Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for...Zigzag

It's the last day of the A to Z Challenge! Wow, that went by fast!
I've really enjoyed visiting all the blogs participating in this challenge. That being said, I'm so glad it's over! LOL! I'm an author and authors are told to blog, so I created a blog. I've been zigzagging all over the place for almost a year, not entirely sure what I want to blog about or even if I want to blog at all. The biggest thing I've learned from blogging every day is that I can't blog every day. I write every day. I write fiction. Blogging is something else. Will I keep doing it? Yes, I think I will. But right now, I'm ready to settle down with a chocolate martini and dive into my favorite place - the unpostable fictional world of my dreams! Tomorrow I might do some blogging, just to see how it feels to blog without the restrictions of A to Z! :)
And I will happily enjoy your future posts, A to Zers...I'm addicted to quite a few of your blogs and I'll be watching you to see which way you zag!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for...Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone: A Novel

I recently read Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone: A Novel by Stefan Kiesbye. I didn't like it, and yet, I'm surprised by some of the negative reviews I read on Amazon. I didn't like it, but I want to read it again. It's that kind of book. It leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth and a desire to run away from what it's telling you.

It's a book about evil and what it means to be human, to be part of a group, to be a child, a parent. It brings up questions of love, of greed, of sacrifice and the answers aren't pretty. The problem is, the answers are also very real and plausible.

Kiesbye's writing is enchanting. It's simple and straightforward, yet I found myself re-reading passages after realizing I missed a deeper meaning. The story details the relationship of four residents of Hemmersmoor, a small village in Germany. The setting is post-war Germany and it calls up some uncomfortable issues facing the generation of Germans growing up in a post-Nazi world. I liked this part of the book, having gone to school myself in Germany during the 1970s and catching a glimpse of these things. I found Kiesbye's references to the supernatural unique, complex and refreshing. This is not a fun read, but it's also not a book I can ignore. I'll read it again before I decide what I really think of it. Maybe this time I'll enjoy it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for....X words and Words With Friends

Once again, I'm late getting my post up. I've discovered that weekends are not a good time for blogging! I'm just too busy having fun!

Anyway, X is obviously a tough letter, so I headed for Google to see what x words were available. Lo and behold, at the very top of the search are all these sites for scrabble words! I have been playing Words With Friends for quite a while now and I had no idea these helpful sites existed! No wonder I never win. :)

So I'm wondering...is that cheating? I know there are cheats available for Words with Friends because I have teenagers and they know how to get cheats for everything! I'm 'too bloody sporting' to download cheats, but is it cheating to look up X words? What do you think?

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for...Write a Novel in a Week?

I was going through some tweets this morning and came upon an interesting article by Kathryn Kane about ugly duckling first drafts and writing a novel in a week. Okay, I've done Nanowrimo, which involves writing a novel in a month, and that's crazy enough. Writing a novel in a week? You know what? I like it!

I've been stuck in a writing wasteland for the past few months and this idea appeals to me. I think I can write an "ugly duckling draft" in a week. I have a novel that's been spinning around in my head for more than a year. Certainly I can get the bulk of it down on paper if I'm not worrying about perfection, right? And this is the perfect time to do it. The A to Z Challenge is almost over. The kids are still in school. We have no birthdays or other family events on the immediate horizon. The planets are aligned and I'm ready to write.

There is an official Book in a Week group, but they aren't accepting new members at the moment. So I'll go for it on my own...unless you'd like to join me? I'm going to begin this insane challenge on Wednesday, May 1st. The A to Z Challenge will be over and I like the idea of starting on the first day of the month. Post a comment or visit my contact page if you want to join me in one crazy week of writing! And yes, I just made this decision about ten minutes ago! That's the way I roll! :)

V is for...Vacation

Whew! The A to Z Blog Challenge is almost over and I guess that's a good thing, since I'm having trouble keeping up!

With all this unusually cold weather we've been having down here in south Texas, I'm thinking about the summer and our vacation to St. George Island, Florida. This is my favorite beach, mostly because it's so isolated. :) Last year we were there the week that Tropical Storm Debbie arrived...
Here it is rolling in! The kids and I were collecting shells, thinking we had some time before the storm hit. Then towels and beach chairs started flying and by the time we got back to the house, we were drenched, our skin stinging from the sand. So hopefully this year we won't get a tropical storm or hurricane! And now I guess I'd better get my head out of the clouds...time to go back to work. A-ha! W is for work?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for...Undecided: What to Read Next?

I've been on a reading binge lately, doing a little research for my next book. The Monster at Water Castle (tentative title) is going to be a Gothic historical suspense, so I've been delving into lots of old Gothic novels and a few more recent books like Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger and Wendy Webb's The Tale of Halcyon Crane.

Any suggestions? I'm looking for something published within the last five years, a little dark, possibly historical.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for...Texas Book Awards 2013

The 2013 Writers' League of Texas Book Awards Contest is underway. The contest is open to Texas authors of books published in 2011 or 2012. The deadline is April 30th and you must submit two copies of your book. The contest is also open to self-published books.
Click here for more information!

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for...Synopsis Tip

I don’t know one author who enjoys writing a synopsis, but it’s a necessary evil if you’re going to submit your work. Even if you’re planning to self publish, I recommend writing a synopsis because it’s the best way to package your novel. This can be packaged for an agent, an editor, a website, a book blurb and for media kits.
There are plenty of great websites out there with overviews on how to write a synopsis. I’m not going to teach a class in one blog post, but for those of you who struggle with these things, I thought you might like to hear how I break the whole thing down into something bearable.

Use 12 index cards. Twelve index cards only, Vasili. (Yes, I love The Hunt for Red October) On the first card, write down your hook. This is your elevator pitch or the first line from your query letter. Write the ending on the last card, if you know it. If you’re still plotting, write down possible endings. All of them. Now use a card to write down what your main character wants and why she or he can’t have it.  If you’re writing a romance, use one card for the hero and one for the heroine. Detail on each card why they can’t be together.  Take two or three cards and write down scenes where your protagonist attempts to achieve what she wants. Use the rest of the cards to write down the climax, your main character’s darkest moment, her first big challenge, etc. Remember, stick to the story of your protagonist only at this point. (You can add a few secondary characters later, but only if necessary).
That’s it. When you’re finished, you will have a very rough initial synopsis outline. You should have a good idea of your protagonist’s character arc and the high points of your story. Good luck!


R is for...Reflections

So when Friday came along, I threw all my notes into the air, shut down my computer and ran off for some family time - forgetting that I was supposed to blog on Saturday! With my S post looming ahead, I thought I'd take this time to reflect on the A to Z Challenge and the concept of blogging every day.

I joined this challenge because I am a blogging rookie and I have no idea what I want to do with this blog. There, I said it. I like to write fiction, I like to talk about books, but I don't really read a lot of blogs. But, when your publisher suggests you start a blog, what is a new writer to do? You start a blog, of course! We're in the home stretch of this challenge and I can honestly say that I will continue to blog. I won't be blogging every day because it takes too much time away from writing and because I don't have that much to say, but I have enjoyed reading some of the other blogs participating in the challenge and I've learned that your blog is what you make it.

I want to thank my new followers and say that I've so enjoyed meeting you all and visiting your blogs. I've discovered a favorite new photographer, learned a little bit more about great Americans, picked up some useful writing tips and most importantly, I've seen that I'm not the only writer/artist/creative thinker in the blogosphere still trying to find a voice. We've got eight days left and I'm still clicking, still exploring, still making new blogging friends!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ps & Qs


Yesterday got away from me and I didn't get a chance to post, so today I'm combining P & Q. There is some debate about the origins of the phrase, minding your Ps & Qs, and today I'm going to use the interpretation of Please and Thank You. Fellow bloggers! We're on the home stretch of the A to Z Blog Challenge and I'm going to check out some more of your wonderful blogs and follow. Please do the same and thank you for following me back!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writing Tip #1

O is for....Overused Words

Today I thought I'd start a thread called 'Writing Tips'. I'll try to post at least one tip per month. Since I'm doing the A to Z Blog Challenge, I'll start with....

Overused words!

Yes, it's annoying to read a piece of fiction and be bombarded with the same words over and over again, so we should all try to identify the words we lean on and overuse. There are plenty of websites with lists of these words and if you keep writing, you'll start to notice your own 'crutch words'. Some of mine are oh, so, just, see, look, and very - just to name a few.

We don't want to annoy readers with the same word choices, but I've learned that looking for overused words also helps me identify other problems with a scene. Here are some examples....

I tend to use this word in dialogue and I almost always mean to imply some kind of physical action or reaction from a character. During revision, I look at each oh and if it implies action, I replace the word with some kind of physical activity.

There are five sense we can draw from, but I tend to lean on the visual. I always find way too many looks and eyes in my work. Look for these and see if you can replace the visual with a touch, an odor, a sound. Mix it up and let your characters experience events with all five senses. Watch out for words like gazed and glanced.

When you find these words in your manuscript, ask yourself if the character is really trying to do the action or actually doing it!
Sabrina tried to pull the door open is only accurate if she ultimately fails. Sabrina wrapped her hands around the heavy iron ring and pulled. The door was locked tight or Sabrina pulled with all her strength. The heavy door opened with a loud creak is more descriptive and more accurate.

I have a real problem with 'walking the dog'. Sometimes it seems impossible to move my characters from one side of the room to the other without explaining every detail of their journey. So I have characters turning, backing away, walking forward and yes, turning this way and that. Look for these words while revising and see how much of this direction your reader really needs. You can usually cut most of this prop movement.

When you're writing your first draft, I think you should ignore all rules and just get your story down on paper. I'm sure there are writers out there cringing as they read this, but if I try to remember every writing tip and rule, I'll never finish the story. Overused words are definitely something you should look for during revision and replacing them with more thoughtful choices can add depth to your story.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for....

Nothing else is on my mind today.
Like most Americans, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston. I feel a great sense of pride in our country and in humanity to see people running into the jaws of danger, hoping to help. 9/11, the shootings in Colorado and Newtown, these events have changed us. They have changed me. I no longer feel shock at these evil acts, just sadness and the conviction that the good really is greater.

My daughter and her friends wore purple today, in honor of the victims in Boston. They wore green in the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was initially disturbed. I worried that she was being flippant about a serious crime and I worried that she knew too much for her twelve years. Last night, while she was texting friends and discussing the tragedy, I realized that wearing special colors is her way of paying respect, of marking the event and saying that it matters. It is also part of the greater good. In her desire, her need to pay tribute, is her need to say that the good is greater and that she is part of that good.

So today I will wear purple. Like my daughter, I will pay tribute to the victims, the first responders, the bystanders who helped, the doctors and nurses, to the runners and the spirit of the Boston Marathon -  and to the good in all of us. It doesn't mean that I don't see the evil. We all see it, but we can also pull together and overwhelm the evil, each in our own way.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Mirror Writing

Monday is a good day for weird writing habits, right?

Agatha Christie said that the best time to plan a book is while doing dishes. For some reason, my creative juices really get going while I'm in the shower. No, I'm not writing steamy sex scenes! Well, not always.

I think the shower is just the last place of privacy in my life. I don't bring my phone into the bathroom so I don't hear it ring. I don't have Facebook or Twitter in the shower. My kids know that I will not respond to knocks and urgent calls for "Mom". I'm not distracted by passing cars, television, music, doorbells or anything else.

So I often step out of the shower brimming with ideas. I realized that by the time I got dressed and dried my hair, the ideas had swirled down the drain, so I started this habit of mirror writing.

I just grab a lipstick or an eyeliner and scribble on the mirror. It's great for getting ideas out in a hurry. Not so great for my husband though, if the story really takes off!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Little Girl with a Gun

Today was a crazy busy day, but I still managed to work a little on this novella I'm trying to finish. I thought the story would be about 8,000 words, but it's more than twice that now and there is still an awful lot of story left to tell.

So here's a little excerpt in honor of the 12th letter of the alphabet....

I wanted to kiss him the moment I laid eyes on him, but of course that was the one thing I most definitely could not do.
            The young girl with the AK-47 held him steady in her sights.  I watched him kneel and carefully lay his weapon down, the ease of his movements stealing my breath.
            His face was hidden behind a pair of tinted sunglasses, his body encased in Army green and tan fatigues, but I could see his strong chin and tanned skin.  What moved me, what made me want to take him, was the courage he showed when he surrendered his assault rifle.
            He knelt opposite the girl, unmoving.  In this place of swirling dust and daily eruptions of gunfire and explosions, this soldier's stillness was captivating - the sound of shouting retreated, fell away.  Automobiles and trucks on the nearby supply road quieted.  The very air seemed to halt, the dust falling to the ground like litter. 
            The American soldier said something.  I was too far away to hear the words, but their tone, even at a distance, was calm, soothing.  The girl rocked on her feet, but kept the muzzle of her gun leveled at his chest.  Tears ran down her dirty cheeks, mixing with rivulets of sweat dripping from her dark hair, giving her face a Madonna-like sheen. 
            I moved closer, crouching behind the cars parked along the street.  There were no passengers, no drivers and no pedestrians on this lonely street just outside of Kandahar.  The residents had either fled or were hiding behind closed curtains.
            The girl had every intention of killing.  I could see it in her eyes.  They weren't the eyes of a young girl, but the eyes of a soldier who had seen too much death.   
Have a great night!

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for....

Kill your darlings early


Today was a good writing day, but I had to kill a few darlings. I think my biggest challenge when writing a novel is making decisions. When a story first comes to me, it comes as Gaia. It involves all things and many, many characters. Writing it down, taking it out of my head and putting it on paper, forces me to kill my darlings very early on. It also forces me to kill plot lines. I hate doing this. I guess I'm a girl who has learned to keep her options open and that translates onto the page.

When I'm writing, I can see all sides of an issue, of people, of their motivations.  But if you try to write a novel seeing all sides, you end up with a big fat mess. Trust me. I've tried it. In fact, I believe this is a common mistake new writers make. We want to relay the story in its entirety.  Unfortunately, a story newly and fully conceived often lacks focus.  

If I wait until revision to kill my darlings, I'll have a big fat mess, so I know I have to kill darling characters and darling little plot lines very soon in the writing process.

The upside to this is that I never really run out of material. I hoard plot lines and character traits the way some people might stockpile family photographs and their children's artwork. My characters also like to surprise me. I'll cut something I think they won't need and a couple hundred pages later, they will insist I give it back.

Oh, but the pain of making decisions when writing. It really is my least favorite aspect of the process.


Technical Difficulties

Good morning and happy Friday!
I woke up this morning to find that my blog post did not post yesterday. I have no idea why and I'm a little crushed that I 'missed' a day. Still, as a fellow A to Z Challenger wrote, Just Keep Swimming.
Today all I want to do is curl up with a good book, but I promised myself I would finish Valkyrie's Kiss, a short I've let languish for far too long.
The letter K will be my lunch break! :)

J is for Jack of all Trades

We all know the old maxim, 'write what you know'. These days I see more and more writers advising new authors to write what you don't know, to write about things you wish you could do, which inevitably leads to research. Personally, I'd much rather write about haunted geneticists, mail order brides and Italian counts than what I really know. I mean, I'm a housewife. Which I love. But my main area of expertise involve things like shopping for the best price on a bottle of ketchup and refereeing a fight between two hormonal teenagers.

Of course I do draw on some reserves when I write. For settings, I draw heavily on places I've lived and I use my knowledge of history to construct plotlines. But obviously I've never been one of the walking dead, I've never met at Italian count (that I'm aware of) and I can't perform surgery with a kitchen knife and a pair of rubber gloves.

So like most authors, I resort to research when trying to flesh out and get to know a character that is living a life completely different from my own. Along the way I've learned a lot about the decomposition process, shipping at the turn of the century, the intricacies of Victorian undergarments and much more. For me, part of the incentive to write another novel is always the play involved in dressing up, in trying on the clothes of a new person, a new profession, a new lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review

I read this book in less than twenty-four hours. Hank Palace is a newly made detective on his first case. Unfortunately, the world is about to end and nobody else cares about solving crime. His victim is a ‘hanger’, assumed to be just another suicide that couldn’t face the upcoming extinction event. But something about the crime scene doesn’t sit right with Detective Palace and while the world hurls toward destruction, he does everything he can to solve the mystery of this apparent suicide.

I’m thrilled that The Last Policeman is just the first installment of what will be a trilogy. I literally could not put this book down. The main character is fascinating. He’s a good man with ideals that have gone out of fashion all too quickly. He is confused and a little lost, but refuses to give in to despair. I can’t wait to see what happens next. The novel is a complete read. The author doesn’t leave the reader hanging over the edge of a cliff, however, there is also so much more to know.
This isn’t like any other apocalyptic story I’ve read. It’s not a horror fest. The Last Policeman takes a thoughtful look at our mortality, both as individuals and as a species.  And yet, I did not trudge through this book. It was just tons of fun to read. I will read anything Ben H. Winters writes. (Except perhaps Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Horror

So I wrote a little book about a zombie. I love horror stories. My favorite author is Stephen King. But am I horror writer?

I never thought so, but recent reviews of my book have given me pause. Could I be a horror writer and not know it? I know my stories always seem to take a turn toward the dark side. Death always figures as a central theme or figure, even in my ‘romance’ stories.

I don’t think of myself as a straight-up horror writer, but according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, horror fiction is…

intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, scare or startle viewers/readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of Horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.

This definition does encapsulate just about everything I write.

Except I don’t really try to gross people out or scare them. I don’t think. In any case, my newest piece of fiction is a Gothic novel that leaves my heroine plumbing some pretty dark depths of the human mind and soul. And according to Wikipedia,

The horror genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the eighteenth century as Gothic horror

So, holy crap, I might be a horror writer after all…..

I’ve realized during letters A through G of the A to Z Challenge that I’m a very green writer still defining herself. Thinking about the letter H has led me to this possible realization that I’m a horror novelist. I wonder how that would change my approach to writing? Hmmmmm.

I also wonder where the next letter will take me?

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for German Water Castles

My current WIP is a romantic suspense with Gothic elements set in a German water castle. I have been fascinated with these castles since I was a young girl living in northern Germany. We lived near Munster, sometimes called The Land of 100 Moated Castles. The land is marshy bogland. I used to traipse around with my friend Gustel in muck and mud that called up images of Sherlock Holmes’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, so it’s a wonderful place to set a novel.  

A water castle is simply a castle surrounded by water. There are brightly colored water castles and dark, medieval water castles. I love them all, but am going to set mine in a dark medieval, of course. So today I’m posting a few pictures of Burg Lehenich…a little inspiration for my Monday.

Construction began in the 14th century.

This next one sparks all kinds of fun images for my novel....yep, I'm inspired already!

Have a wonderful Monday!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Storyboarding Sunday

Today I'm working on my storyboard for The Monster at Water Castle (tentative title). This is probably my favorite part of the writing process.

I don't begin with a storyboard. I've already written about 15,000 words or so. This lets me get to know my main character and play with the story idea. Once I get some words down and have a general idea of what the story is about, I do a storyboard. My storyboards change constantly. Right now I know who my main character is and what she wants. I know some details about the setting, which are important for this story.  I know the tone I want to set and I have a very clear vision of the last scene.  The rest I will fill in as I go. Here is an inspiration photo for the setting...

Yes, that's me! I'm cheating a bit here...this is actually an Italian castle and my story is set in Germany. Lucky for me, I write fiction! For some reason this staircase wants to be in the story, so why fight it?  Now I'm off to fill all that white space with multi-colored Post-It notes...see you on the other side!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Fart Reviews and Fun with Writing

Some writers have egos the size of the continental United States, but I’m not one of them. Nothing I write ever comes out quite the way I intended. When I read my stuff, all I can see are the flaws.

And for me, getting published only made things worse. Soon after my book came out, a family member told my kids that she tried to read my book, but couldn’t get through it because it seemed to be all about farts. Ouch. Now, I know my first book isn’t for everyone. It’s a little gruesome…after all, it is about a girl morphing into a walking corpse! But that review hurt. Yes, there are some farts in my book, but I thought there was also a story!
Harsh reviews, mean reviews, cutting reviews…I will forever after call them ‘Fart Reviews’…come with the territory. If I’m going to keep writing, I have to find a way to stand by my work, to own it and let it go. I’m starting to believe that the only real way to deal with the pain of a Fart Review is to go back to the fun in writing. I’m a person that likes to do things the ‘right’ way. I’ve read tons of books about writing, taken classes, and asked for lots and lots of critiques. Now, I’m not saying a new writer shouldn’t do these things, but somewhere along the way to becoming a ‘serious novelist’ I started taking myself way too seriously. Apparently this seriousness is the kiss of death where my writing is concerned.
It’s taken me a few months, but I’m gradually getting back to the fun part. The old maxim is true – working on a new project helps tremendously. I recently received a tweet from a reviewer, asking when my next book would be out and that definitely took away the sting of the Fart Review. I also just received a copy of my paperback and my publisher added a positive review on the back. I’d like to get that framed and hang it in my office. And thankfully I have the undying support of so many people.

How about you? What was your worst Fart Review? How did you deal with it? Do reviews give you writer’s block?

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Eeeeewwww

....and everybody party because The Corpse Goddess is now available in PAPERBACK! I've had lots of requests for this and I'd like to thank the wonderful Evernight Publishing for making it happen.

To celebrate I'm posting a short excerpt from the novel, which I like to describe as Horror Lite. It's not a book for the squeamish, but it's lots of fun!

The zombie walked around the bed, coming for her. The smell emanating from the thing was turning the wine in her stomach to vinegar, but Meg swallowed back the nausea and forced herself to stand. She lunged forward, legs scrambling, stomach lurching. She thrust out her hands with all her remaining strength.
The impact, when it came, was like a jacked up haunted house gimmick. She felt her fingers plunge through the fabric of the thing's tattered white shirt as her hands sank into its rotting chest. The flesh beneath its shell of leathery skin was surprisingly gooey. Her hands sank into the gelatinous mess, and she had a fleeting thought that this was how people went crazy. She could feel her mind slipping away from the shocking reality of her predicament and into a deep, dark hole somewhere in the depths of her mind.
And then the rancid flesh embraced her, pulled her in. An intense burning triggered her hands to start shaking, and the sensation traveled up her arms. She screamed and tried to pull her hands away, but they stuck, super-glued to the monster. A bolt of blue ran across the zombie's chest. Meg screamed again, howling like a wounded animal, desperately trying to free herself from a nightmare she didn't quite believe in.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Dyslexia

A few months ago, I thought dyslexia was a rare disorder where you read words backwards. A few weeks ago I found out that dyslexia is quite common, involves a whole lot more than reading things backwards and that my fourteen year old honor student has the disorder. I’m still reeling.

How could I, a writer and a book addict, miss something so huge?

To be fair, I always knew there was something special about my son. I knew his mind worked in a completely different way from my own. I knew he was brilliant, creative and liked to do things his own way. When he was in first grade, I scheduled a meeting with the teacher about his handwriting. He writes from the bottom up. Not some letters…all of them. It’s the strangest thing to watch. The teacher didn’t seem concerned. She said it was legible and his grades were good.

In second grade I asked if he needed speech therapy. He couldn’t, and still can’t, say the word ‘theatre’. He ran words together, especially when he got excited. Again, the teacher didn’t see any reason to test him. He’d had a soft palate injury when he was a toddler and I decided he must have developed a small speech issue that wasn’t cause for concern.

As he moved into higher grades and finally to middle school, I bought my son books on stress management. He seemed especially hard on himself where school was concerned. Granted, I have high expectations for my kids. They’re both bright and I’ve always told them to do their best. My son often asked me to ‘go over’ things with him. We studied together. He always asked me to quiz him before a test and he always asked me to check his work

It wasn’t until this year that I really started to notice my son might have a problem with reading. He stopped reading for pleasure. He said he was too tired, it was too much after working so hard in school. He’s in all pre-AP classes, so I thought he had a point and let it go. In his social studies class, all tests are essay tests. Suddenly his grades dropped. He started preparing for the test a week before, writing out the entire essay and then memorizing it. His grades went back up.

When I first spoke to his English teacher, she dismissed the idea of a reading disorder. She said she didn’t see any sign of that in the classroom and that she thought he had ADD?!  I started researching reading disorders and with a dawning horror realized that my son displayed definite signs of dyslexia. I went over the English teacher’s head and contacted the school counselor. That was last November.

I don’t blame the teachers or the school for missing my son’s dyslexia. I don’t blame myself – well, I try not to blame myself too much. I wish I’d discovered it sooner, but I’m grateful we caught it before high school and that we have such wonderful accommodations available at our school.  

I am in awe of my son. He’s done so well in school by sheer determination. He’s getting accommodations now and when they signed him up for audio books, you should have seen his excitement. He craves knowledge and has been starving for it! He’s downloaded books on computer programming, history, and science. He’s experiencing excitement and a flooding sense of relief. He’s not ashamed or embarrassed. When he first started getting tested, his friends couldn’t believe it. He’s known as the smart kid and I guess there is still a stigma that dyslexics don’t do well in school. But he’s finding out there are a lot of closet dyslexics. I asked him if I could use ‘D’ to write about his dyslexia. “Sure,” he said, “that’d be cool.” I asked him if he was sure and he said, “Yeah, why not?”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I love, love, love my kids. But kids have a way of eating up time and leaving precious few hours (or minutes) for writing. I think this is true whether you’re a stay-at-home Mom or working outside the home. I’ve done it both ways and it’s a challenge to find writing time either way.

The most challenging time is when they’re infants because then you’re adding sleep deprivation to the list of reasons why you can’t write. But even teenagers invade writing time in their own special, irritating way.

So, how can you write a novel with kids in the house? Here are some things that have worked for me:

Use a voice recorder

My Olympus digital voice recorder has been a godsend for me. I wrote most of my last novel this way.  These days I use my smart phone because I can go hands-free. The beauty of the voice recorder is that you can use time that might otherwise be wasted. You can write during your commute or while driving the kids to and from their various activities. You can take it on walks and write while you work out. This works especially well when you have young ones strapped into a stroller! You can write while cleaning – which is my favorite part because cleaning always feels like a giant time suck. I’ll admit, in the beginning, I felt like a complete fool but give it a try. If you can get past that initial awkwardness, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish with this tool. Just be careful on the road!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you can afford it, hire a babysitter and head for the nearest library or coffee shop to write. We never could afford sitters when the kids were little, so I leaned on friends and my always supportive husband. There were days when he came home from work and I was waiting at the door, computer and coffee in hand. If you have friends or family that offer to watch the kids, don’t be afraid to accept the offer. It’s hard not to feel bad about this, but there are ways to reciprocate. Bake a pie, buy flowers, or offer to exchange sitting services with a fellow Mom. She may not be a writer, but every Mom can use a free hour here and there – even if it’s just to take a much needed nap!

Skip TV time

Or reduce it. At the end of a long day, a couple hours in front of mindless television can act as a drug on your frayed nerves, so I’m not saying quit cold turkey. Even if you reduce TV time by half an hour, you’ll get at least a page written during that time.

Take advantage of nap time

Here is another segment of time that can be filled with writing. I think the most daunting thing about writing with kids is the realization that you don’t have the luxury of huge blocks of time. This slowed me down for years. The idea that to write well, to really get into a story, I needed hours and hours of time. Here’s a tip – even if you have hours and hours of time, you probably won’t use it all for writing. I don’t. My kids are in school from 9 AM until 4 PM, and I can’t write the entire time. There are still errands, cleaning, laundry and countless other tasks to complete. I’ve also discovered that my creativity engine has about a four hour battery. After four hours of writing, the words start to blur and my characters shut down. So don’t be afraid to use small chunks of time. When the kids were little, I needed nap time as much as they did (if not more). If you need a nap, take one, but think about taking a short nap and then writing for half an hour or fifteen minutes.

Keep track of word counts

The downside to working in small time segments is the feeling that you aren’t getting ‘enough’ done, so keep track of every word you write. I do a lot of journaling to get my initial thoughts down on paper. I ramble on about characters, what they might look like, want, need, etc. Count these words, especially if you’re just starting out. At the end of the week, add them all up and see how you did.  This shows how much work you’re getting done and what goals you might want to shoot for the following week. Some weeks are better than others. My husband and son were home sick this week and it definitely affected my productivity. Don’t worry if you have a bad week and be sure to count every word. Even if you write six words, you’re still writing. And that’s the goal. Any writing time is better than no writing time.

Give yourself a break

If you have a bad day, week, month or even year, don’t beat yourself up about it. Mothering is a full time job. I think it’s the hardest job and that Moms are superheroes. Trying to do anything else, to accomplish the huge task of writing a complete story and being a mother is an enormous undertaking. So take baby steps. If you write at all, you are a writer. I’ve been writing novels for fourteen years now. It took me five years to complete my first. I had two kids during that time. Looking back, it’s not hard to figure out why it took me five years! The good news is, writing gets easier as you go. Finding time to write gets much easier when the kids go to elementary school….so if you manage to write anything while they’re toddlers, you’re way, way, way ahead of the game!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I call myself an eclectic writer. I’ve written five complete novels in four different genres. Four of them are trunk novels, one is published. I’m glad I wrote them. I learned from them and by writing in these different genres, I learned to tap into that story stream of consciousness and find my voice.

But writing in different genres does nothing to prepare an author for the dreaded branding process. For me, deciding on an author brand feels like one of its definitions:

-a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.

There are many wonderful websites dedicated to helping writers choose an author brand. Unfortunately, when you are just starting out, branding can make you feel like a child dressing up in Mom’s high heels and expensive, oversized jewelry.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier and make more sense to brand backwards? To let your brand evolve as you evolve as a writer?

Unfortunately, writing is a business and to sell a novel, a short story, a graphic novel, an author must become a product. So say the Big 6 and countless others. But is this really true?

I guess I’ll find out. I have a website that I think represents most of what I write. I like the colors and the haunted feeling of the page. There is always an underlying darkness in my stories, but there is also usually a corresponding thread of humor in the face of this darkness and I don’t think my website conveys that at all.

 “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Gustave Flaubert

This is why I write. To make sense of the world. Branding feels like I have to make too many decisions. Decisions about what I believe, what I am passionate about above all other things, what kind of writer I am. I don’t know, you see? I’m still exploring. I’m on a writing journey. I am not a finished product.

So I have my website and I like the colors. I have a tagline that speaks to me some of the time, but not always. I’ll write more books and with each book, I will discover a little bit more about myself and I’ll discover a lot more about who I am as a writer. Maybe I’ll latch onto one genre and never let go. Maybe. What can I say? I’m a work in progress….

If you’re just starting out, I found this post by Ali Cross the most helpful as far as branding. I don’t have the answer to all of the questions Ali asks, but I think she asks the right questions to point writers in the right direction.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for AFRAID

I'm joining the A to Z April Blog Challenge in the hopes that it will abolish my fears of blogging! (Always the overachiever, going for two A's instead of one.)

Last year I was told by several well intentioned fellow writers that I should be blogging. I've tried it, in fits and starts, but I'm ashamed to admit (two more!) that blogging does not come naturally to me. I feel like I'm standing on an empty stage, facing an empty auditorium. I feel like I should say something meaningful, something witty, something funny, something interesting, something unique.....and I end up with nothing.

I'm at the point where I either need to give it up and admit that I'll never be a blogger...or I need to jump in with both feet and forget about being anything but little old me.

When I'm writing fiction, I have no problem being me. Maybe because I get to play all sorts of other parts through my characters and in doing that, I see myself pretty clearly. But writing about writing? Who the hell am I to tell anyone anything about writing? I thought it would be easier to write about books, but I have such eclectic taste. There is no over-arcing theme to what I read or write. I'm all over the place, as far as genre goes. So, I'm not here to tell anyone how to write, what to read and I'm certainly not here to tell you how to blog! But I do like to talk about writing and reading, and I think if I could get over this damnable stage fright, I would enjoy blogging about those things. So, here's my shot. Thank you, Arlee Bird from Tossing it Out, for the opportunity to rise above my fears and have some fun! Maybe by the end of April, I will be able to leave 'afraid' behind and blog with abandon!