Friday, December 24, 2010

Nutcracker Reverie

I took my two girls to the ballet. Just as my mother took me most years of my adolescence. It was entrancing. No words, but storytelling in abundance. Not much plot, but who cares? It's The Nutcracker! I was seven-years-old and lived with my family in Portland, Oregon the first time I saw this production. My mother said that I turned to her at intermission with huge, star-struck eyes, whispering, "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my whole life!"

Every time I watch Nutcracker, I'm seven again and still filled with wonder at the kind of beauty that life doesn't usually provide. I am drawn in from the first musical note to the last curtain call.

As you can tell, I'm a sentimental creature of tradition. For as long as I can remember, we've had a dinner of waffles with sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream on Christmas Eve. This year will be the same. After a family program, we'll give the children one gift. A new pair of pajamas. Come rain, sleet, shine or tornados, we always have new pajamas on Christmas Eve.

After presents tomorrow morning, we'll eat banana and pineapple soup, breakfast casserole, and croissants filled with chocolate. For dinner? Fresh-from-the-Oregon-coast crab salad, yorkshire pudding, and prime rib. I know, it sounds like a lot, and it is. But this celebration is only once a year, right? (Plus, I now have a gym membership!)

Traditions. They really aren't about repeating the same activities over and over. They're about creating happy ties with the people you love. And memories that last longer than time and change.

Happy twenty-forth! What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gift Recommendation

Snuggling up with your child and reading them a lovely picture book is one of the sweet payoffs of being a parent. I'm always on the lookout for new material to share with my little guy. I found this wonderful book at Target. It's so good that it made me cry as I read it there in the book section. Public tears are always embarrassing, people. I don't cry pretty. The book that brought out my inner child and outer emotions?

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman.

Excerpt . . .

"And if someday you’re lonely,
or someday you’re sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you’ve been bad...

just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

In the green of the grass... in the smell of
the sea... in the clouds floating by...
at the top of a tree... in the sound
crickets make at the end of the day...

“You are loved. You are loved. You are
loved,” they all say.

Everyone should buy this book. All children, young or old, should have these words spoken to them.

Merry 23rd, dear readers. Have you made any great gift discoveries?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest

December 20th is finally here.

Huzzah! Let the holiday celebration begin! Even better, let it be hosted by those two, cool-yule girls . . . Jen at Unedited and Melissa from Through the Looking Glass. These ladies know how to throw a party. So drop by, take a look at your fellow bloggers finery, get a new recipe or two, and have a visit.

Be Jolly By Golly!

Welcome to my home, friends. It looks like a Christmas card outside with fat, lacy snowflakes swirling in the air. Let me take your coat. And may I offer you a macaron and a cup of cocoa? Eggnog anyone? Let's check out the nativity scene on our way to my office.

Rest your feet after braving the elements, the traffic, and the shoppers. Have a seat in this comfy reading chair. Just scoot the new year's bear out of the way. He doesn't mind a bit. So, what do you want for Christmas?
What's that noise? It's the children, of course! Come downstairs and meet a couple of them. They love new people. See their tree? This is where the kids put their gifts to each other.
Now, the family tree. The kids decorate it, too. I hold the extension ladder, listen to Christmas music, and watch them go crazy. Want to guess what's in the presents? Go ahead, pick them up and shake them. Anticipation is the best part of getting gifts!
Ahh, the stockings. I love Christmas morning surprises, don't you?
We trim everything from chandeliers to bathroom towel racks. Are we going too far? Maybe, just a little.
This is the white tree. Or as I call it, the obsessive compulsive disorder enhancer. I fiddle with the crystals on this thing about twenty times a day. Every time I walk by it, I have to adjust something . . . Hmmm. Excuse me for a moment. I need to move that silver ball a quarter of an inch to the right.

Well, that's it. Thanks for dropping by. Can I top off your cocoa? Would you like to play a board game? Monopoly, Life, or Catan? What's your favorite thing to play?

Have a wonderful, happy day, readers. Come back, anytime.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Translating Word Verification

I'm seeing a definite trend with Word Verification these days. In the past, we had a good relationship, but now WV is sounding snippy and superior. As though it has tested my blogging skills and found me lacking. I'll let you be the judge. These are actual Word Verification offerings.

(Let me translate what we read, and what WV really means.)

1. aZZiff: code for "You think that's a good comment? As if!"

2. clonkR: similar to definition #1. "Don't write this. It's a clonker."

3. VIrtus: Word Verification is now testing our Latin. And sometimes our Cantonese, German, and Lithuaninan. All at the same time.

4. cYss: this is WV's acronym for "check your spelling silly!" (I like to think it means silly instead of something more harsh like stupid.)

5. kisSle: I'm not exactly sure what kissle means. (I don't think I want to know.)

Is Word Verification treating you well, bloggers? Maybe I'm being fanciful and endowing this "spam reduction mechanism" with traits it doesn't have.

(Either way, I need to lay off the Diet Coke with lime. A little too much caffeine this morning, I think)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chevalier Appreciation Day

Finally! A modern person has been chosen for Author Appreciation Day. If I could be any writer today, it would be Tracy Chevalier. With very few words, Ms. Chevalier seamlessly weaves fact and historical fiction together. Here is a glimpse at just three of her works.

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Setting: Delft, South Holland, in the 1600's
This scene shows the first meeting between 16-year-old maid Griet and the Dutch painter Vermeer.
"The man was watching me, his eyes grey like the sea. He had a long, angular face, and his expression was steady, in contrast to his wife's, which flickered like a candle. He had no beard or moustache, and I was glad, for it gave him a clean appearance. He wore a black cloak over his shoulders, a white shirt, and a fine lace collar. His hat pressed into hair the color of brick washed by rain.

"What have you been doing here, Griet?" he asked.

I was surprised by the question but knew enough to hide it. "Chopping vegetables, sir. For the soup."

"And why have you laid them out thus?" He tapped his finger on the table.

I always laid vegetables out in a circle, each with its own section like a slice of pie. There were five slices: red cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots and turnips. I had used a knife edge to shape each slice, and placed a carrot disk in the center.
The man tapped his finger on the table. "Are they laid out in the order in which they will go into the soup?" he suggested, studying the circle.

"No, sir." I hesitated. I could not say why I had laid out the vegetables as I did. I simply set them as I felt they should be, but I was too frightened to say so to a gentleman.

"I see you have separated the whites," he said, indicating the turnips and onions. "And then the orange and the purple, they do not sit together. Why is that?" He picked up a shred of cabbage and a piece of carrot and shook them like dice in his hand.

I looked at my mother, who nodded slightly.

"The colors fight when they are side by side, sir."
This story depicts the intense relationship between Vermeer and Griet and how the painting Girl With a Pearl Earring might have come about. Chevalier is brilliant. I identified with the heroine immediately and was fascinated by her harsh yet beautiful world.

The Virgin Blue setting: Present day and 16th-century France
After moving to Lisle-Sur-Tarn, American Ella Turner has strange dreams with flashes of deep indigo and fragments of ancient-dialect French.
She is soon driven to uncover the history of her ancestress Isabelle du Moulin.
I am still haunted by the fate of secretly Catholic Isabelle at the hands of her intolerant Huguenot family. A tragic and unforgettable story.

Burning Bright setting: London in the 18oo's
The Tiger by William Blake
"Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
The title of this book comes from the above poem. Chevalier always chooses compelling subject matter. I've been interested in William Blake since my youth. My English-major brother would tell me tales of Blake's life and quote from his writing, and it never failed to give me a thrill.
In Burning Bright, we see life through the eyes of London waif Maggie Butterfield and former country boy, now City dweller, Jem Kellaway. Their coming-of-age story is realistic and not entirely happy, and they are never the same after befriending each other. And their neighbor William Blake.

Thank you all for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and if you're searching for an interesting read, give Tracy Chevalier a try.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brilliant Talli

Just a small moment of tribute for Talli. She's a lovely, cheerful person, and a wonderful writer. Her blog is one of my favorites, and now her debut novel The Hating Game is out. Brilliant, Talli. Just brilliant!

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Help debut author Talli Roland Take On Amazon today!

Reviews & Tags

If you do buy The Hating Game and you like it, a review on Amazon would be greatly appreciated! If you don't have an Amazon account, you can also post reviews on Goodreads. Thank you!
If you are on Amazon and in a clicking sort of mood, it would be fantastic if you could click on a few tags ('Tags Customers Associate with this Product' - located underneath the Product Description). Cheers!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bleeding Feet

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! What with the cleaning, baking, cooking, and dining, I'm off to hit the treadmill with a vengeance.

Before I go, however, let me explain these pointe shoes and the title of this post. The Chacotts above were the first pointe shoes my daughter ever wore. (She's had many pairs since.) We took this picture before she had the chance to work in them, before the ribbons were even sewn on. Before the blisters and the lost toe nails. Before the inside of the shoes became stained with her blood. Ever heard the saying, "Beautiful dancers have ugly feet"? It's so true. My little firebrand is my hero. I'm buying her red silk pointe shoes for Christmas because they represent how she dances. Blazing and vibrant.

Amazing what a person is willing to endure for what they love.

Last night, we watched Youtube clips of dancer Natalia Osipova. Her feet moved almost faster than my eye could follow. Like hummingbird wings. Obviously, Ms. Osipova worked many years to achieve her level of skill.

Humbled and inspired by this experience, I've decided that I won't complain about writing anymore. It's a challenge I can deal with. The writing journey has pitfalls and disappointments, and while my feet are not bloodied, sometimes it does feel as though my heart is battered. But, this passion is mine. This journey is mine. I do it because I love it.

The joys outweigh the cost, wouldn't you agree?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Longfellow Appreciation Day

I would stretch out on my bed, turning the pages of my book to The Day Is Done or The Bridge, and speak the words aloud, as though I were reading them to a beloved child. Peace always followed because Longfellow understood me--he had experienced in his day what I was going through in mine. Crossing time, he reached out and threw me a lifeline.
Back then, I didn’t see how human bonds could surpass the kinship of author and reader. Because at that moment I loved Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and like a wise, kindly grandfather, he belonged only to me. There wasn’t another person, living or dead, who understood me as he did, and with sweet reunion, his healing words met my mind. I turned them to suit my mood and put them away in my heart. He had saved me yet again, my gentle poet.
Thank you, Henry. All these years later, you're still my hero.
Do you have any comfort books?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Loglines, Where Have You Been All My Life?!

No, really, where have they been? I've known about synopsis and outlines for decades, but when did writers begin loglining? Err, probably from the beginning, right?
I guess I've just been oblivious to them until recently, when I entered myself in Authoress' Baker's Dozen Agent Contest at Miss Snark's First Victim. This contest was so competitive and the number of entrants so vast, I doubt that I made it into one of the forty available spots. Good experience though since I learned about loglines.
Authoress is so gracious and lovely, and she provides so many wonderful opportunities for writers to receive feedback and information. If you aren't acquainted with Authoress, you really should introduce yourself.
Back to loglines-- those pithy, one or two sentence, show-the-heart-of-your-story wonders! Below is my first attempt at loglining for The Second Life.
Logline: The lone survivor of a horrifying accident, Maggie Hathaway lives a half-life riddled with scars, chronic pain, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. With the help of her childhood friend, Ben O’Connor, Maggie must risk facing her fears in the hope of future happiness and redemption or remain crippled by her memories forever.

Well, there it is. How are your loglines going? Heard of any great contests or blogfests lately?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dickens, Capote, and Thomas

No, the title of this post isn't a bureaucratic law firm. It's my traditional Holiday Reading List! Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, I gather my favorite Christmas stories together, station them on my night stand, and let the reading celebration begin.

Here they are in all their yuletide splendor . . .

#1. Truman Capote's short but sweetly sentimental A Christmas Memory:

"A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable - not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"

#2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely . . ."

#3. A Child's Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas

"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."

The holidays wouldn't be the same without these treasures. Do you have reading traditions for this time of year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hmmm . . .

Have you ever repeated a hackneyed aphorism only to wonder what you've just said? I do this once in a blue moon, don't you? I guess the proof is in the pudding . . . Sorry. I'm wincing, too.

But why do we keep the phrase "happy as a clam" alive? Are clams especially happy creatures? I can't imagine they would be. I wouldn't enjoy living in the cold, gritty sand until some person dug me up and put me in a chowder. Who started this saying in the first place? Do you know, readers? I'm pretty sure it wasn't the clams.

And what about the he "doesn't hold a candle to you" axiom? Is it a good thing to be that close to fire? Funny, but I don't want a guy holding a candle anywhere near me. Ouch! Those things burn. Then there's the whole "falling off the wagon" thing. What wagon are we on, where are we going, and is it driving at high speed? "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." Again this sounds painful. And if you don't "know on which side your bread is buttered" should you really be allowed to eat at the grown-up table?

Don't forget these favorites . . . like two peas in a pod (only two?), a nod is as good as a wink (Is there a nod/wink standard and how do we judge their equality?), and a picture's worth a thousand words (Only if you're Vermeer).

Actually, there is one adage that I like. "No man is a hero to his valet." Can't we all relate to this? A discreet servant is so difficult to find . . .

Right. I know, I'll stop now, but first, I must ask this question.

Are there any adages that cause you to say, "#*%#, why?!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bronte Appreciation Day

As a teenager, my mother took me to Victoria, British Columbia to stay at a lovely English-style inn. There were beveled windows and antiques everywhere, and I remember how thrilled I was to see a darkly-stained dining table that had once belonged to the Bronte family. This period piece was cordoned off to protect it from further ruin, but I stood at the table for a long while imagining Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and their brother Branwell. I saw them with their glasses, cutlery, and plates, perhaps commenting on the food or the brisk Yorkshire weather, completely unaware of their greatness, of the spell they would later cast upon future generations.

Here is the church in the historic, West Yorkshire village of Thornton where the Bronte children were born. Their family then moved to Haworth. This is Bronte Country. No, seriously, that's what it's called today.
Branwell Bronte painted this portrait of his sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily. Originally, he was in the painting as well, but later removed himself so as not to crowd the scene. I like the warm, smooth tone of the colors he used. Branwell was also a poet and created fantasy worlds with his sisters which they wrote about for many years. Troubled with alcohol and opium addictions, he died of tuberculosis at 31.

Lesser known than her sisters, Anne wrote the novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She died at 29, also of tuberculosis. This disease tragically plagued the Bronte family. Most of the six siblings died of it.
I love this portrait of Charlotte. She's lovely, isn't she? And doesn't she look kind and intelligent? One of my favorite writers ever, I like to think of this remarkable lady as a friend from another era. Jane Eyre brought Charlotte great literary success, yet she remained quiet and shy with strangers. Fair, delicate and small, Charlotte died at 38 while expecting her first child. Her cause of death was recorded as tuberculosis, though further research suggests that it might have been typhus.
This is the title page of the original Jane Eyre. Notice that Charlotte wrote under the pen name of Currer Bell. The subtitle An Autobiography is interesting, isn't it? Charlotte Bronte lived through much of what Jane did. She attended a harsh boarding school similar to Lowood and also served as a governess. While teaching, Charlotte developed deep feelings for a married man, but later, separated herself from him and married another. That scenario reminds me a bit of the whole Rochester-Jane-Mr. Rivers triangle.

I do not have a picture of Emily Bronte, but from recorded descriptions, she was attractive and very much a homebody. This Yorkshire rose ventured out from her family many times, but always returned, struck with loneliness and a longing for the familiar. Wuthering Heights was not the swift success that Jane Eyre was, but today, it is considered a literary masterpiece. (Saying the name Wuthering Heights aloud takes me vicariously to Catherine and Heathcliff's solitary manor on the moor. Emily's title isn't just the name of a book, it's a frame of mind.) Ms. Bronte's influence was felt strongly among those who knew her, but her life was cut short. What started as a bad cold evolved into a wasting disease. Thin and weak, Emily never recovered and died at 30.

Thank you for joining me in this brief tribute to a brilliant family. I'll conclude with some of my favorite Bronte quotes . . .


"Who has words at the right moment?"
"Am I hideous, Jane?

Very, sir. You always were, you know." Jane Eyre
"There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad."
"I'm just going to write because I cannot help it."
"Reader, I married him." Jane Eyre


"I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after."
"Terror made me cruel."
............................................................ Wuthering Heights
". . . he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
"Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you."
" . . . lying from morning 'til evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moors, with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom and the larks singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly."

Beautiful words that sink into your mind and make you happy you can read and think and learn. Next week's Author Appreciation Day? Maybe the mad, bad, and dangerous Lord Byron. Tennyson or Hemingway anyone?

So many choices . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On Bieber, Gaga, and Genre Selection

We have any number of clocks in our house. There's a Napoleon Dynamite chiming clock that rings at odd, random moments and a faux-antique kitchen clock with huge Roman numerals on its face. And then, there are the radio alarm clocks. These digital gadgets are plain evil.

At 5:30 this morning, I was awakened by two of my kid's clocks blasting Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga simultaneously. Picture it happening to you . . . "Baaaaby, baaaaaby, baaaaaby. Ohhh!" plus "Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah. Roma, roma, ma Gaga." In Dolby sound. Of all the stereos in all the world, why did this have to happen to mine?

I can handle these songs individually. Together? Not so much. Had Dante been with me, he might have created another level in hades. (Yesterday, my wakeup song came from Whitesnake, but I kind of like the hair bands.)

Without any logical segue, I'll move on to my real topic. Genre. In On Writing, Stephen King said he was drawn to horror films because the only other option were stridently happy musicals and beach-blanket movies. The teenage King couldn't relate to the latter so he chose the former.

Here's the question: Is the genre we choose a result of what we're lacking in life? Or do we just write what we enjoy reading? Do we gravitate toward a certain audience and write specifically for them?

How did you decide upon your genre?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ordinary Magic

Sometimes life is magical. I'm not referring to Frodo-and-the-ring or unicorn blood magic, I'm talking about the amazing little miracles that take place each day. The ones we take for granted because they are so commonplace.

For example, the bumblebee. The yellow-banded snappy dresser of the insect world, the Volkswagen bus with tiny gossamer wings. I love everything about this creature. Perhaps it's because of the noise it makes as it floats from blossom to blossom, sounding a bit like good-natured complaining. Think about their distinct reverberation . . .

"Bzzz, bzzz. I should have stopped three flowers ago. Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. That last bit of nectar went straight to my hips. Bzzz."

Captivated by this humble bee, I grew up believing the legend that said they were a scientific anomaly, that they shouldn't technically be able to fly as they lacked aerodynamic properties. During the 1990s, however, a group of scientists got together to debunk this myth. They proved that bumblebees could indeed achieve lift due to their wing function, similar to the way a helicopter flies. Their work was then challenged by other researchers who contended that the previous findings still didn't adequately explain the bumble's abilities.

Oblivious to the controversy, the hairy pollen bandit continues to do the job it was made to do, and I continue being charmed by it.

And don't forget the bulb's perennial magic. We plant them in the cold autumn earth, throw a little freezing water their way, and then forget all about them until spring. They don't look like magic at all. They look like dried-up shrunken heads with stringy topknots. Judging on appearance alone, the bulb is always underestimated, but once the snows melt, these papery stems emerge in all their radiant elegance and color.

And my favorite magic of all is the one I sometimes overlook because I live with it each day. There are times when I feel like the Les Stroud of parenting, as though my only goal is to survive for the next few days. That's when I forget the magic because I'm tired and rundown and overworked. But magic has a way of reminding you it's there.

A good example of this is when I take my youngest child down the street to catch the school bus. I watch him run ahead, leaving me behind as he races toward his friends and independence. I wave as the bus pulls away and at the last moment, my small kindergarten man turns and waves back. Unfailingly, my heart gives a painful, sentimental tug, and I am so grateful to be a part of this remarkable young person's life.

It's been the same with each of my children as they grow up and move on. When they return home, I am always amazed that they are happy to see me, a plain middle-aged woman with wild hair and a dubious sense of fashion. And yet, they are. And I hope they always will be, these glorious children of mine. I am thankful beyond measure for a heart that sometimes hurts a little because it loves so big.

Magic, magic, magic . . . It's all around us.

During this month of Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Email From The Bard

Dear Lady,

Why art thou not content to write? Hath thy supply of quills and ink run low? Nay. Me thinketh not. Is it the plague or a cruel debtor's prison? Doth the Queen withhold her favor? Once more, I say nay. Yet, I perceive thou hath hit a wall of impediment. Aye, there's the rub. All the enticements of thine imagination cannot make thy hand write this day. Inconstancy thy name is Roxy Haynie. Get thee to a keyboard. Out, out damn-ed dilly-dallying! Reason not the need for revision, and mend thy ways lest these charges be upon thee proved.

Hold fast to thine resolve, Madam, and thou shalt win the prize. O, for the muse of Daniel Craig that doth ascend to lofty heights! If these words be false then I am but a novice and in my salad days. Boot up thy Mac, sit upon thy crappy, fold-out chair, and put thy story to the test.

We few, we happy few, we band of writers. Let our hearts, and talent, be true, for then no man who readeth our work will call it false.

I await to see thine improvement anon.


It's always nice to receive encouragement from a friend. If you could choose a writer from the past to give you advice, who would it be? How is NaNoWriMo going for you? Have you hit any snags in your WIP?

Have a brilliant Tuesday!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Summer's Show Your Space Blogfest

Hi, All. Did you have a crazy weekend, too? I know, Monday should be suspended on account of Halloween. Let's take a moment to recover from miniature candy overdose and visit Summer at And This Time, Concentrate! She's having a fun blogfest where we can take a tour of writing spaces. I do enjoy vacations! Even the vicarious variety . . .

These are the cute people who keep entering my office and asking for food, money, help with their homework, etc . . . They have a gift for interrupting that is uncanny. Every time inspiration hits they are magnetically drawn to me. I love this picture. My husband said something funny and we all laughed.This is my messy desk. I write here each day. Sometimes I accomplish a lot and other times I get distracted.

This bookcase hinders my concentration since I love to read, and it's just sitting there looking interesting. My muse, Daniel Craig, reminds me each day that work comes before the reward. Darn you, Daniel. I'd take a good book over almost anything.
These are bleeding hearts. They bloom outside my office window in the Spring.
This is the Japanese Maple that softens the light through my plantation shutters. I feel protected with this leafy beauty guarding me.
Have an awesome afternoon, bloggers!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Candy

The awesome Theresa Milstein is having an amazing event over at her blog. She's giving away enviable prizes and introducing some very cool bloggers to each other. Definitely Hauntworthy! Go and meet her today at Substitute Teacher's Saga.

In a few hours, I'm making the annual Halloween candy run to the store. This is my question. What should I buy? Which is your favorite treat? What kind of candy would your MC like and why?

Are you dressing up this year, bloggers? Who are you going to be? I may take my Fairy Godmother costume out of storage. I do like that silver cape and big, white wig! My husband refuses to get into the Halloween spirit, but my children are especially inspired. I have a ninja, a Midsummer Night's Dream fairy with attitude, two soldiers, a huge walking shrub, and Scarlet O'Hara. Love these guys!

Have the best holiday ever. Take pictures, have fun, and be safe!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First Library

This was my first library, and surely that alone makes it special. Though I am but one in thousands who have crossed the threshold, I have a sense of ownership here. (I always want to spell libraries with a capitol L, don't you?) I learned about books, music and writing in this place. About life, travel and adventure! Do you remember your first library?

Let me introduce you to my fine old building, dating back to 1864. Though her bones are elderly, the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon is still a beauty. As a girl, I was in awe of the sweeping marble staircases, tall windows and echoing ceilings. Young as I was, I sensed the magic of creativity and great thoughts at work. My mother would drop me off in the children's section, and I would be content for hours. The smell of dust and old paper always takes me back to those treasured days. (Don't all libraries have that smell?)
The library taught me to spread my wings, to see the rest of the world around me. I grew to love my hometown as well.
Portland is divided by the Willamette River, but there are many bridges. They carried me safely across the water in my teenage years. And back home again.
The City of Roses is encircled by ancient trees that have seen it grow and expand. They were there when my library was built!

Set like a jewel in the hills, the Rose Gardens offer peace and solitude. I visited this beautiful place with my children after being away for 17 years, and my eyes filled with tears. Sometimes, you can go home again.

I once wrote a poem for this Raymond Kaskey statue. (See? Libraries make you think you can do anything!) Her name is Portlandia, and she is the second-largest copper figure in the United States.
Cannon Beach is about an hour west of Portland, and my family owned a small cabin there. In moments of loneliness and longing, I would sit in the sand, look out over the crashing Pacific Ocean, and dream of the future. (Of course, libraries place great stock in hopes and dreams.) Who knew that after years of searching for the love of my life, he'd ask me to marry him in that exact spot on the sand?
Mt. Hood sits on the other side of Portland. I picked huckleberries with my mother there in the summer, and my father showed me how to ski on those slopes in the winter time. (Libraries instill a lifelong desire to improve!)

Thanks for taking this sentimental journey with me. I remember who I am by occasionally looking back and that sparks my motivation to move forward.

Where was your first library? Is there a city that makes you sentimental? Do you have fond memories of your hometown?

Friday, October 22, 2010

How Will I Know? (No, Really, How Will I?)

Okay. I know I'm dating myself here, but do you remember this album? Back in the day of 80's big hair and stirrup pants, I'd listen to it daily, singing into my hair brush-slash-microphone. Remember the How Will I Know song? Whitney was so cool in the video with her gray mini dress and florescent extensions. She bounced around, looking gorgeous, asking how she'd know if a guy liked her. (Seriously, wasn't this a moot point? Didn't every guy in the 80's love her already?)

Lately, I've been wondering about my story. I've worked on it for years. Revising, rewriting, taking breaks, and coming back again. Now the big question is . . . . Should I change the beginning? Should I take out the first chapter and replace it with the third instead? Like Whitney said, how do I know? What's the right choice? I've read this manuscript over so many times, I've compromised my judgement on the matter.

I have a great critique group, but life is interfering with our getting together. Recently, I've given thought to joining an online critique group. Have any of you done that?

What do you think, bloggers? How do you solve issues like this?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spare Time

Here is an example of what I've been doing with my spare time. Watching a television series and a movie and reading a book. Actually, I'm sure the time it took to do these things wasn't 'spare'. I should have been cleaning, cooking, or folding laundry, but I figure, once in a while, it's okay to shirk those duties and take a break. (Curse you, Netflix! You make it too easy.)
This is Patrick Jane from The Mentalist as played by Simon Baker. (Maybe he could be my substitute muse when Daniel Craig is unavailable?) I like this character a lot. He is complicated and not entirely likable. Intelligent, occasionally sympathetic, and often darkly funny. Each time I watch this show, I'm inspired to write deeper layers for the characters in my stories.
I read Mr. Monster, the sequel to I Am Not A Serial Killer, in one day. Dan Wells deftly writes a gripping page-turner. The way he weaves humor and irony throughout a dark, disturbing plot line is nothing short of brilliant. 'Tis the season to be scared, and I certainly was. (P.S. Don't read this if you don't like horror.)

And for a completely different change of pace, I watched The Young Victoria. (Sorry the picture is so small.) I loved this movie! I cried at the end and wanted to rewrite history for Victoria and Albert so they could grow old together. Excellent film making, beautiful costumes and scenery. Five stars out of five stars.

Now, after this mental vacation, I'm relaxed and set to tackle my current project. I'm finishing an adaptation of Dr. Suess' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I am writing it for a performing arts center in my community, and they want it in rhyme. (They're paying for it, so who am I to question?) Let me tell you, I'm not a poet, but it seems to be coming along anyway. I am revising the last paragraphs today. Challenges, challenges . . .

Have you watched or read anything good lately? Are you facing a difficult writing project? I'd love to hear, blogging friends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writer Vs. The Wild . . . (The Wild Wins)

Two things have distracted me over the last week. A wicked cold--yuck, enough said-- and a more wicked, four-foot-long gopher snake--ah, this might require some explaining. Remember my spiders-in-the-shirt gardening experience? So, so much scarier.

Last Sunday, I took a walk with my family through the foothills of my tiny town. You ever have an outdoor experience that leaves you feeling like you're Les Stroud from Survivorman? Or Bear Grylls from Man Vs. Wild? This walk turned into just that type of thing. And, quite frankly, the Wild kicked my butt. As Jeffrey Archer would say, hereby hangs the tale . . .

It was a beautiful, autumn day. Nothing ominous, no premonition about the ordeal ahead. We piled everyone, and the dog, in the back of our truck, found an isolated spot, parked, and began walking. We had a great time until my 12-year-old son complained about the heat. My husband cheered this kid up by chasing him around a field of sagebrush. Although we were all laughing and oblivious, this is where the downward spiral began. We continued our journey on the dusty trail until we realized that we had taken a wrong turn. Tired and hot, we had two choices: retrace the route we had just traveled or take an off-road shortcut. You know what we did, don't you? We took option B--the shortcut.

After crossing a vast expanse of open, desert plain, we finally arrived back at the truck. Our keys, however, did not. Somehow, they fell out of my husband's pocket. Of course, the spare set of keys were in my handbag. The one that was in the truck. So there we were, four miles from the outskirts of our subdivision with no keys and no cell phone.

The kids climbed into the truck bed and drank some water, and leaving our oldest teenager in charge, hubby, dog, and I headed out on a key-retrieval mission. It's hard, though, to search miles of desert at twilight. So we went to the place where my husband and son chased each other. Stooped, eyes scanning in all directions, we searched for about twenty minutes. I then heard a noise that I really didn't want to hear. Hissing. Really, really loud, close, hissing. I looked to my right, and it was as if the brush had come alive. Camouflaged in shades of black, grey, and brown, this coiled-up creature was amazing. Huge and terrifying, but beautiful at the same time. It was also seriously ticked off. Although the hissing continued in fortissimo, and the snake was vibrating with wrath, it made no move toward me. I backed away slowly, and then, I ran.

My husband said that I left a trail of dust hanging in the air behind me. I might have set a new speed walking record. (At the time, I thought it was a rattler. Only after researching and Googling did I learn it was a gopher snake.)

Looking a bit like the Joads from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, we eventually made it home. We now have three, count them three, new copies of our car keys, and we'll definitely take a cell with us next time. Live and learn, right?

Here is my question to all you writers out there. Think of the surprise encounter with the snake. How do you make your plot twists jump out and surprise your readers? I hope there's no hissing involved . . .

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To Kill Or Not To Kill

We have liquid sunshine at last! That's rain, if you didn't know, and it's a big deal for the sage brush and rattle snakes around here. Not to mention the desert dwelling people. Having grown up in Oregon, I am drawn to falling water and love hearing it hit the pavement, bouncing like hot oil in a skillet.

I often file sounds and sensations away in my brain to use in future writing. In my trusty spiral notebook, I record experiences, impressions, interesting words, and human characteristics. Do you do this?

Of course, the big challenge is transferring these word-pictures from thought to paper. Sometimes, I try to communicate too much. That's when I have to ask myself, "Does the reader really need to know this?" Curse you, TMI writing.

In my salad days, I imagined that all good stuff must survive revision. Forget plot and story tension, if it sounded pretty, I'd leave it in! Sadly, this practice interfered with pacing and bogged down my readers. Those needless details didn't mean to them what they did to me.

I've since learned to kill my darlings, as Mr. King said in On Writing. Painful? (Acutely, since these are my darlings we're talking about.) Yet so necessary.

Now, if I love something, I'll copy it off before I cut it out. I store the snippets in a notebook where I can always read them~ even if no one else does. So many questions in this post, so little time. Here's one final inquiry: How do you decide what to keep and what to delete?

To kill or not to kill, that is the question . . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

Word Love

So, how was your weekend? On Saturday, I attended a writing conference in Salt Lake City. It had a great question and answer panel and author John Gilstrap delivered a wonderful keynote address. My interview with Blair Hewes was another rewarding experience. She was very gracious and helpful. (I ended up giving her a package of plain M&M's!)

If you could schedule anyone to speak at your writing conference, who would you choose?

Okay, on to word love. Two experiences have contributed to my recent appreciation of words.

My seven-year-old has a difficult time reading. When I tell him he has to read for a happy, successful life, he says "I don't want to graduate, Mom. I want to live at home forever!" (I'm sure he doesn't mean it.) Thankfully, we're now reading Robin Hood, and he's beginning to catch on. How awful it would be to live in a world where no one read. What are your favorite books?

Language is beautiful. I listened to German hip-hop the other day. Sounded so cool. I liked it even before my daughter translated the words into English. I also enjoy Italian and
French. I think I am a frustrated linguist.

What languages do you speak? Which do you want to learn?

Buona Sera. Au Revoir . . .

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh, the Irony of Karma.

Breathing, breathing, breathing. Breathing is good, right? I tend to hyperventilate when I'm nervous. Can you tell I'm nervous? Am I babbling on-line? I think I am. Do you think I am? Anyway, I woke up this morning and went to my computer~just minding my own business and checking the email~when a message came out of the blue.

Back story time. I'm attending a writer's conference this weekend, you see, and there was a reminder for me from the master scheduler of the event. It was all very standard . . . Except for the bit about me having a pitch session with an agent! And Blair Hewes, no less. 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Huh? Can you run that by me again?! I didn't sign up for a pitch session! (Look at me, going all italics on you. A clear indicator of stress.) Where did this appointment come from? I don't know.

Soooo~ what to do? However it happened, I am signed up to speak with a great agent. Do I have a book to pitch? Yes, I have two actually. And who am I to refuse a serendipitous gift?

Tell me what you would do.

Breathing, breathing, breathing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Daniel Craig keeps giving me pep talks. Being my muse, he's very conscientious that way. His hair is spiky and he's barely half-awake. But that doesn't stop Dan! Get your mug of Red Zinger, he says. Forget the left-over lasagna in the fridge. Take out your red Sharpie and repeat to yourself--the difference between good writing and bad? Revision, revision, revision.

Thank you, Mr. Muse, for that timely reminder. Today, I will wield my pen like a wordsmithing warrior. I'll cut and add until this damn thing shines.

I am the Revision-Ninja! (If I say this enough, will it be true?)

Good luck on those revisions, bloggers. How are they going?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pitch Imperfect

Yesterday, I was thinking of my first, in-person manuscript pitch. Sad, sad, sad, people.

It took place at a writing conference last year, and I paid $25.00 for a ten minute slot. I worried and worried about selling my story. I practiced in the mirror, meditated, and did good deeds for my neighbors hoping good karma would kick in. I visualized the pitch as a rare, perfect rose in a garden of daisies. (For the record, I like both roses and daisies equally. My preference was merely for effect.)

And? The big moment never happened.

I left my afternoon class at the conference and made a quick trip to the bathroom, mumbling a synopsis of my novel the entire time. Then, I arrived at the appointed pitch-spot. I quietly waited for the editor/industry insider and her current appointment to finish up. Hold on, I said to myself as I recognized the girl ahead of me. She had sat at my table at lunch a few hours earlier and pitched me her book the entire time. Didn't take a bite of the mediocre chicken salad, didn't ask anyone else about themselves. In fact, I'm not even sure I saw this woman breathe during the whole hour. Her detailed description led me through every nuance of her story, and although I found our conversation a little overwhelming, I had to give her some credit. She showed genuine enthusiasm for her work.

The scheduled time for my pitch came and went. It was uncomfortable waiting for the girl in the pitching chair to finish. One minute went by, and then two. Five minutes passed. I tried to make eye contact with the editor, but she kept looking at her watch and the floor. With 2 minutes to spare, my predecessor finally left, and I took the seat. The next writer was already waiting behind me for her turn. Nervous and slightly sick, I made eye contact with my literary lifeline and smiled. Then, I fit my entire story into 60 seconds. Obviously, since I'm still unpublished, it wasn't effective. Like I said, sad, sad, sad.

This debacle did teach me something. I learned that I need to grow a spine, and stand up for myself and my story. Nobody loves it like I do, and it's my job to pitch it well. Self-confidence. Awareness of my tale's unique qualities. Concise communication from my head to another's ear.

It'll come with time and practice. Just like every other good thing in life. To borrow and alter a phrase from AC/DC . . .

To those who are about to pitch, I salute you.

How have your pitches gone? Tell me about the agony and the ecstasy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dream State

Had I the heaven' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by William Butler Yeats

I quoted this months ago, but here I am doing it again. I love, love, love it. Yeats gave his dreams and his heart to Maud Gonne, the woman for whom he wrote this poem. It was the best he had to offer.

Writers are certainly dreamers, and I'd like to think we put our hearts into our stories. Just like Yeats.

What are your dreams for your writing? I'd love to hear, blogging buddies.

If you haven't dropped by lovely Lola's blog, Sharp Pen/Dull Sword, please do so. It's definitely dreamy and one of the best blogs around.

I found this handsome man online in the Neiman Marcus suit shop. (I like to shop vicariously;) He reminds me of the bad-boy-lawyer-later-redeemed-by-love-protagonist in my women's fiction novel, Charm Bracelet. He's pretty dreamy, too, eh?