Wednesday, December 2, 2009

KOD BIAW (or Book in a Week with the Kiss of Death Chapter of the RWA)

Here's the deal. I signed up to write 1500 words a day this week. Not exactly a book in a week, but progress. It helps to have other writers paying attention to the progress I'm making. It keeps me honest, and honestly, it keeps me writing when I otherwise would be distracting myself.

To tell the truth, I don't find it easy to write every day. If I did, I'd be producing a lot more than I do. I'd have a stockpile of manuscripts. On the days like today every word on my wip (work in progress) is extracted painfully from my brain. Nothings flowing. I don't know what the heck is supposed to happen next. It's excruciating.

Conversely, (like the big words?) Conversely, I can write fifteen hundred words of a blog in a heart beat. Easy peasy. It’s because blogging is talking on paper. And it can be pretty hard to shut me up. I like the sound of my own voice. Telling you about my thoughts, feelings, observations can be a lot easier than telling a story, especially when I don’t have any idea where the story is going. I do know how it ends, but how in the world is Bree going to get there from here?

I don’t know where I'm going, but I’m committed to putting words on the page. Dreadful words perhaps. But words. And, as Joni B. Cole once told me, my readers won't be able to tell the words than sprang flowing from my mind from the words dug from mug with a toothpick. That piece of wisdom surprised me, but apparently it's true.

I’ll get back to the mud flats now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fabulous Thanksgiving

I want you to know that part of this already appeared on Jenny Crusie's Blog. I know - it's cheating. But after I wrote it, I thought it wasn't too bad and I decided to export it over here and expand on it. I need all the help I can get. I don't think Ms. Crusie would mind, as the words are all mine. I don't think the three of you that read my blog also read Jen's blog so I'm not really repeating anything. Just borrowing.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We have a foreign exchange student from Belgium living with us for a year. She’s wonderful (Thank Goodness) and when it came to her turn to say what she was thankful for she made us all cry – partially because she was crying herself and partially because she was thankful to be living with us. That’s a mini miracle.

After reading how Jen Crusie and her wonderful readers (Cherries is what they call themselves) make gravy from scratch, I have to confess: I fake the gravy. I use the stuff from the grocery and put the Turkey drippings in it. I know it’s awful, but really I’m not a cook. The Madhouse crew is lucky if nothing is burned and all their favorite dishes appear on the table. So in my eyes Thanksgiving was a success. Only I forgot to make myself a turkey sandwich for lunch today, so now I'm disappointed.

Now that the day devoted to food is over it's time to think about Christmas. What I want for Christmas – well I’m greedy and I don’t want you all to know it – so I’ll only put down the important things. I want to finish California Schemin’ before Christmas. Not going to happen – well maybe – a small possibility if I focus, focus, focus. Just the first draft. So I’ll have three months to edit it into shape.

I also want Jen Enderlin as an editor. She just sounds so fabulous. Not that I don’t like my editor – she’s perfectly wonderful. But there is only one J.E.

The most important Christmas wish is that I can get my kids a few nice things for Christmas without breaking the bank and having to catch up for the following year. It’s a challenge, and I’m in this one on my own as my dh likes to pretend that Christmas doesn’t exist until the day of. (Did I actually SAY that? Well yes I did, must be getting tired of being in charge of EVERYONE’s Christmas expectations. Sorry – but you notice I’m not deleting it.) So if anyone has any fabulous, but not too expensive gift ideas I’d love to hear them!

Hope you all had good Thanksgivings, and that the Christmas planning is not too stressful. We still don't have any snow. Very unusual. Smacks of global warming, the ground isn't even frozen yet. Oh wait, global warming is a myth isn't it, so it must be the effect of aliens flying their space ships above Vermont and heating our atmosphere.

Monday, November 23, 2009


In March I'm teaching a workshop on voice for the NECRWA conference held in MA. I'm excited about presenting and hope that I do a good job. Well not just hoping - I'm also doing my homework so that it comes out well.

I chose to do a workshop on finding your voice for a couple of reasons. There's been a lot of talk about voice lately. What is it, how do you get it, how do you recognize it? I think I have a fairly distinctive voice. And, I as I use a fairly natural voice, it was easy for me to come by it. So I'm passing on some small pieces of knowledge about writing. It should be fun for me and my audience - we'll see.

The thing about voice is that it can make or break your story. You can have a really great story - plot full of twists and compelling characters, but if you bore the audience with your style it won't matter. A good story is not enough. You also have to tell it in a compelling manner.

Just think about the books that you've started and put down before finishing the first chapter. Do you remember much about them? Probably not. Were the stories themselves "bad" stories. Probably not. After all, a good writer can make the grocery list a good read. Most likely it was the writing itself that failed you. The voice didn't grab you.

Think about books you love. It could be that the plot was spectacular, but most likely it was the way in which it was written that caught your attention. The words the writer used. They way the story was put together.

There's more to it than that, of course. There always is. But I'm willing to bet you forgive a lot of mediocre writing if the voice of the author speaks to you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hair and Jealousy - it's not pretty

Have you seen Jennifer Crusie's new (well newish, it's been up less than a year, I think) web site and blog? I go there quite often as I am a big fan of her writing. It struck me today how beautiful her site is. Why today. Don't really know.

Maybe it 's because I laughed until I cried over a boy in my classroom with pigtails sticking up from his head and appreciation for art crept in while the tears were leaking out. The funny thing is that after the hair incident I opened Jenny's blog - and it's about hair! Strange hair. Which was worth another chuckle if not tears.

So why am I jealous of Jenny Crusie's site instead of just being appreciative of having a great place to go and read stuff? I'm not sure. My kids say I don't smile or laugh enough since I've started working again. That knowledge distresses me, and makes me crankier. I think the secret thought process is something like: Not only is Jenny Crusie and bestseller - and I'm not, but she also has a fantastically designed Internet presence and I don't. Sour grapes. Lack of appreciation for what I do have.

I notice I'm also jealous of the yet unnamed author who will be co-writing a novel with Janet Evanovich. Jeez, what ever happened to being happy for another person's good fortune? I do truly believe that there is enough success in the world for everyone, so why am I so impatient for mine to appear? It's my mom's fault. She claimed I was going to marry a prince when I grew up. Not figuratively. A real prince. As in Charles or Andrew. It didn't happen.

I think this disappointment has colored my entire life. And while I normally have a fabulous sense of humour, occasionally it slips away and other, less valuable, emotions show their ugly heads. Like envy, jealousy and the irrational belief that my husband was supposed to be a prince, damn it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"You've got Mail" and Other Tales of Woe

This story is a tad circuitous, you'll have to bear with me and keep reading and hopefully by the end of the blog the connections will be made and it will all make sense. As much sense as I can make when I'm writing after midnight because my legs are so jangly I can't possibly sleep.

I was perusing Jenny Crusie's site ( as I'm apt to do. I enjoy her sense of humor and she has a way of writing that makes me feel like one of her friends. She's so intimate when she blogs that it feels like a conversation rather than communication with the entire world. Which is what it really is.

Anyway, (I did tell you this would be circuitous, didn't I?) Jenny has a section where she comments on mistakes in romance movies. One of the movies she comments on is Four Weddings and a Funeral - I'm not quoting here, this is just from memory - Jenny says the guy ends up with the wrong girl! So I'm thinking I've got to watch that movie again, because I can't figure out who the right girl could possibly be. Any ideas?

This got me thinking about You've Got Mail. When I first watched this movie I hated it. No way should Meg Ryan's character end up with the guy who puts her out of business. I was incensed and vowed never to watch that movie again. End of story.

Not quite.

Months later I'm pregnant with my fourth child who's due shortly and my blood pressure starts shooting up. Long story short I get put on a lovely drug with sulfide in it's name and labor is induced. I'm skipping the long, painful and fairly unsatisfactory night. Lizzie arrives and all is well, pretty much, but they want to keep an eye on us so we get to stay at the hospital for a couple of nights. My dear husband brings me movies to watch so I don't get bored. Three of the four movies are full of delightful scenes like where a man gets his eyeballs taped open and other horrid things happen. I stopped watching those movies after the first one. Yuck!

The other movie was You've Got Mail. Which I hate. But, given the choice between nothing and Meg vs. Tom, I take Meg and Tom. Lizzie and I watch that movie several times, which is okay because I'm still drugged and I keep passing out. Low and behold when I get home from the hospital what do I want to do? Watch You've Got Mail. Again and again and again. I become insanely fond of that movie - of course Meg and Tom should end up together, how else could it possibly end?

I'm sure a psychologist could explain to me why I ended up adoring that movie. I might even be able to explain it if I dug deep and pulled out some psychological terminology. But I think you get the point.

The question occurs: If Jenny Crusie had watched Four Weddings and a Funeral over and over again while bonding with her new baby, would that have changed her mind about which girl Hugh Grant should have ended up with?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time Management - or my lack thereof

First I have to say I love the word "thereof." Don't know why. Couldn't define it if you paid me. I know what it means though, and in this case it's referring to my lack of time management skills. Like now, I have several projects on my plate. The most important being Chapter six of California Schemin'. So far today I've opened the file and noted that I've written 677 words so far - but none today. I also have a beaded necklace to finish for my niece's birthday. That's not any less important - and probably more important to her. I want to mail it tomorrow so it's high on the priority list. I've already fixed the mock turtles costume for the high school's performance of "Alice in Wonderland."

I have seven songs to memorize for the chorus I belong to. We perform the first weekend in Dec. That's pretty high up there too. I have one song written on the white board so that's started. There's the scarf for my daughter that's nine tenths of the way finished. And then the hat that goes with it. The scarf I promised to a student doesn't have to be done until January so that's low on the list, but the presents for Christmas are starting to scream at me. I managed to send out my daily message about Kate George's Shameless Self Promotion Week on Facebook this morning, but there's at least one other thing hanging over my head but I can't remember it at the moment. It will jump out at me later and give me a heart attack with it's urgency. Oh and there is the eight hours I spend babysitting high schoolers in study hall every day.

My friends say I take too much on. That could be true. But I think my real problem is that I don't manage my time appropriately. Like this morning, I could have been working on any of the aforementioned tasks (that's another word I really like - aforementioned) but instead I was answering emails, reading blogs, sewing the turtle shell - I have to give myself some credit for getting something done - Oh and I talked to one of my sons' teachers about his overdue homework. He had the flu and I think that's a good enough excuse, and now so does she.

How do you prioritize when everything is Important? The writing should come first, don't you think? But what about promises made to children - those are really the top of the top of the list. Can I work on each thing for fifteen minutes? Would that work? I tried delegating the necklace to a talented student, but she has homework to do. So somehow I'm going to have to get it all done. Starting with the necklace I think, then the writing, God knows what I'm going to do about Christmas...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The flu has arrived at the madhouse. It managed to sneak in one night while I was ferrying children to and from play practice. Ferrying takes a lot of time, mostly because I'm driving other people's children as well as my own. With no one standing diligently at the door, keeping the flu away, it was able to waltz in and pick its resting place with no opposition.

So the flu is here, does that mean I have to treat it like a guest? Probably. Flu thrives on adversity so if I pamper it perhaps it will die of… of what? What would the flu die from? Over feeding? Death from luxury? I guess if we knew that the dang, disease would be gone in hours.


Look at all that yammering I did. Here's all I needed to say:

I'm exhausted from late nights driving kids home from play practice, and interrupted sleep from tending to a child with the flu.

That's it. One sentence. The rest of it is just extra garbage and I'm blaming the lack of sleep for it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What makes YOU read a book? What's your reading style?

It's the obvious question for a writer to ask: What influences your decision to read a book? The cover, the first page, the writer's reputation, your level of boredom? What is it? Perhaps the recommendation of a friend, or a book reviewer that you trust? Do you feel obligated to read a book if you know the writer personally?

The questions go on and on.

Here's an easier question: What do you like to have on hand when you sit down to read a book? A cup of tea? Cocoa? Coffee? A cookie? Fudge? Spaghetti?

Do you like to read outside or in? Do you avoid reading on sunny days in order to spend time outside? Do your dogs sit on your feet or in your lap when you read? How do you keep your kids from interrupting you, after all in their eyes you aren't doing anything at all!

Do you like to savor books slowly, or read them straight through, all at once? I'm a straight through reader, when left to my own devices I'll read straight through the night.

I want to hear from you. Write me a note. Tell me about your reading habits. Ask your friends to write me. With your permission I'll post your reading habits on my blog, website and facebook page. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so why not write about it!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sarah Simas Interview

Check out - Sarah Simas interviewed me for her blog. Leave a comment, and then go on to read more. Sarah's got some great interviews on her site.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Writing to Type

Isn't the English language wonderful? I'm talking "Type" as in personality type, not type as in keyboarding.

A friend of mine recently reminded me that we have different personality types. What he said was something along the lines of "I'm and thinking person who happens to also feel, you (meaning me) are a feeling person who happens to think." True, but I was still insulted. There is nothing wrong with my thinking process thank you very much.

But here's the truth of the matter. My friend, who I'll call Mr. Spock, makes decisions based mostly on his thought process with very little regard to how he feels about something. Like the original Spock, he's ruled by logic. That doesn't mean his logic is always correct, nor does it mean his decisions always work out for him. But I think, all in all, he does pretty well.

I, on the other hand, make decisions based on how I feel about things. Sometimes it's just an intuitive thing. A hunch. Like when my husband and I (and kids) were camping on our friend's lawn while house hunting one summer I had a "feeling" that we were wearing out our welcome. My husband (another thinker) thought I was overreacting. Turns out I was right. (Good thing I'd insisted we move on.) There weren't any outward signs, and certainly our friends didn't say anything, but there signals of some kind and I picked up on them.

I have to say that my decisions don't always work out that well for me . Such as my current decision to work in the high school to supplement our income... Let's just say that the aggravation is not worth the money. I'm staying because my thinking husband doesn't agree with my assessment. For him, any extra money is better than no extra money. I'm sure he thinks I'll eventually adapt.

So what does this have to do with writing? Here's the deal. You can use your observation of personality types to help develop characters. There are lots of ways to analyze personality and many of them can be helpful when developing character, and for me - the feeler who thinks - often times my observation of how people act and what motivates them, works very well in conjunction with the charts.

If I remember correctly I'm currently an ENFJ - although I was born a INFP. I trained myself to act like an extrovert in my mid-twenties and eventually it became ingrained. I actually AM an E now. And I can expect other ENFJs to behave in similar ways to the ways I behave. But here's the good part, I remember what it's like to be shy. I was a card carrying, hide your head in your momma's skirt, so timid it was painful, avoid all social situations and God forbid a boy talks to you, introvert. As painful as it is to remember those days it comes in very handy when I'm in the midst of character development.

So what if you're an E (for extrovert, in case I haven't made that clear), you've never been an I and you've got a character who does a great impersonation of a turtle? Use your imagination. How do the shy people in your community act? See that surly guy at the elementary school open house? You stay away from him because most of his sentences consist of curt one word answers, and you're sure he thinks you're an idiot. Here's a news flash. He's an I for Introvert. He's surly because he feels so out of place that his teeth ache. He's been ready to leave since he got there, and he's gaging how long he has to stay so that he doesn't seem rude. He's wishing one of his buddies had a child in the same grade as his.

Here's another tidbit about that guy; his wife is an E. A warm and friendly smiler, who knows everyone in the room and wants to talk to everybody. The entire town wonders why in the world she married surly guy. What they don't realize is that when he's with her he can relax. She puts him at ease. Knows what he's thinking so he doesn't have to talk a lot. She sees the qualities in him that only his close friends know about because in public situations he's too shy to be himself.

See how easy that was. Two quick character sketches in less than five minutes. You have my permission to use either one, or both.

How about T (Thinker) vs F (Feeler)? I can tell you that my Thinking friend takes a long time to respond to serious questions. He can answer "what do you want for lunch?" quick as anything. But ask him if you should change jobs and it could be days before he gets back to you. When he does answer, it's with a well reasoned, point by point presentation on the pros and cons of the situation. Sometimes he takes so long thinking about something, I think he's forgotten about it. But he hasn't. Spock just wants to look at the situation from all sides before commenting.

How do I deal with the issue of a friend wondering if they should change jobs? I ask questions, now hold your breath because this is a revelation; I ask questions about my friend's feelings. And within about three minutes I've already formed my opinion based on those feelings. I'm not saying I never change my mind faced with further facts, but most of my major decisions are made that quickly.

Before you call your mother and tell her I'm a idiot, let me say this: my feelings about things are based on observation over time. So although it may seem like I'm making snap decisions, in reality I have a lifetime of experience with how feeling translates in the real world. Does your boss make you miserable? Yes. Is your boss likely to change? No. Do I believe that we should spend our short lives working for people who make us miserable? No. There's your answer, find another job. (Oh, and in case you're running off to tell your mother I'm an complete imbecile, I do realize that finding a job in the current climate is not easy, and it may take a while. But I still think you should be looking.)

Looking at the above scenario I can already see a number of story lines developing. One heck of a romantic suspense about a thinking cop who takes her time making decisions, that tend to be correct. This cop becomes embroiled with a feeling private eye, who makes snap decisions that get them both in trouble. They drive each other crazy until the bitter end when they succumb to their mutual attraction while caught in a certain death situation. You fill in the details.

And let me know when it's published, I want to read it.

Oh the pressure.

Why is it that given the opportunity to get some publicity and spread my name around by guest blogging, I can't think of a darn thing to say? I started writing about voice, and what it is about other author's that makes me keep picking up their books. Boring! Boring, boring, boring.

Not even I want to read that post. Heck, I didn't even want to write it. It put me right into doze mode.

This is how bad it is - I had to stop in the middle of this blog and get myself a cup of tea.

Surely there is something interesting to be said about writing. Something that hasn't been said a million and one times before? If you know what it is tell me, because obviously I can't figure out what it is.

On a more humorous note, some of you may know that I'm impersonating an educator at a high school this year, overseeing the study hall. This position has it's ups and downs. One really big up is that when everyone is on task it's permissible for me to work on my writing. Such as now. The down side is there are a couple of hours during the day when the immaturity of the students makes it insufferable in here. - Why is it that certain teenage boys think it's acceptable to fashion shivs out of paper clips and use stick pins to impale people? - But onto the fun part...

A little while ago a group of the nicer seniors came to see me. I don't know, seven or eight of them. (Realize that we have a tiny school the entire graduation class is only maybe 40 kids.) Each of these seniors came to me with an add/drop slip. On this slip they each requested to add my 2nd period class and drop the advanced math class they were enrolled in. These eight kids comprise maybe ninety percent of that math class. The reason for the switch: Can't understand the teacher.

It might be helpful for you to know that the math teacher is well liked and has played a practical joke or two of his own. I've yet to hear what he has to say about the matter. Actually, I can't wait, I'm sure he'll rise to the occasion. But what makes me smile the most is the fact that the seniors included me.

It's not just students that want to fit in. I'm in the unique position of being neither a teacher or a typical aid. I don't really have a peer group here, and my schedule is such - booked solid except for a twenty minute lunch break each day - that I have very little contact with adults. Being included by a group of students was a break from the isolation, and that it was for a joke makes it even better.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Cold Kentucky Rain

Don't ask me why Elvis is in my head this morning. I woke up with Cold Kentucky Rain playing on my internal music channel (the one in my brain). I'd be surprised if it was a song from the DH's wake up FM channel - it's not his style. But however it got there - it's sticking. I even started singing it in the classroom.

Doesn't even phase my students. I don't think anything that came out of my mouth would surprise them, either because they are already so world weary that nothing startles them, or because they expect me to be a little nutty. I don't mind if they think I'm nutty, I do, however, hope they grow out of their boredom with life.

What is it about high school, and high school-ers, that inspires such apathy? Well, come to think of it, if I was stuck in close proximity to my age group all day, every day I might get tired of it too. Not that there aren't people I'd be delighted to associate with on a daily basis. But I'd want to chose and my choices wouldn't be based on age. So perhaps they just need to suffer through and hopefully learn to deal with people in a constructive way.

As for me, I'll model cheerfulness for today and continue driving teens crazy by singing at work. It's not fair really, as I can always write the irritants of my life into a novel and despense justice in that way. It gives me an advantage.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pumping Up the Volume

Thank the universe for rainy Saturdays! I'm another five pages into California Schemin'. It's time for me to really start producing. And I mean a lot more than I have been. It should be possible. I've settled into my current job at the high school. School is now routine for my kids. Our foreign exchange student has become one of the family. Life is rolling along so it's time to write.

I've learned that it's possible to write when the kids and husband are home if I slap on the headphones and then ignore the music as much as possible. It's a lot easier to ignore the music than my family. Now if I could only get them to ignore me.

My publisher recently announced a deadline of November 15 for submissions. I'm not positive that means I need to have the next Bree done by then but there's the niggling thought in the back of my head that says I can be replaced. I mean anyone can be replaced, right? A better writer could certainly come along!

With that in mind I've set a goal to have a finished draft done by that date. I've been working on two books at once, so the new goal means I have to choose between them. I've had a lot of requests for more of Bree, so that's where I'm going to focus. And if I can get California Schemin' done by December then I should be able to finish Tank and Maggie Meet the Mob by February. Two books a year being my business plan.

If I'm lucky enough to get either of those published you can bet your booties I'll get smarter about writing during the down time between acceptance and release date! No more wasting time. (Yeah, right!)

Playing on the ipod? Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I've been Launched!

Just got home from my first book launch ever! I need to offer a huge thanks to Rhonda and Sara at the Royalton Memorial Library for hosting me. They did a fabulous job setting up and providing refreshments. A good time was had by all - especially me. The place was packed!

I read from three separate passages in Moonlighting in Vermont. There was laughter in all the right places and I felt comfortable and well liked. Who can ask for more than that?

Not me certainly.

I'd be beyond lucky if all my signings went this well. I'll go to bed feeling pleased with myself this evening, and blessed beyond belief with wonderful friends.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conservatism vs. Liberalism

Wondering where I've been? Me too! Time is a fickle mistress and all that.

Recently, I've been having a conversation with a friend who is the polar opposite of me politically. I don't like mixing politics with friendship. I discovered that the politics of people I like can fall very far from where I stand. I tend to believe that my friends (and relations) want what they think is best for the world in general. They are generous people, smart, funny, loyal - everything that friends should be. So I ignore the fact they would think I'm out of my political mind if they knew. And perhaps they do know, I am pretty transparent after all, and I assume they feel the same way as I do. It's not necessary to share political ideals to like a person.

Don't get me wrong, I also have friends who are on the same political wavelength as myself. I'm glad to have those friends and relations stand beside me. They help me to remember I'm not that far out there. That I'm not alone in my beliefs. It's sort of like religion, it's okay not to be in the majority as long as there are a few folk around to confirm I'm not out of my ever-loving mind!

So how did I get involved in a conversation on political leaning? I've been asking myself that same question. I think I fell for the old you're-not-as-far-out-there-as-you-claim gambit. So I had to set about proving that I am. And really that wouldn't be so bad if I was good at stating my point. But I'm not. I get caught up in the "I'm being attacked" mindset. I make the mistake of taking it personally. Basically, I'm easy prey.

The same friend I got into this conversation with has classified me as a feeling person who happens to think. He classifies himself as a thinking person who happens to feel. Perhaps he's right. I believe things because I "feel" that they are right. I haven't thought out the logic - although other thinkers who have the same leanings as I do have logical reasons for what we believe. I could do the research, and have done in the past, but not to arm myself for a conversation with a friend.

I've never considered it necessary to load up on amo before accepting a friendly invitation to debate. And perhaps that's my problem. Any high school debate team member would tell you that you can't win if you don't know both sides inside out. You have to be able to argue your opponent's side even better than they can. But not me. I walked into an Obama vs. McCain without a moments thought.

And what horrible thing happened? Nothing much. My friend may now realize I'm as out there as I claim. He has no reason to re-evaluate his own stance, because I couldn't give him any logical reason to do so. And it's doubtful any re-evaluating would have happened anyway. So no harm no foul. Right?

So why am I left feeling so… what? Misunderstood? Frustrated at my inability to communicate that which I believe deeply in? Yes, both of those. And more. I'm left with an uneasy feeling that I've done something wrong. Should I apologize to my friend? For what? Disagreeing with him politically? That's where we started. For taking our "conversation" personally? Surely he knows me well enough to know that I would take it personally. For letting him talk me into a debate that I was unprepared for?

So this is why I don't talk politics with my friends. When all is said and done, I'm ill equipped for the consequences. I'm left feeling uneasy and not really knowing where our friendship stands.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What I've learned about me

So here's the deal. This is stuff that should have been very apparent to me years ago. After all, how old am I? But sometimes I just have to get to the "quit fighting yourself" stage and just give in. So what do I know?

  • I write better in the early morning and late at night. Or at least when the house is quiet.
  • I can't write at all if the kids are within ear shot. They are just too dog gone distracting.
  • That means summer is very hard for me.
  • I can work on publicity stuff when the kids are around, but I have to be very careful or I'll write emails full of nonsense, like "Mom! Mackinley just got water all over the floor!"
  • I write more quickly when I have a clear idea what I want to accomplish in a scene, but that doesn't mean the scene will come out better than if I don't know.
  • I'm easily distracted by the Internet.
  • I love talking (email) to people even if I don't know them.
  • I'm useless in the mid-afternoon so I might as well stop beating myself up about the "research" I do before I have to make dinner. Especially the research I do with my eyes closed.
  • While having a sound track helps me get back into the mood of a wip, leaving it on while I'm writing is a mistake. What kind of mistake, you ask? Somehow readers don't really "get" why lyrics pop into the middle of a paragraph.
  • I use too many exclamation points!!!
  • Reading a novel that's too removed from what I write while I'm writing messes up my voice.
What all of this means is I'm going to have to work from midnight to 5 am, sleep from 5 to 8 (AM) struggle through my day taking the kids to swimming and what not and then sleep from 9 pm to midnight.

Something else I've learned about myself: that schedule is never gonna work for me.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! (tee hee). I found out today that Moonlighting in Vermont, my first publishable novel, won first place in it's category in the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award For Excellence in Mystery/Suspense - unpublished. The category being mainstream. I've entered a fair number of contests and never even finaled (except the synopsis contest in which I got third place), and here I am the top of my category. It's given me a rather large head.

Well not really. It's a humbling experience in some ways. And a testament to believing in your own voice, and your own better judgement. The big thing though, is getting with other writers through critic groups and workshops and listening to what others have to say. Sometimes others people can be off base, but by listening and noticing when more than one person is saying the same thing, you can weed the good from the bad and improve your writing tremendously.

So thank you to Joni B. Cole, who leads an awesome workshop and whose books I really enjoy, and to Alison, Meg, Jen, Terri and Anne the original inky 500 who kept me afloat through the whole process. There are a bunch of other writers I owe thanks to, folks from Joni's workshops and those famous names that I love to read. I hope you know who you are, if not watch for your name in the future I hope I can get to you all someday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Starting Small

Sometimes success takes an act of faith - jumping on the wagon as it goes by.

The chance I took was signing a contract with a small and newish publisher. Of course the publisher took a chance on me too. A mutual leap of faith. Without that leap I would likely be back at square one. Unpublished.

I was worried that I might be missing out on publicity opportunities that a bigger outfit might offer me, but after talking to a fellow writer I've discovered that even larger publishing houses don't push for unknown authors. So not only do I get more personal attention and get more of a chance. I've get more time to get decent sales.

I'm happy where I'm at. It's a good place to be.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Recently I was looking at my tag line wondering what do I really know about the craft of writing. Not much really. I must know something, because MMP is publishing Moonlighting in Vermont. But most of what I know is not in the forefront of my mind. It's more of a feeling, a sense of what sounds right. It's about how my body responds to the words on the page. Don't get me wrong, I learned all the usual stuff about structure and grammar in college, it's just that I'm not thinking about that when I write.

What I think about when I write is does it sound right to me. Does it flow. How does it make me feel? Does it make me laugh or cry. Does it make me cringe, my jaw ache, my stomach drop? That's how my body reacts when I don't like the way the words are put together. When I like what I'm reading I get lost in the story and forget to edit. Writing is more about storytelling than structure. Oh I know that structure is important, I'm not disputing that, it's just that structure doesn't really occur to me.

I'm going to contradict myself now. Sound, flow and physical reaction don't really come into play during the first draft at all. During the first draft I have pictures in my head. I'm watching what's happening and recording all the details I can before the scene moves on. During the rush of discovery it's all about getting what I "see" down on paper. (Well electronic paper, but you know what I mean.) The other stuff becomes important the second time around when the story is already in place. It's when I'm editing that the feel of the words becomes important to me.

So what does that have to do with the craft of writing? I don't know. And I'm thinking I may have to change my tag line.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July, Already?

I woke up today and it's July 2nd! When did that happen? Summer should be a time to relax and unwind, hopefully get the weeds out of the garden, but my summer somehow gets out of control before school's even out.

My kids' dad likes to make sure the kids don't get bored, but that means I spend the summer as an unpaid taxi driver traveling Vermont taking unwilling children to camps, activities - oh you name it, we do it. Meanwhile, the writing doesn't get done, the house doesn't get painted, and the housekeeper (me) doesn't do her job.

I wanted to say and Suddenly it was July 2nd - but my friend Joni B., who teaches writing skills, says that's a no-no. No more ly words for me. Except for this strange desire to write the sentence -

And who knows what I had a strange desire to write because as of today it's July 9 or 10, or something. That's how fast time goes for me. I wish I had the same ability to slow it down. The only thing I can say for myself is I've made some progress on my books. Yes plural. Right in the middle of writing Tank and Maggie meet the Mob I got this strange compulsion to start another Bree MacGowan story. Yikes. Now I'm left with trying to keep my characters out of each other's stories. Good luck.

Happy Summer all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Line Edits - done!

I pleased to say that line edits on Moonlighting are done. Yippee! Now I can go back to simultaneously writing a sequel to Moonlighting that I'm currently calling California Scheming, and another Vermont mystery called Tank and Maggie Meet the Mob. The advantage to writing two at once is if I get stuck or bored with one, I simply switch to the other.
The down side is it's hard to keep the characters straight. Sometimes they get into each other's story. That's not too bad, as they are both set in the same town and it wouldn't be too unusual for them to cross over - as long as I can keep the story lines straight!

Update on the Skunk

For those of you who were worrying about the skunk, I'm relieved to tell you that we didn't catch him. I'm assuming if he was rabid that he went and died somewhere peacefully, if you can die peacefully with rabies. The same is probably true if he had distemper. Either way, he's either alive and has decided to leave us alone or is off in skunk heaven, and I didn't have to do the dirty deed myself.
What we did catch was a very angry grey cat. When I opened the cage she took off like a shot and will probably never grace our lawn with her presence again.  Sorry kitty.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Skunk 4, Kate 0 - The Skunk is Winning

Yes, you read that right. The skunk is smarter than I am. This will be the fourth day in a row that I will have to wash the skunk smell out of my dogs. The dogs are even dumber than I am.

The first time the dogs warned us - but it was too late, the skunk got them anyway. And then it came up onto our porch and taunted the dogs, trying to pull the bed out from under Annie and out between the bars of her crate. It didn't succeed. So, in revenge, it sprayed poor Midnight through the door of her kennel. It came back four times, regardless of the bright lights, barking dogs and door banging humans. A neighbor came and tried to kill the skunk with a 22. No luck. Skunk 1, Human 0.

The next day I cleaned up the dogs, the porch and the dog crates. Such fun. I left to pick up children and take them to ball practice, and when I got home (in daylight) Moose was in the brier patch next to our garage with the skunk in his mouth. That didn't last long. The dogs chased the skunk into the woods and the neighbor appeared again, but couldn't catch up with the skunk who rushed across the road and up a steep wooded slope. Skunk 2, Human 0.

Now before people start writing me about cruelty to animals let me say I'm usually against killing creatures just because they are inconvenient. I'm inconvenient myself sometimes. But this skunk was acting a tad strangely and Rabies did occur to us. A rabid animal will die anyway and is a danger to us all.

However, as our friend wasn't having any luck killing the skunk we put out a trap. The dogs smell like skunk again, but he's nowhere to be found. Certainly not in the trap. Skunk 3, human 0.

I was hoping like anything that when I got home today I wouldn't have to wash the dogs, AGAIN! Ha! Got home, no skunk in trap Dogs smell to high heaven.

We caught the neighbors grey cat in the have-a-heart trap.

The skunk wins.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I've changed my blogger address

For those who look for my blogs - I have a new address.  One that makes more sense, I hope!

is were you'll find me now!

The Rain in Spain is completely overrated!

Confession: I didn't want it to rain today. Correction: I wanted it to be sunny in the morning so I wouldn't have to go off to work - the school I'm subbing for was going to have a river day if it was sunny, and they wouldn't need me. I did want it to rain this afternoon and free me from Mom duty. I don't mind so much when it's one thing at a time, but today it's the softball, baseball, track combination that makes my head hurt.

I want to be there for all my kids, I really do. But will someone please explain to me why they schedule all these games right at dinner time? By the time we all get home we are a mass of cranky, hungry, emotional messes. And then I have to figure out what to feed them. Quickly. Before they chew my arm off.

Well, it's raining. So likely my arm will be spared and I'll get the kids fed and some housework done.  But my writing will suffer. Because I'm busy being super sub. (Not really, but it sounds good. And if I put my mind to it, I could probably write a few pages in the down time, or when kids are watching movies.   If only I wasn't so easily distracted by the fun stuff.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Logo

This is my new logo.  Let me know what you think! I'm working on improving my web site If you have suggestions feel free to send them along.

Balancing life in the fast lane

This week I'm taking care of my neighbor (and friend's) children. You may know that I have 4 of my own, add the three neighbor kids - well you can figure it out.  It's a lot of kids. The good part is that the new kids are better behaved than the old kids - and their house (which their mom claims is dirty) is spotlessly clean. Unlike my house, which is not spotlessly clean. By any stretch of the imagination.

Needless to say, I've been spending my time in the clean house. Which is new, not 200 years old, like my house is. 200 years old I mean. Not new.

My house is full of my junk, my kid's junk and my husband's junk. Only my kids and husband would say it's not junk - except for mine. We all agree that mine is junk, even me.

It's hard to write when the house is junky. It's tempting to start throwing things away. I probably should be throwing things away.  But the only way to get books written is to sit and write. So the junk will have to wait. And just so I'm not tempted to deal with junk, I think I'll go write in the clean, new house that is neighborless for the time being.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Birthday - Bob Dylan

It's Bob Dylan's birthday today. I know this because it's also mine. Happy Birthday to me! No, I'm not going to tell you how old I am. Just think 20 years younger than I look. That would do for me.

It's a work in the garden day. My informally adopted oldest daughter is cleaning my car. My by-birth oldest daughter is still in bed. Older twin is helping cook dinner, younger twin is reading a good book, youngest daughter is doing something secret in her room.

I'm having a baked pancake for breakfast - with fruit. The rest are having chocolate chip pancakes made on the griddle. And bacon.  I can smell it. Yum. 

After breakfast I'm putting in tomatoes and peppers. Then I'll start the huge job of weeding the flower gardens. Mulching so those dang weeds don't come back.  Then I'm building a trellis for the raspberries.  

After that, collapsing from exhaustion is on the list.  

Happy Birthday Bob.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The First Cover with segway into a tirade on words

So this is it! Moonlighting in Vermont's cover art. 

I know my last blog was incredibly sulky. I apologize. I've gotten to the point I need to pinch myself. Against the odds, my book is being published. I'm oh so lucky. 

Don't get me wrong, I like the stories I tell. I enjoy writing, and hope with judicious editing they will be written well enough that the words don't distract from the story.

Stories are all about words. Words that create the images we see in our minds when we read. But a poor choice of a word can impair our enjoyment of the story. A word, sentence, image, fact (correct or not), can pull the reader completely out of a story. And sometimes, they never go back.

So, for a storyteller, words are the double edged sword. (Clique, I know. But I promised myself that my blog didn't have to be perfect. Write more, worry about it less is my new motto.)

Anyway, you can't have a story without words or images - if it's a visual like a slide show or movie it could be without words  - but put in the wrong one, make a false step, and boom, story's over. That's a great deal of pressure. I'm happy to say that it doesn't usually stop me from writing. It does slow down the process of editing though. My vocabulary isn't always up to the task of finding the perfect word, search though I might.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Down Side to the Up Side

Let me first say that this blog is going to seem incredibly ungrateful. I know it. I can't help it. It's the way my mind works. I just can't take good news and keep it good. Well at least when it's about me.  I'm actually very good at keeping my friends' and relations' good news good.

Is that sentence confusing enough for you?

So here's the good news. I've been offered a contract to publish my first Novel!  That is fabulous, exciting, happy dance news. I danced all over the place and called every one I could think of when I found out.  Then I emailed, Facebooked, updated my website and now I'm writing about it. It's fabulously validating and after a year of rejections - totally unexpected. I was hoping, but not expecting when I sent in my manuscript.

So this is what my brain did with my achievement - turned it into a non-event. Why, because I'm not going to see any money for probably a year. Small publisher - no advance. Don't blame them. Didn't expect an advance. But my crazy brain then said, well what good is it to publish if you aren't going to be a financial boon to your family. And that made me unhappy, grumpy and hard to live with. For a few hours.

Until I figured it out. I didn't know what was wrong with me.  Here I'd just been offered a contract, and boom, I'm feeling blue. Stupid, huh? So I started thinking about what I was thinking. What was I telling myself? Only money makes it a worthwhile accomplishment. Even I know that's not right. I wrote a novel! A whole complete novel! (and started a second). That in itself is enough to feel good about.  And now it's going to be published.  Do you know how lucky I am.  So many writers never get published.  Or their 7th, 8th, 9th novel finally gets them in the door.

Now I have to admit Moonlighting isn't my first novel. I wrote a very bad novella when I was in my 20s. I cringe when I think of it now. But that's OK.  Experience helps writing dramatically, and I have lots of that.

OK - so what? What is now that I've figured out how my brain works, I'm not going to let it burst my bubble. I done good. I deserve the happy dance.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I saw August Rush this weekend. I'd never heard of it. Didn't have a clue. I fell in love. With the movie, with the actors, with the story. With the idea of listening to what the world is telling you, of following your heart - doing what it is you are meant to be doing. Not quitting on your music, writing, painting, passion - what ever it is.

 Jonathon Rhys Meyers performed his role as a singer with such passion. He sang the songs for the movie, it wasn't dubbed with someone else's voice. The energy he channeled into the music was awesome and awe inspiring. If I had that much passion in any area of my life I would count myself as blessed and cursed all at once.

I know it was a movie and very few people actually channel that kind of energy in their real life. But we should.

I've added the soundtrack from August Rush to my play list for my current novel. It's the music I listen to when I'm writing to put me back into the story. If you listen to the same music over and over while you write you eventually get to the place where when you hear the music your brain immediately jumps into your story. Or whatever else it is that you are writing, painting - you get the idea. It's helpful to have a play list to get the story flowing again.

Usually, I choose songs for my play list that have some relationship to the story.  Songs that tell the stories of the people in the book. This time I added the August Rush soundtrack willy nilly. What it's reminding me of is the passion of August's story - the passion I want to pass on in mine. Let's hope it works.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Feel of Spring

It's been a while since I've written. Between work, yuck, and my husband's reluctance for me to blog about the details of our life I've been short on subjects. Today I'm feeling sorry for myself because everyone else's blog seems so much more interesting than mine.

It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when the day is as beautiful as it is today. I could actually smell the earth warming when I walked at lunch today. A walk which made me late back to work. Luckily life went on without me and all is well.

But now I'm having to work really hard to keep the self pity going. Because on a day like today, who really cares that everyone else is a better writer with more interesting things to say than me!

Stop fooling around on the computer and go for a walk!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Last night Gloria's house burned to the ground. A teenage daughter sustained minor burns and smoke inhalation trying to rescue her pets. She spent the night in the hospital and is being released today. She saved one puppy out of 4 dogs and two cats. No one else was injured - Dad, Mom, two brothers. One of the brothers is an adult, the other is in my sons' class in school.

Everyone I've seen today is ashen faced and tearful. Faces are tired, some from staying up all night helping, some from staying up all night worrying. Plans are being formed for donations of food and clothing. We talk of where the family can live. The movers and shakers are doing their things.

Fire is our worst fear. Most of us heat our homes at least partially with wood. A fact that is not likely to change with the cost of propane, electricity and heating oil. Emotionally, we are hard hit. It could have been any one of us.

Houses burn down here every winter, many homes are old farmhouses made of wood, but this is the first that has been so close to home. Someone we know - a family in our school. A friend of my sons.

The school will pitch in, the town as well. We area tight community. What the red cross doesn't supply the rest of us will. Eventually, they'll rebuild. But for today, we are all in shock, fear and tears mirrored in each others faces as we share the tragedy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fixing Fences

I spent Valentines day digging through the snow, looking for the break in my radio dog fence. I was pretty resentful about it.  Somehow I've got in my head that fences are for husbands to fix - like the trash is his to take out! I'm not sure why I think that - I've always been in charge of the fences. Horse fences & dog fences in all kinds of weather.

So why didn't I just refuse to do it? Let someone else fix it? I was thinking about that the other day, as I was driving down the freeway. It got me to thinking about how the work got done on the ranch when I was growing up. Here's the thing: I have NO memories of my dad doing the manual labor.  I have a few pictures of him with a shovel in his hand, but no actual memories.

My memories are of my mom. Irrigating ditches, fixing fences, rounding up cattle, helping cows calve. I used to follow her around while she did these things. I'm willing to guess that she was pretty resentful about doing all that stuff. Mom was an intellectual, she loved opera. She knew everything.

I don't think there was much opera available in the town near where we lived. Certainly not many fabulous intellects to have conversations with. 

So what does this have to do with me fixing fences on Valentines day? Everything. I'm following my Mother's example. If something needed doing, she did it. Like it or not. So when the fence is broken and the husband says "they're your dogs," I go out and start digging.

It's who I am.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is it Spring? Sadly, no.

We had the most beautiful sunrise this morning. Vivid pink. The best part was when I went out to get the car. The thermometer said 32 but it felt much warmer. It was light and there was a bird singing. I don't know what kind of bird - it sang tweet-chirp, tweet-chirp. 

If felt like Spring. But we don't really get spring here. And certainly not in February! But it's nice to dream. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

A message from Zoe.

This is Zoe speaking. There are supposed to be two dots over the e in my name, but I don't know how to put them there.

I thought I should let you know that my mom doesn't have time to write any brilliant missives today. She's doing the taxes. I know this because you can hear her sigh in the next county.

She asked me if dog food was deductible. I thought maybe if she claimed me as a guard dog for her computer that it could be a business expense. She said she didn't think the IRS would buy that.

Dogs rule.

Winter Sunrise - Santa Cruz

Sunrise in Santa Cruz, California. January 30, 2009 - 6 am? Such a huge contrast to the sunrise photos I took earlier that month and posted below. Notice the absence of snow!


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Moonlight and Snow

Maybe you've heard this before. Moonlight on snow is magical. My daughter and I were leaving her piano lesson last evening after dark. The moon illuminated the snow blanketing the crook of a maple behind the spot our car was parked.

I don't have the vocabulary to describe it so you can see it. The sky behind was dark but lighter than the branches of the tree. The snow was glowing blue, lighter than both the sky and the tree. 

How can I not believe in magic when there are such sights to be seen. It's compensation for the reading on the outdoor thermometer. It just hit 10 degrees.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Too Much Information

Conventional wisdom.  OK Stop.  What in the world is conventional wisdom? The truth is I read somewhere I should read publishing trade news and keep abreast of the happenings in the publishing world.  Let me tell you - publishing news is enough to make the staunchest would-be author throw the keyboard in the trash. Or throw-up. One or the other.

Publishing houses are laying employees off by the dozens. The news is doom and gloom. Books are obsolete, digital publishing will abolish writing for pay. Eighty percent of the query letters I send out get no reply at all.  Not even a rejection form.

Then the kicker - Times is running a story about an author who got fed up and self published.  In case you haven't heard, self-publishing is supposed to be a career killer. That's the scuttlebutt. But here's this self-published author who's been offered a better-than-half-a-mill deal by a major publishing house. Wait-a-minute, shouldn't she be hearing the death knell of her writing career? What the heck is going on?

They could have easily split that deal between five of us and we all would have been thrilled! 

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for that author - and I'll read her book when it comes out. But all this conflicting news is too much.  Should I be excited that great deals are still floating around out there, or despondent because the publishing houses are failing? And how to I concentrate on writing when a little voice in the back of my head is telling me I'm wasting my time?

I wish I'd just stuck my head in the sand but it's too late now. I know too much.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Shadow List

First of all, let me say that I stole this list from Jennifer Crusie at Thank you Jenny - and forgive me.

The idea behind the shadow list is that the stuff we hide defines us as much as the stuff we let everyone see. Example - everyone in this town knows that a group of us gather on Thursday mornings in the local cafe and I'm the loud one. Everyone knows I love dogs and I'm addicted to ice cream. Those are things I'm perfectly comfortable sharing with everyone.

Shadow lists are the secret addictions. The things I watch on TV or music I listen to that I don't want anyone to know about. The stuff that's hidden under the bed. So here goes, my top ten list of things I don't want anyone to know: (To tell the truth it's going to be hard to think of ten things because my life is pretty much an open book!)

1. I listen to country music when I'm alone. I love Trace Adkins' voice and I'd marry Tim McGraw if we both weren't, already. OK, here's the big one. I love some of Toby Keith's songs. And yes I'm liberal and anti-war.  (See even here I have to justify myself.)

2. The new version of Battlestar Galatica. And Klondike bars. If I buy a carton of klondike bars and don't remind myself that only one is mine - I can eat them all in a day. Same with most kinds of chocolate. (I know Battlestar is a tv show and Klondike bars are ice cream. Don't know why I put them together, except that eating ice cream while watching tv is the best!)

3. If I could, I'd eat graham crackers soaked in milk whenever I needed comfort food.

4. I hate to exercise. I do it almost every day, but only because I have to. I have to promise myself outrageous stuff in order to get motivated. I really hate to sweat.

5. If I could get away with it I'd feed my kids whatever is fast and easy without concern for health. OK - I'd be concerned about health. But if mac and cheese was healthy and they wanted it every night. I'd let 'em have it. Of course my husband would divorce me…

6. What I want more than anything else in the world is to be Janet Evanovich, creator of Stephanie Plum and best selling author.

7. I'm horrible with money. My mom did her best to teach me right but I think that gene is missing. Or maybe I just can't focus. I'm dismal at making financial decisions.

8. If I lived alone I'd let my dogs sleep on the bed.

9. If I wasn't married I'd have even MORE dogs than I have now. Of course if I wasn't married I wouldn't be able to afford the dogs I do have because I'm so useless with money!

10. I was going to put I'd die to have Meg Ruley as a literary agent. But I actually think that shows good taste, not bad.  Meg rocks. Not only does she handle some really big best sellers, when she meets people like me she's friendly and gracious. She has a knack for making a person feel welcome and a great sense of humor. If she lived in my town she'd fit right in with my friends. So now I'd better get to work improving my writing so I have a shot at getting any agent at all!

So #10a. I'm not content with what I have. I want a huge great room and a new kitchen (If you've seen my kitchen you understand this!) and a office and craft room. And more closets and more money and… (I'm worse than my kids at Christmas.)

What's on your shadow list?