Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some Wedding Photos and Recovery










I'm finally home and rested. My cable internet has been down for a couple of days for repair. I don't know what they did to it but it is much faster now. This is actually the first day that I have felt "back to normal". I was worn out, especially after spending all day in the Houston airport. I had never been so glad to see my car the next day. Four days without a car nearly drove me nuts. Plus, I had missed all the comforts of home. I am most thankful the weather was great the entire time.

The wedding went well. Everything was very pretty and everyone seemed to have a good time. The slow dance with my son was pitiful, which I knew it would be since I can't dance slow. But, I got out and did a whole lotta shaking to the rock music.
I was actually trying to warm up it was so cold in ballroom area. A few drinks and MC Hammer and I was fine. LOL. My dress did fit. Yay! In fact, I guess I had lost a little weight because I didn't have any problems with it fitting at all. I definitely had reservations about my makeup, which was applied by a makeup artist.
I had never had on that much eye makeup. I mean, I was sitting there thinking, well, are we going for the Cleopatra look?? I'm dreading seeing those pictures.

Today, I have some things to get done around my house. A guy is coming to look at it tomorrow. I was just thinking if the house sells, I may collapse.

Also I've got to get my outlaw story finished up this weekend. That's the big goal.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wedding Bells

Tomorrow is the big day! I'm in Houston and using my son's friend's Toshiba notebook and I must say I really like it because the keyboard is really easy to use. Much easier than Dell laptops, which is what I have at home.

I did finish up my outlaw story and I'll have to go back over it next week. I hope to have it submitted by the end of next week.

My dress for the wedding still fits and I guess I'm good to go for tomorrow. Now, I'm going to go look at some other blogs as I have not been online in a few days and see how everyone else is doing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cloudy Friday

Today was a cloudy and rather cool, for this time of the year, Friday. I was just happy to get off work a little early and come home. I've finished up some laundry and some cleaning so I won't have that to do this weekend.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm leaving early for Alabama where I'm going to spend the day with two old friends, Beverly and Edna. It is the get-together that we missed last year because of one thing or another. Beverly was determined that we were going to do it this year so we are meeting at her house at eleven. It may be a little bittersweet because this is our first time to get together without Willie, who lost her battle with cancer since the last time we were together. Of course, she will be with us in our hearts always. She was a very special friend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Self-Acceptance

While reading a magazine article recently, I came across this comment by Leo Buscaglia, "The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be." All I could think about is how very true that is. How much of life is wasted trying to be what other people want you to be? I know I spent years trying to be what my mother wanted me to be. And, I could apply that to husbands and a few friends as well. However, I never succeeded. I was seeking affirmation that would never come. I was trying to be someone I wasn't and that led to failure and unhappiness.

It took a number of years for me to come full circle, to accept myself the way I am and not feel badly about it. I tend to be a loner. I can honestly say I don't get lonely. I have no idea what that is like. I don't know if it is the writer in me or what, but I love my time alone. It is when I get to write, read and watch my favorite movies. I am with people all day and I have always worked with the public, so when I come home, I like a quiet house, a silent phone and my own company. I am totally selfish, more so now than ever before. I have spoiled myself rotten and I'm very happy. Of course, there are many people who would hate my lifestyle, which is fine with me because I would hate theirs.

It is my belief that life is too short and time too precious to squander by not being true to yourself.

I think the same should apply to writing as well. Be yourself when you write. Love your stories and feel confident about them. Remember, the more you try to please other people, especially other writers, the more you will have to struggle. The more faith you put in their opinion, the less your own opinion will mean to you. Without confidence and acceptance of yourself as well as your work, you will never accomplish anything. I'm going to close with a great quote by Aristotle on how to avoid criticism:

"Criticism is something you can avoid easily--by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Writing 101: The Outline and The Old Recliner

When it comes to outlining a story, nothing beats being sprawled out in an old recliner. I do love my old recliner, which I bought new sometime back in the early 90's. I picture myself someday like the TV dad from the series, Frazier, hanging onto his old recliner. Well, I don't have any duck tape on it yet and for it's age it is in remarkably good shape. But, the poor thing is no longer "den" worthy so it was moved to a less-seen place in my writing room and crowned my "outlining" chair.

As far as outlines go, writers have varying opinions. One thing you should know is that an outline is not the same thing as a synopsis, which is much shorter. An outline goes into more detail. Some writers feel if they outline a story/book, then they'll have "told" the story while others want to write the story as it comes to them. On the other side of the coin are the writers who want to know the lay-out of the story and can follow their outline verbatim. I'm none of the above. And, I don't think a writer has to be a pantser or a plotter. Why not both?

I can't sit down and write at a computer, just going from one chapter to another, without direction. I can't hold all the plot threads, background and characters in my memory. I have to have notes. I like to think about my outline in three ways: as the whole project, as the next chapter, as the next scene. I have never sat down cold at a computer and just started writing. For one thing, I have to think and I don't like sitting in a desk chair, staring at the screen. It is hard on the back and I like to relax when I create.

This is when I go to my old recliner. I consider my outlining time as my "creative" mode. I want to be comfortable. I want to have music playing. I use Dr. Grip gel ink pens. All writers should have these. I have used them for several years. I also use the cheap unlined art pads for kids. No lined notebooks as writing on lined paper will do two things: it will stress your hand/wrist and writing without any guiding lines frees up your creativity. You can write as big or sloppy as you want.

You can draw boxes for chapters, which is what I do when I want to "see" the book. Often times, I'll sketch out a scene in a box and put see notes, then flip to next page and write down the dialogue and action that comes to me during this time. I also put "reminders" in my notes about the plot and loose ends that will need to be taken care of before the end. Most of the time, this is stuff I do on week nights if I'm too tired to sit at the computer. Then, the next morning, I'll take my outline of the next chapter and start work on it at the computer. However, that doesn't mean there are no changes. There are always changes. I have never followed an outline exactly as I have it down. Sometimes, the scene I outlined is too long once I start writing it, so I have to cut it down. Sometimes, only parts will work and I change a lot of it when I'm writing. I usually use up several art pads for a books. I am continously adjusting the outline as I write. Then, I do revisions to the finished draft on the computer as well.

I guess you are wondering why outline in the first place? For me, the outline is the potter's ball of clay. It is what I start with but not what I end up with. It is not the finished product but what leads to a finished project. Whenever I've been frustrated with a story at the computer, moving away from it and back into my old recliner, pad in hand outlining, new ideas come to me. Suddenly the story is fresh again. I have never found outlining to be a restrictive process. However, one word of warning, outlining is not writing. It is not a finished book so don't get so caught up in outlining that you don't write.

In the end, my advice to writers who are stuck in a book or even stuck in a rut, I suggest you go find a really old comfortable chair, some pen and paper: your brain and hand will like that(sorry no laptops or other electronic gadgets),and let your creativity flow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Midsummer's Day on the Natchez Trace


I took a road trip today to Alabama via the Natchez Trace Parkway. What can I say except it was such a beautiful day and summer is in its full glory along the Trace. The fields of corn and soybeans bordering some stretches of the Trace are oceans of green amid rolling hills and forests. In places the trees bordering the Trace are so thick, I drove in shade and the Tennessee river was a vivid blue today. I love driving the Trace. I love the lack of all things commercial. I love driving in the shade provided by thick groves of huge old trees. I find it very calming. There's not much traffic on the Trace. The speed limit is only 50. Much too slow for those who are busy rushing through life to take a moment to actually enjoy nature's presentation of a summer day. However, summer will start to fade in a few weeks and I wanted to get a look at the lush shades of greens against the blue sky. I'm grateful I took the opportunity to do that. I'm also grateful that someone a long time ago decided we should have a national park serivce and places like the Natchez Trace Parkway should be preserved.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Ladder of Success

The first objective to attaining success is determining exactly what success means to you. What would it take for you to feel that you are a success? In our society, we often view success as making lots of money, having power/talent/beauty and being recognized for such attributes.

However, success comes in various levels and doesn't always have to mean wealth and fame. Accomplishment of a goal is well worth pursuing. Success can be harvesting vegetables from your first garden or the completion of a manuscript. There is no greater excitement than the "I did it!" moment.

But, the thing is to keep your success in perspective so you will always enjoy the moment and look back on your successes, no matter how small, with pride. It is easy to let success become an enemy because for every rung on the ladder, there is always another rung. Unfortunately, success walks hand-in-hand with failure.

For a writer to make the NYT bestseller list is to be considered a success, more so than other writers. However, unless they make the #1 spot, they are still not tops, and if they do, how long does their book stay there? Long enough? And what about the next book? Success becomes frail quickly, and, sadly enough, it can take its toll on anyone.

You avoid that trap by celebrating your achievements as something that has made you happy, made you feel good about yourself and your capabilities, given you a good memory to cherish and the will to stay on the ladder. Remember, success will only make you feel badly if you expect too much of it, if you start comparing your success to what others have accomplished, and if the worry of failure overshadows all else.

It doesn't matter where you are on the ladder. You can go up and down as much as you want.

The main thing is to enjoy the climb.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Finally the Phantom Rose Sees Print

This has been a long time coming. I wrote this story one summer weekend in 2004 and I loved every minute of writing it. Sometimes I don't love every minute of writing a story. I submitted about a week or so after writing it and the editor at Arabella magazine immediately bought it. In fact, she called me and told she knew before she ever finished it, she was going to buy it. That was one of those moments as a writer that you don't forget.

However, it was not in the stars for the Phantom Rose to get published nor for me to get paid. It was slated for publication in the fall of 2004 but the magazine folded before then. After that, the story languished in my computer until 2007. Then, I heard about a new magazine called New Love Stories, that took romances with historical settings and I have never been shy about submitting. So I dusted off the Phantom Rose and sent it off. By the way, the Phantom Rose is the name of my heroine's pirate frigate. Months went by. I practically forgot I had submitted it. In June 2008, I was contacted by the editor about buying the story. I signed the contract and waited to hear when it would be published. Months went by. I figured it would suffer the same fate as it did with Arabella, especially with the recession in full swing. I'm happy to say that didn't happen.

Today I got two copies of the magazine in the mail and a check! Yay!! I was very pleased about that. Also I really loved the illustration they used. The cards and the gun plays into the beginning of the story. I've had other stories illustrated but this is my favorite. It could be because it is not a photo of people who don't look anything like the characters. LOL! Also I noticed they did not change my character's names, which I'm happy about. One time I had an editor change my character's names for whatever reason and she gave the hero one of ex-husbands' name! I nearly croaked! Yes, I have been married a few times but that's another story....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Graveyard Train

I like to write to music, especially when I start a new project and I am free-handing. That's my term for being kicked back in the recliner with a sketch pad in hand. I jot down names, descriptions, plot ideas, snippets of dialogue. I need music to accompany the little movie in my mind.

So, last night, I was thinking about Laid To Rest and wondering what kind of music would go with Richie and Tommy Ray, two small-time crooks. What music would suit them and this story? Creedence Clearwater Revival. The big plus to having Rhapsody Music Service is all the playlists you can create. I usually make several for one story. So, I picked out a bunch of CCR's old hits. Some of them I hadn't heard in years but they are still as good ever and the perfect music for this dark comedy. Especially Bad Moon Rising and Graveyard Train.

As Looking Out My Back Door played, the words flowed. Page after page of notes and discoveries. Still no true plot. Yet. But, I'm sure with Born on the Bayou, Run Through the Jungle, and, my all time favorite, Lodi, the plot will come to light.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Delirious

What can I say except that I am thrilled at having a Saturday free. For the first time in over two months, I did not have to paint, hang wallpaper, scrub, cook or rush around in stores looking for stuff I needed. It's like I don't know what to do with myself.

I started with my neglected blogs. I decided to post on this blog only since I barely have time for one blog much less two. I thought about importing my old posts but I was skeptical of trying that so I think they will stay where they are. I also made the blog my homepage on my laptop. I find I get distracted when MSN pops up and I start reading different articles. I'm trying to curtail some of that.

Okay, so the house is pretty much done for now. I love the kitchen as the new wallpaper brightened it up a lot. Also, I really like the "crackle" film I put on the kitchen window so I could take down the mini-blind. It lets in lots of light and I put a couple of sun-loving plants in the window. I want to get some herbs. I have photos but they are on another computer so I'll have to post them later. Of course, I'm still planning on trying to sell the house. Then, I can buy another one and start all over!!!

My son and his fiancee were here last weekend. We had a great visit and a busy time. His aunts gave them a reception/shower last Sunday. It was good to see everyone. At least, this time it wasn't at a funeral. They left on Wednesday and I was happy they got home before the bad weather set in here. So, I will see them again in September for the wedding.

So, now, that I've got all stress and this work behind me, I plan to enjoy the next couple of months. I have my historical novella finished and I need to get it submitted. I have a couple of projects that I want to get started on. One is a short story called Laid To Rest. I don't have a premise yet and I can't write the story without one. I'm debating whether or not to go back to my outlaw book. I may take a look at it. Now that I've been away from it for a while, maybe I can be more objective.

This about wraps it for now. The weather is clearing. We've had storms all morning. If it continues to improve, I may get out some today.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Whole Wide World

Last night I watched this classic little film that I got from NetFlix. As a writer, I loved it. The story involves Novelyn, a teacher who wants to be a publisher writer but her confessions stories have been rejected and her romance with Robert Howard, who is most famous for his Conan stories, although he did write a number of other stories as well. Bob was a tortured soul who prefers the world his characters live in. Sound familiar anyone?

Novelyn, the teacher, wrote a book about their romance/friendship after she retired from teaching. It is a beautifully made movie and writers will definitely relate to many of Bob's comments about writing. Also he is very confident about his writing and I thought we all need to be like that.

One thing I didn't like was how the movie portrayed his relationship with his mother. It never appeared as incest, but something odd. Maybe no one actually knew what it was. In reality, he did take care of his mother, who was dying, and he did suffer from depression which was made worse when the end drew close. When she was only given a short time to live, he shot himself. His father, a doctor, tried to save him but he died the next day. He and his mother were buried on the same day. He was only 30 years old.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How Do You Know When To Quit

This blog post by Toni Causey is one of the best I've ever read about having a dream and how you make the decision to quit on it.

Read it here

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Little About Tension

Tension (and/or suspense) is a key element in storytelling. It is what keeps a reader turning pages past their bedtime. According to Gary Provost, tension is "a cord or series of cords that stretch across every paragraph you write".
Tension is the "anticipation and dread" factor in your story. Your readers look forward to the consequences of your character's action and the uncertainty surrounding those consequences. Tension creates dread. Will the young soldier die trying to save his comrade? Will the Lady lose her reputation and be forced into a convent? How will an unemployed single mother take care of her children? Without uncertainty present, without tension, no reader is going to be hooked on your story.

One way to create tension is to use "tense" words. Provost suggests going through your manuscript and looking for places you can create tension by using words of delay, words that imply fear, words of danger, and words of urgency.

Below is an example of a paragraph I wrote which had some suspense. Then, I rewrote it with a few word changes as Provost suggests. The word choice definitely improved the tension.

Original:"She stopped at the sight of the broken gate, its rusty hinges damaged. He had come this way. Had he found the vault? She hurried past the broken gate and moved into the shadows. It was important she reach the vault before he learned the truth about her."

Revision:"She froze at the sight of the broken gate, its rusty hinges ripped loose. He had come this way. Had he found the vault? She rushed past the broken gate and stole into the shadows. It was critical she reach the vault before he discovered the truth about her."

Provost suggests going through your manuscript and looking for places where word choice can increase the tension in your story

Notes On Premise

All the short stories I've written have been what I call "Premise Based". I came up with the premise and built the story around it. Novels also have premises and a novel that stays true to its premise is usually a tightly-constructed story.

For starters, premise is simple and all stories have one. It is not a complicated, hard-to-understand literary concept as some writers think. Also, it is doesn't have to be a universal truth.

A premise is a one-line explanation of your story. You can go with one condition leads to another. Or use a simple sentence that contains three things: character, conflict and resolution. Character is a trait, bad or good, such as jealousy, kindness, courage, fear. Conflict is expressed by using "leads to". The resolution of the premise can be whatever you want to prove in your story. The premise I used for The Yard Sale was "an act of kindness leads to a great reward".
In the Handbook of Short Story Writing, Dennis Whitcomb states: "The purpose of a premise is that it insures a central conflict and gives you a path to follow".

Here are some examples of premise:Ambition leads to failure at home.Selfishness leads to happiness.Cleverness leads to wealth.Revenge leads to heartache. To elaborate on one of them, we'll go with revenge leads to heartache. Jenny sees her lover with another woman! She decides to get back at him by seducing his half-brother, whom he has always hated. First, she has to win the affection of the half-brother, who is a ill-tempered hermit. Her revenge fails when she falls for the half-brother and then finds out she had been wrong all along about her lover, who had only been helping out a co-worker, who wanted to get back at a guy who'd dumped her. When the two brothers find out what Jenny's plan was, neither of them want her, thus leading to heartache. So this story proves revenge leads to heartache. Of course, you can give Jenny a happy ending as she swears off of revenge forever and gets the man she loves!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tension In Dialogue

The key to tension in dialogue is to make the reader interested in what will be said next. Gary Provost says: "Tension is the heart of successful dialogue and all of your dialogue should have it".
How do you put tension into dialogue? We'll go over a couple of ways you can accomplish this. Basically, tension in dialogue will keep your reader curious about what is happening beneath the words. Now, if there is nothing going on, then you need to cut the dialogue and use a transitional phrase to move your characters into a situation where something, either emotionally or physically, is happening to them.

Here are a few sentences of static dialogue:
"Hello, Dr. Mason, found any mummies yet?"
"Not yet." Adrian Mason leaned against the wall of stone and turned up his water bottle. Susan fanned herself, unaccustomed to the desert heat. "Certainly is hot out here."
"Yeah. Only the hearty can withstand the summer in Egypt. Don't you agree?"
"I suppose so." She smiled. "I've never considered myself hearty but I'm going to stick around, Dr. Mason."

Here is an example using their dialogue to create confrontation and conflict.

"Hello, Dr. Mason, found any mummies yet?"
"Susan. You're up already and it isn't noon yet. I'm impressed. What's the special occasion?" Adrian Mason leaned against the wall of stone and turned up his water bottle.
"I had truly hoped to find you in the dust, dead from a heat stroke." She fanned herself.
"Sorry to disappoint you but I'm used to working in the heat," he said. "Only the hearty can withstand the heat in Egypt, so I advise you to pack up and head back to England."
"Oh, you do?" She pushed up the brim of her straw hat. "That's probably good advice since I associate being hearty with being lower-class. However, I do have my principles and one of them to stick around and make certain you don't steal any more of my father's money for this worthless search."

You can also add tension between the lines using point-of-view. This tends to be less confrontational but there is still tension despite the opposition not being as direct.

"Hello, Dr. Mason, found any mummies yet?"
"Not yet." Adrian Mason leaned against the wall of stone and turned up his water bottle. He was impressed that his benefactor's uppity daughter had managed to get up before noon. Susan was one of those women who coveted the lazy lifestyle of the well-to-do as well as her father's money. She fanned herself, unaccustomed to the desert heat, and he took pleasure in her misery.
"Certainly is hot out here," she remarked, looking like a withering rose.
"Yeah," he agreed. Too hot for the pathetic rich girls. "Only the hearty can withstand the summer in Egypt. Don't you agree?"
"I suppose so. You know, I've never considered myself hearty," she answered. The faint glimmer of hope he felt vanished as she gave him a clever smile. "But I'm going to stick around, Dr. Mason, and keep an eye on you."

One more tip from Provost about dialogue. If you are stuck, imagine dialogue as waves of feeling being exchanged between two people.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tater Tot Casserole

I made this casserole for the first time over the holidays. I recommend it because it is easy to make, tastes good and is very filling so a little goes a long way!

Ingredients are:
half pound ground beef
half-can cream of mushroom soup
fourth cup of chopped onion
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
eighth cup of milk
1 cup of shredded cheese
2 cups of tater tots
(You can adjust ingredients to your liking)
Preheat oven to 375
Brown ground beef and onion and put in bottom of casserole dish
Mix mushroom soup and milk together and pour over ground beef
Then layer with mixed vegetables and shredded cheese.
Top off casserole with tater tots and cook for about 45 minutes. Until tater tots are done and casserole thoroughly heated. For a meal, you won't need any dishes other than a salad or some fruit.