Sunday, July 31, 2011

Playing the Waiting Game

I haven't posted much here for a while because my new website and blog page are being created. Yay! I can't wait. I've never been good at waiting. : )

Anyway, I got a sneak peek at the end of the week. Just a few minor tweaks and I think we'll be ready to roll. Now I have to think of something interesting to honor the new blog's entry into cyberspace. And I have to find out how to remove my own photo from my followers...I mean, of course I'm following my own blog...but, really?

Monday, July 18, 2011


It has been a while since I posted, sorry. A quick update. The leg is healing slowly but still swells if I sit at the computer for too long. I'm sure in another week or so I'll be back to normal.

In the meantime I've been working on updating my website and blog. I'll have a new WordPress site soon, a new internet home, all sparkly and clean and pretty. I believe it's user friendly too, so I'm looking forward to that.

I'm loving my purchase of a Kindle and it became my go to medication when I could barely hobble around. I've read a ton of books these past two weeks. Top of the list so far has been, Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See, and Lucien's Fall, by Barbara Samuel. Both great stories that left me wanting more at the end. You can't ask for better than that in a book.

My latest manuscript is coming along well. I'm enjoying the process and the way my characters are showing themselves on the page. Plus, I've gotten a few submissions out for the last book, entered a few contests, and pitched to a couple of editors and agents. It's all good.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Heeding My Advice.

I'm really good at giving advice, excellent in fact. ; )I've always advised my mother and mother-in-law to never rush to pick up the phone, because they might fall, trip on something, have wet feet from the garden, or the shower, or be bleary eyed from grabbing an afternoon snooze. I always say, if a call is important the person will call back. Excellent advice for the elderly, right?

On Sunday I changed my routine because of an excessive heat warning, and took the dog out early for a walk. We usually go out after my nine am phone call that comes in regular as clock work every Sunday morning. So I got back home and had an hour to go before the call and decided to exercise. I was on the Spinner bike, reading a book and pedaling to my heart's content, when the phone rang and startled me. I jumped off the bike to get to the phone and forgot to slow down first. The pedal whacked me in the shin, the serated edge tearing out a couple of chunks of flesh, and leaving skid marks that looked like a car had run over me. I faked good health with my 99 year old caller not daring to look at the damage, or the blood oozing down to my sneaker, and ended the call.

Now, remember this was Fourth of July weekend, in the Cali desert where temperatures reached 118 degrees on the Saturday, and anyone in their right mind had left town for the nearest beach. I was a wreck and knew I had to go to the E.R. So, I stopped the bleeding, covered the wound with gauze squares, wrapped it and strapped on an ice bag and drove myself.

After they patched me up and steri-stripped me, gave me a Tetanus shot, and dressed and bandaged the wound, I was sent home with discharge papers, hugely grateful that no bone was broken. The instructions mentioned keeping the wound dry, so no daily swim, a quick shower with the leg in a plastic bag was okay, and they advised against any activity that caused sweating. Did I say that it was 118 freakin degrees on Saturday? Okay, I'm weird, but that really made me laugh. Anyway, I've now done the RICE, rest, ice, compression, and elevation for two days, and I'm bored to tears. Today the bandage was changed, the wounds redressed, and I can get around okay but it's going to be a while until I heal.

I keep mentally admonishing myself for being such a klutz. I remember the oft quoted words of my mother's Irish father (a grandparent who passed when I was quite young)and they are: "If you can hear me, then bloody well heed me." I'd heard my own words, said over and over, for years and years, but did I heed them? Nope.

Some things are gonna have to change around here. : )

Monday, June 27, 2011

Great Beginnings

Have you ever wondered what it is about a novel that keeps you spellbound from page one? It’s not magic. It has to be that you, the reader, connects on a deep inner level with the main character, and you’re living the story as it unfolds, right?

As a writer, how do you capture your reader’s imagination in that way, and so immediately? How do you give readers enough information to titillate the senses, and leave enough enticing tidbits to lead them through the story until their appetites are fully sated at the end? How do you achieve that awesome comment from a reader when he/she tells you they stayed up until 3am to finish your book?

Multi-published romance author, Lynn Kerstan, is here to share her insights into the art of, Great Beginnings:

Robena: You speak, and teach, about introducing irresistible characters. Can you explain?
Lynn: I believe first impressions count. They endure throughout the story. How you first present your main characters is far more important than the opening “event.”
There are six main points:
1. Choose the qualities you most want the reader to perceive in your main characters on the first acquaintance. You can’t show them all up front, nor do you want to.
2. Find the opening scene action that will allow you to show the specifically chosen aspects of your main characters.
3. Recognize the personal qualities most relevant to your character’s story arc.
4. Plan specific ways to “unpeel the onion” and reveal the hidden depths and unexpected (even contradictory) aspects of your character’s nature.
5. Foreshadow character traits in the early scenes.
6. Create irresistible hooks that make readers want to stick with a character they’ve just met and find out what happens to him/her.
Robena: Excellent. I think those six points will be typed, printed, and taped to my computer. Do you have any other words of wisdom that relate to great beginnings?
Lynn: I teach an online class and go into greater depth with the points made above. In Part B, I discuss three more topics:
1. The Inciting Incident
2. The Story Question
3. Other Essential Stuff.
Robena: I like that, “Other Essential Stuff”. Would you care to explain some of that “stuff” today?
Lynn: What Not to Write; False Starts; Prologues; Backstory Blunders; TMI—Too Much Information. I’m always adding material and changing material based on questions from class members. They teach me a lot about what they need and want.
Robena: TMI. Yes, I have been guilty of that, or at least my adult children tell me so. Ha ha. How long does the course run? Also, when will you be teaching the next class on beginnings? Or are you teaching a different topic?
Lynn: Three or four weeks, depending on the sponsoring RWA Chapter or other writerly venue. The next “Great Beginnings” class runs 01August-28August, offered by the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal Chapter of RWA.
More information and registration available at:
Robena: Tell us a little about yourself.
Lynn: I’m a former college professor, folksinger, professional bridge player, and nun, the author of nine Regency romances, seven historical romances, and several novellas. I’m also a five-time RITA Finalist, with one win, and I’m currently developing a paranormal series.
Robena: Wow! That’s an impressive bio. I’m sure you’ve tapped into that life experience for your novels. And did I hear you say you were once a nun?
Lynn: Yep.
Robena: Care to elaborate? I had two great aunts who were nuns. They were really funny characters, and they had a fabulous outlook on life.
Lynn: Well, I think I’m funny. Others beg to differ. Spent only 2 ½ years in the convent, though, at Mount St. Mary’s in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful experience. I’m glad I went in, and I’m glad I came out.
Robena: Thanks for sharing about yourself, and your incredible writing knowledge. I know that I learned a lot from this interview, and I’m sure my chapter mates will also. I’m going back to the work in progress to take another look at the beginning, and I think my focus will be on your first point.

To learn more about Lynn, or for information on her online classes, please visit her at

(This interview first posted in the LARA Confidential, June 2011.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thank you Whirlpool.

How often do you get blog subject matter from your washing machine?
Do any of you remember Cathy from the comic strip? It was based on Cathy Guisewite’s life, and dealt with the four basic guilt trips women have: food, love, mother, and work. I used to enjoy Cathy’s take on things and for the most part could relate. She poked fun at the foibles of modern women, but in a nice way, and I always read that strip in my daily newspaper.
Anyway a lot of years ago I had bought a Cathy doll. She’s quite tall, maybe eighteen or so inches. She’s totally made of fabric and pleasantly plump. Her skin is pale pink, with brown wool hair, a drawn on cartoon face with kind of an “oops” smile, and she wears a blue outfit. I didn’t know until yesterday that the dress is fixed with Velcro to her body and it’s covered by a long sleeved matching blue jacket. She wears fabric blue shoes and they are fixed in place. Velcro’d to her hands is a brown briefcase also made from fabric, and printed on it are the words: Take Life One Disaster at a Time.
I liked those words and thought they were good ones to live by, and I tried hard to follow that advice. Although some days when my kids were teenagers it was more like too many disasters to deal with, and how can I juggle all of them? I’d look at Cathy, who always sat on the spare chair in my office and was only removed if someone wanted to sit there—except for my son who used to just sit right on top of her—and I’d roll my eyes and say, “Okay, Cathy, speak to me.” Over the years Cathy was relegated to different places as my home space got smaller and the kids went off in pursuit of whatever it is that kids pursue. Yesterday I found her again. She was looking a little the worse for wear: dusty, crumpled, and her hair was tangled. I threw her into the washing machine, not realizing her clothes could be removed, tossed in the detergent, started up the machine, and went back to work on my latest WIP. Then, as writers are apt to do, I got deeply involved in my work and forgot all about Cathy.
This morning I decided to wash towels and opened the top of the washing machine. There was Cathy, totally naked, and totally dry. She was smiling up at me, her pink body smooth as a baby’s bottom, her clothes lying in disarray on the bottom of the machine, and her briefcase torn from her little hands. She looked happy, like she’d had a really good night of it. I burst out laughing. Then I took her out and dressed her. She didn’t even need a spin in the dryer, but her hair? Let me tell you whatever she did in that machine, she sure had fun. That brown wool hair was too tangled to comb out, so I did the best I could and braided it, tying it off with a rubber band. Then I reattached her briefcase, like she was heading back to the office.
She’s as good as new, if not better, and she seems quite content sitting on a stool behind me. I’m not sure about her smug smile though, maybe it’s satisfaction after her little spin?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Fruitless Loop

I recently read in my horoscope that I must beware falling into a fruitless loop. I love the term. I rolled it around on my tongue like it was a mouthful of rare and expensive wine and my job was to define all of its subtle nuances. Then the phrase began to play tricks with my mind. It was like an earworm. A tape track playing over and over and over until I couldn’t shake it loose.

Soon my thoughts centered on cereal. Quite a jump, but you catch my drift…Fruit Loops…no, they must be fruitless loops, like in plain Cheerios. I love Cheerios. Cheerios with sliced banana or blueberries, skim milk, and a couple of cups of coffee. That gets me going in the morning. Cheerios at night while watching TV and sipping a nice smooth Pinot Noir. Cheerios, you ask, with wine? Sure. Toss them in with some trail mix and you have quite a healthy snack...especially if you buy the whole grain instead of the plain. But, back to the fruitless loop, what does that mean?

I suppose it’s like taking the freeway home, and then looping from one interchange to another, going through the motions, driving on automatic pilot…but then again you would have a destination or goal in that scenario. You’d be on a freeway loop but there’d be fruit at the end because you’d arrive home. How about walking on the treadmill yet going nowhere? But wait a minute, that would also bear fruit, wouldn’t it? You would at least lose some weight or firm and tone your legs, stop your butt from sagging. So that could be considered fruit, the fruits of your labors. What about the hamster racking up miles on the wheel? He’s going around and around and getting nowhere fast. Or is he? Maybe that workout aids his digestion so he gets to eat more fruit. Think about it.

Seriously, I think the fruitless loop is about human emotion. It’s about being locked into one way of thinking that shows little or no progress. Or the replaying of negative messages, thoughts without end, without purpose, and that bear nothing positive. No fruit for the effort. I think that’s it. It’s a mind thing, the games we play with our thoughts, the endless analyzing.

A fruitless loop, I love it. Have you ever been on one, and how did you jump off?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Right off the bat I'm going to say I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Woody Allen has captured something beautiful, magical, whimsical, in his study of human relationships set against the backdrop of Paris. Paris by day, by night, in the rain...but especially at midnight. Go to the theater and let yourself be swept up and away in nostalgia in this gorgeous film, Midnight in Paris.

I won't give away any spoilers here but will say that for any artist in search of his or her own creative authenticity, this movie will put you on the right track. It isn't your standard Woody Allen movie. It isn't your standard romantic comedy. In fact the comedy aspect is so subtle, so sophisitcated, I was surprised to see it fit into the rom-com genre. And I want to see the movie again to capture those lines of dialogue that made me sit forward in my seat and gasp or smile.

The way Allen directs his cast, the way he nurtures those subtleties of character, those nuances that come from a wide-eyed gaze, to a flick of an eyebrow that can say so much, is pure genius. I think this might be Owen Wilson's "moment" in his career. I understood his character was in essence a portrayal of Allen's own self, but the tender way Owen played the role of Gil was gorgeous, and he didn't show any of the cynical side that often comes through in Allen's movies. Instead he was awestruck.

Gil was totally blown apart with excitement to be stepping back in time and hobnobbing with the artists of a bygone era. The way he discovered himself through discovering those artists was captivating. Haven't we all thought at some time that we'd missed the boat, or been born into the wrong era, or that the so called Golden Era was long gone and would never be repeated? That lure for the past, that longing for what was comes because we can't see into the future, all we have is today. Somehow today looks so ordinary. So lackluster. Not so, this film.