to be in one of my novels or the character with their name would tick them off because no one wants to be the bad guy/gal. Avoid using family names, it can only lead to trouble.

So I cheat. Rather, I like to call it Inspirational Smack. When I need a name for a main character, I watch a movie or TV show.

No, I don't steal famous names. I steal names from the credits. Really. Sometimes a name just jumps out at you and smacks me in virtual face, it's so perfect. I read the names that scroll after a show ends, and get an endless source of unusual, typical, ethnic, and cross cultural names. Watch the wide screen and let Hollywood do the work for you. It's like walking through Macy's and seeing the most perfect pair of shoes; out of all the others, one pair seems to shine, drawing your eye and you know it's the perfect choice. Plus, these are real people getting credit for working so you have a valid case when someone says "No one would name their child that!" Yes they do, and it's in black and white, out in cyberspace.

 And your character has been given an imaginary birth certificate with a legal name.

But don't stop there. Even if you have all your characters' names, you'll be writing more novels or stories, right? Start a list of names that just grab you. That's how I got the name for my main character in my sci fi, Lethal Dose. His name is Dalen. I saw the name in a book of baby names and knew that one day I'd need it for one of my works. It was on my list for several years and now has a body.

That's another great source: a baby name book. (I'm sure most of you know this.) I flip through the pages and when I see a moniker I like (other than the common ones like Sarah or Michael or Chris which I can just pull out of my head because we're surrounded by people with those names) I put it on the list. Then it's just a matter of picking a last name that fits. Sometimes zipping through the phone book can help, although I don't particularly like that method- it's too time consuming. You have to go through all the A's, B's, etc.

So, take the easy way out. Watch TV or a movie and solve one of the biggest problems of being an author: finding the perfect name for your character.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Resting From Your Labors

And I'll be doing just that- once I put up this post, make the bed, clean the cat box, get food for the college son, and work out what's for dinner.

Wishing you all a relaxing, labor-free day because when i return next Monday, it's Back to Work!


Monday, August 25, 2014


Strange title and post for a voracious reader and an author, isn't it?

We all have our favorite genres, and even some not-so-favorites that we occasionally read. However, there are some lines that I cannot cross. Maybe that makes me narrow-minded, but there is nothing you can say to convince me to read certain books:

- computer tech manuals, although I think I need the "Social Media For Dummies" one. (Does it even exist?) I can do basic Twitter, blogspot, Facebook, and now I'm adding Pinterest, but I'm still confused and juvenile on these sites. I have to get more desperate before I'll pick up a tech manual (that's what I have sons for).

-books where I know people will suffer and die. Sorry, I can't watch or read "The Fault In Our Stars" because I know it's heartbreaking. If I read a book and there's a sudden death, like Dumbledore near the end of the Harry Potter series, I can deal--I must so I can finish reading. But to pick up a book, no matter how beautifully written, knowing that is going to wrench my heart? (especially when the subject matter hits too close to home or is one of my biggest fears?) Nope, can't do it.

-any book that involves the abuse, torture, or killing of children. I'm a mother of three and after reading The Lovely Bones, although it was handled in an excellent manner--NO. It will give me nightmares and I don't read to be upset to that degree.

-anything political. No matter how good the journalist, everything is skewed. We can't help it, we're imperfect people and our own agendas come into play. Plus, I believe there is no more objectivity in reporting now. Just watch any news show. Everyone is biased.

-black magic, satanic, or similar stuff. Yes, I'm a Christian, but I read plenty of fiction that deals with these subjects and I can disassociate my beliefs from the story. But books about this stuff in real life? NO- it freaks the hell out of me. I believe in evil, and that it exists both in our world and in people. I don't want to invite it into my life.

-literary essays. I find the language pretentious, dull, and frankly, I had enough of it in college. Who cares if there's another viewpoint that says Shakespeare stole all his work from another? They're all dead, can't change that, and it's only opinion.

-management, corporate life, and such. I bailed out of the corporate world. For good.

-books that are an insult to someone else, to justice, to peace. No way will I read OJ Simpson's book because he was trying to make money off a horrendous event--at the expense of the Brown and Goldberg families. (Makes me even more convinced of his guilt if he could do that.) I won't read anything that denigrates women, my country, authors, religion, and anything else I hold close to my heart. Constructive criticism is one thing, pure malice is another.

-anything that is so boring I can't get past the first few chapters. I don't care if it's a huge bestseller and people tell me "it gets better." There are too many great books out there I want to read and wasting my time on a dense book is something I won't do.

I think that's a pretty extensive list of 'won't read.' There are other categories that I limit how much I read of them, like autobiographies. The person has to interest me (self-aggrandizing people are tedious), even if I find them abhorrent, like Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson. I'm curious about what makes them who they were, but I can only take so much. Another category is the legal thriller. After a while, they seem to blend, but I like a good one now and then.

Is there something YOU won't read? Not even if everyone else is reading it? Not even if someone dragged you over hot coals? Tell me about it.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Get Thee to a Bookshelf...

I read a post on Twitter about how many books students working toward an English degree have to read. The person counted about 150, but that also included books for the other subjects. I'm not going to bore you (and myself) counting all the books I read for my English degree (nor do I want to), but instead, I'm going to list some of my faves (not all of them were required reading, some were for fun and maybe shouldn't count, but I'm putting them in anyway):

English Romantic Poetry. Ah, how can anyone not love On the Grasshopper and the Cricket by John Keats. Or The Nightingale by William Taylor Coleridge. Lord Byron's, She Walks in Beauty is swoony romantic. There are lots more, but moving on...

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One of my all-time absolute faves. You don't have to be a Christian to understand and appreciate the messages of charity, hospitality, fairness, generosity, and compassion that are required of all of us as human beings.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is science with scare and caution in an eloquent tale. I'm a big fan of Mr. Stevenson.

Oscar Wilde's The Strange Case of Dorian Gray has been made into several movies. It's kind of like the the artist's version of Jeckyll and Hyde.

While I could never be as composed as Jane Austen (I'm a Scorpio, we tend to run emotionally amuck at times), I love her passion. And it doesn't end like a Disney-princess story, which annoys me a bit about modern books. Humans have less perfect endings, yet so many books have the opposite. I'd write a book with a realistic, bad ending, but no one--agent, editor, reader--would probably want it.

I took a class in Arthurian literature and the bible of that class was Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. I loved the female perspective which gave it a deeper feel than the traditional male-let's sword fight-woo the damsel-save the kingdom feel. It really gave me my first connection to feminism.

My list could never be complete without J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings opus. It is the almost quintessential book for me. (The only holdback is that Tolkien, a man of his times, neglects to include both strong female characters and the female perspective.)

Although it doesn't shine as much as her beloved Interview With a Vampire or The Vampire Lestat, my favorite of Anne Rice's works is Rameses The Damned, Or, The Mummy. Anne makes me feel the dry heat of the desert seeping under archaeological tents, or a body freezing with fear as Rameses stalks his enemies. Love, love, love. I keep leaving comments on Facebook (cause, we're like, 'friends') for her to do a sequel. So far, I'm being ignored.

One last one: The Secret, by Julie Garwood. Yes, it's an historical romance but it's wonderfully written and reading Garwood's novels helped me learn how to write dialogue. (Some novels fail miserably at this.)

As you can see, I'm not pinned down by any one genre. And that's great because when I leave one for a while to try something new, I come back and rediscover why I liked that first genre. It becomes fresh again. So maybe you should re-visit some of those novels you read in high school or college (or soon after) that you liked or loved. (I don't waste my time re-reading novels I hated, hoping I'll like them again. I won't.)

There's nothing like revisiting an old friend.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Stop The Presses!

Some of you have seen my Facebook posts about reading a book I picked up from BEA (Book Expo America) about 2 years (maybe more?) ago. It's an adult western/paranormal/romance.

And you've been hearing about my frustrations with the too-many-to-count errors: spelling, point-of-view, incorrect word usage to name a few.

The book is 340 pages long, and up to page 214, this is how many errors I've noted (some post-its reference 1, 2, or 3 errors each):

Plus, I didn't start making notations until page 79.

That's a LOT of mistakes for a finished book. Originally I thought it was an ARC, and that would have been bad enough, but for a FINISHED BOOK??? This is put out by a very small press and it has an outrageous price: $22.11 for a trade soft cover. And who prices books at $22.11? Maybe $21.99, or something like that, but this is even more expensive than the hardcover of Blonde OPS.

Some of the mistakes:

*using "pension" in the phrase "He had a penchant."
*describing one character's eyes as "cobalt, sapphire, azure, blue." (Note: they are not all the same color).
*numerous point-of-view shifts per page. One, maybe two, but three, four povs?
*"...he ran an absent hand over..." If the hand is 'absent' it isn't there to do anything. 'ran a hand absently over' is the correct form.
*"...those who bare the mark..." The correct word is 'bear' which means to carry or exhibit. This mistake happens consistently through the book.
*"...but not yet. Not yet." There are numerous incidents of repetitive phrases which repeatedly annoyed me.
*There's a passage about Eve being "led astray by the beauty of the snake." In all my years of Sunday School and church going, it's never been alleged that the snake was beautiful enough to lead Eve astray. His words were enticing, not his form. This is too much license.(And who really thinks snakes are beautiful, other than herpetologists?)
*using "knocked-out" when the correct form is "knocked out." No hyphen needed here.
*"Black came the night. Black, cold..." Either more unnecessary repetition or it wasn't caught (along with everything else) by the copyeditor.
*"arrhythmic beating of her heart..." ? Who uses SAT words like that in a Western novel? Over-description.
*irregardless. Yes, that word was used. At least twice, but I haven't gotten to the end of the book, so maybe more.
*"Humiliated pain sought to steal her voice." I didn't know pain was a being that could feel humiliated.
*inconsistencies in time/place/situation: first the character is headed toward the barn, then he's making love outside under the stars, then he wakes up in bed and I have no clue how he got from one place to the other.
*I don't think obsidian, a black stone, can glow. Can anything black (which is a lack of light) glow?
*"Jaundiced green haze..." Isn't jaundice a yellowy color? How can it be green? Maybe a sickly green?
*It's listed as a paranormal but nothing paranormal takes place until about midway through the book.

There are so many more errors which frustrated me as a reader (the storyline had a good premise so this is really sad) and angered me as a writer that people are putting such rough drafts (no way is this a finished work) out there. It makes smaller presses look bad, the writer look incompetent, and the buyer angry at being duped.

I won't tell you the title, the author, the press, or the editor/copyeditor because I don't want to humiliate anyone (we've all made mistakes and some of my writing in the drawer, although horrendous, doesn't have these amateur mistakes), but as a cautionary tale. I hate numerous revisions. BUT I DO THEM. Take the time to really polish your work. Take writing classes. LEARN your craft. If you need help, get someone who knows grammar and spelling, and can really edit your work with an honest eye. Take your lumps when it's poorly written. All pubbed authors, whether traditional or good self-pubbed, take the time, expend the effort, and seek out feedback to ensure that their work sparkles.

I see no reason to finish the book because of all the flaws. I read for enjoyment and this book was just too frustrating for me and now I don't care if the cowboy dies, is reunited with his true love, or defeats the evil what ever it is threatening them both.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Looks Easier Than It Is...

Yoga isn't easy. Oh, I know commercials and tv shows make it look easy, but trust me, it isn't. What could be so hard, you think. You sit or stand on a mat, stretch your arms out, breathe deep and say Namaste.

That's like thinking writing is easy.

You sit down, write a novel, send it to a publisher who instantly loves it and now you're a bestseller.

Uh, no.

Writing, like yoga, requires you to stretch muscles you haven't used in a while, or if ever. (I don't remember ever having been in a downward dog position.) After a few sessions of stretching, reaching, twisting and forcing my body into new and not wonderful shapes, it's complaining. I'm sore.

When you write, you have to stretch your writing muscles. This means getting into the habit of writing every day, trying new techniques, and living with the pain from criticism (some of it your own).

But with time it all gets easier (or so I'm told. It doesn't feel any easier today after several classes). No one said yoga or writing was easy, and if they did, don't believe them. For some with abundant natural talent maybe, but like yoga, writing is a skill that can be honed.

Go stretch, discover new things about yourself and learn to live with the pain.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

S.B.I.C. - Now!

If you've been to writing conferences, or network with other writers, you know what this means:


There are other variations:


There might be others that I haven't heard, but these come to mind. Frequently. Like every day.

Sit Butt In Chair
Get Butt In Chair
Butt in Chair

They all mean the same thing:

Sit down and write.

Don't move from there until you've written something. Anything. Even if it's crap and you're positive you're going to delete it. (Chances are you probably will.) That's okay, because if you hone that idea, create that perfect scene, develop that character even just a bit, you've had success.

Writers write. For a real writer, there is no "Someday I'm going to write..." Those words are for dreamers and wannabees. As Yoda might say, "Dream not, do."

Writer Warriors, get ready for battle!

And when you win and have written more than a grocery list, reward yourself. I highly recommend a cookie.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Common Scents

One thing some aspiring and many established authors forget to do is


And "smell the roses:" to live life, to garner new experiences, to step outside the box, etc.

In other words, leave the writing alone for awhile--it'll keep; life won't.

I've been catching up on yard/housework, taking care of family business, attending my cousin's wedding, listening to concerts in the park. I needed to do these activities, but more importantly, my Superior temporal gyrus (the section of the right brain where creativity is thought to spark) demanded a break.

I take a 'brain break' by working in my meditation garden, and this has been the result:

And this:

And this:

Other flowers will bloom after these are finished, so I will always have something of beauty to gaze upon, appreciate--and take care of. Just like my writing, there are times you simply have to enjoy something but turn your attention elsewhere. My garden doesn't need me now, but my writing does.

Need a fresh angle? Stuck on dialogue?

Don't write.

For now.

While you're mulling over the writing obstacle you're facing, do something else and let the solution come to you. (It will!).

I'm headed back to the writing cave, but I know this afternoon, I'll take a break and after some laundry, I'll be here:

Go enjoy a mini mind vacation.