Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love to all

It's the holiday season and love is in the air. You can sense it, just like you sense that snow is falling on the mountains in the distance as cold rain lashes you and your umbrella turns inside out, and you can't even see those darn mountains.

This is a wonderful time of year and even though I am not a religious person in the sense of traditional or organized religion, I am spiritual. For me the season is all about love and family, no matter what you celebrate or even if you celebrate nothing. I feel that love of the season everywhere I go, and I allow it to wash over me and warm me. To give back. To open my heart. To embrace. To be of good cheer. I'm not a big shopper or present giver, but the other day someone gave me a little gift that touched me in a big way. It was two candy canes left in their wrappers and glued together top and bottom to form a heart. Dangling on a string from the center of the heart was a gold bow and a silver wrapped chocolate kiss. Hearts, hugs, and kisses. Isn't that what it's all about?

I hung the heart from the lamp on my desk. I'm looking at it now, as I write this. It fills me with comfort and love even though I can't be with family this year, and it's just me and the dog opening our gifts. We're going out for a long walk in a little while, and we both plan to spread some joy.

Smooches from me and the pooch.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three Books. Three Ten Ratings.

In the past month I've read three vastly different books, yet they all spoke to me on a deeply spiritual level:

The first was Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese, an epic novel that spans continents and generations. The setting is Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in the reign of Emporer Hallie Salassie, with a later setting of the Bronx in New York. It's a story written from the viewpoint of one of a set of twins as he embarks on a journey of discovery. The twins were born conjoined by a small stalk on their heads, which was severed at their birth, and are the offspring of a nun and a medical doctor. The father freaks out(the nun had hidden her pregnancy under her habit)and as she dies he realizes he loves her, and is unable to save her. The infants become to him the cause of her death and he shuns them and leaves, never to return to Ethiopia but goes on to huge success as an American surgeon. Because of his absence and the death of their mother, the twins (who were adopted by two doctors)are fascinated with the stories about their birth, but also the inconsistincies, and the secrets. One twin grows to make incredible medical discoveries, the other twin (the narrator) becomes a surgeon like the father who abandoned him. It seems to me that they all suffered from Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning autism, and all three men, the father and the twins had extreme difficulty with relationships, and were focused exclusively on one thing.

At the heart of the story is an old African fable that tells of a miserly merchant who wore much repaired slippers even though they were a great cause of derision. When he finally tried to secretly get rid of them, pretending they were not his, he caused harm to others. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see, do, and touch, every seed you sow or don't sow becomes your destiny. The key to happiness is to own your slippers. Own the things you don't like. Own who you are, how you look, your family, your talents, or the ones you don't have. If you keep saying the slippers aren't yours then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more.

The young surgeon has many struggles in his life and does not really become a man, or a great surgeon, until he confronts and owns who his father is and makes peace. His father's absence in his young life was his slippers.

A great story and even at 500+ pages, it moves quickly. A definite 10 rating.

The second was, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. This story was originally published in Brazil in 1988. It has gone on to multiple reissues and sold millions of copies. I absolutely adored this book, and it is also in some ways a fable. It is simple at heart, the story of a young sheperd who takes a journey from Andalusia to search for a treasure at the pyramids, only to find the journey itself is the treasure. The writing is lush and magical and draws you in to where you are with Santiago and reliving your own dreams. Listening to your own heart. Following his footsteps and encouraging both him and yourself to find your destiny.

It is less than 200 pages, and is well paced. It also deserves a ten rating.

The third is, The Power of Now, by Eckhardt Tolle. This is non-fiction, and a wonderful addition to my spiritual library. I've always lived too much in my head, and allowed myself to be guided by my never-ending thoughts (some positive, but most negative)and never knew there was such a simple way to stop those thoughts. To live in the now. Tolle's language is easy to understand and the book is written in a question-answer style that provides a certain degree of intimacy with the author.

At 230 pages it is at first a slower pace, until you begin to discover where the author is taking you as a reader/student. Then the pace picks up and the pieces begin to fall into place. I had a distinct realization of "now I get it." One other thing I like is that the author is not aligned with any particular religion but seems open to all. He quotes from ancient masters, the Bible, Tao, and Kabbalah. His main message: there is a way out of suffering and into peace.

This book also gets a ten rating from me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I double double did it.

Yesterday, I mailed not one but two entries to the Golden Heart contest. Yay!

Both submissions are entered in the same category. Strange, at least when there were other categories to choose from. Right? Well, see here is my thinking, I like both stories and for once in my life I'm certain that the sub-genre of romance is correct for both. So. Bottom line. I'm competing with myself.

But is that wrong?

I don't think it's wrong, because the readers (the contest judges) will all come to the stories with different understandings of what makes a story ready for publication. Based upon their numbered scores, I'll know what is working and what isn't. Kind of, because there are no comments to guide the entrant. I've been entering this contest long enough to know how to recognize what the scores mean. While my growth as a writer has been strong and steady, it wasn't until last year that I made it into the top tier. This year I'm hoping to final. I've said it, I've put it out there to the universe. Oh, the power. ; )

Anyway I'm thrilled with my efforts. I polished. I prepared like I was running a little factory in my house. The printer worked so hard: six partials of each manuscript, six synopses of each story, two full manuscripts on CD, two packages stuffed to the gills. It's a wonder my poor printer didn't explode. And after I mailed them early yesterday morning, I came home and was totally lost. There was nothing to do. It was such a weird feeling. I've decided to take a couple of days off and clear my head, then I'll start back in on Mick's story, which was put on hold at about a third of the way in so I could polish my GH entries.

Life is good.

Friday, October 29, 2010


My most recent manuscript placed second in the romantic suspense category of the 2010Dixie Kane contest. Yay! I love that story. It's the second one in my three book series, set here in the California desert.

Also, I was invited to join the Just Cherry Writers, which is an offshoot of Jenny Crusie's blog. We do a weekly critique of one person's scene. My time in the spotlight was two weeks ago. I posted the opening scene of the story that I'm submitting to the Golden Heart this year. The feedback was fabulous, and the detailed critiques made me look closely at my storytelling. I find it amusing that we often times think we've explained ourselves (or our characters) in great detail, only to find when the material is subjected to the eyes of other writers we find those details that should be on the page are still in our heads. Oy! Anyway, it sure was helpful. Also, critiquing another writer's scene is equally as helpful.

My last story in this series is currently on hold. I love writing it, and actually miss my characters. But, I need to get back to the second one and do a final revision, a spit and polish, before sending it off to the contest next month. And I need to revise the synopsis. Double oy!

Today I whittled down a seven page synopsis to four pages, and it didn't make sense. It's hard to write a condensed synopsis that needs to show both the evolving romance and the plot/suspense, and give the thing a sense of voice. The total number of pages in the submission are 55, and that is inclusive of synopsis. My story ends at a nice chapter break at 52 pages. That would mean a three page synopsis. Triple oy!

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Historic Gold Mining Town

Yesterday, a friend and I went exploring. It was a birthday treat for me. We visited Julian, a historic district dating back to the late 1800's and situated 4,500 feet in the mountains above San Diego. It was the most perfect day, bright sunshine but with a cool ocean breeze. A great getaway from the recent triple digit temperatures of the desert.
We took the long route past the Salton Sea, and then turned west on highway 78. We saw cactus and Ocotillo plants that rose to twelve or more feet and lined the area's on either side of the highway, and stretched for miles. Fortunately my friend also finds beauty in the flat desert countryside, because there was a lot of it to see. Then we started to rise and ended up in a two lane, extremely narrow mountain pass with lots of bends. Trees stretched their branches across the road creating a shady canopy. It was lovely.
Julian was once a gold rush town, and is now known for its apple ranches. Some of those are u-pick ranches, but apparently this year the crop wasn't great due to the heavy rains, and many were closed. We didn't care. The town was so quaint, the buildings amazing, the people friendly, and the food and shopping fantastic. We wouldn't have had time to pick apples anyway. We had a fabulous lunch and I was served apple boysenberry pie-ala-mode with a candle. The entire restaurant joined in singing happy birthday to me, and it was embarrassing beyond all belief. But the pie was fabulous. : )
Afterward we shopped. And then we shopped some more. I bought all kinds of knick-knacks. The prices were great too. And there was a brown leather jacket that I wanted so badly, but didn't buy. I mean, I just got home from New York City last Sunday. But anyway, we are going back soon. If it's still there I'll figure it was meant to be and shell out the bucks.
The whole idea in taking this adventure had been to go and pick apples. I intended to take some up to my kids. I planned on baking. I planned on eating an apple a day. On the way back to the car I snipped an apple no bigger than a silver dollar off a tree at the end of Main Street. It's sitting on my desk as I type. Just this cute little reminder of a wonderful trip. I wonder how it tastes?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The moon.

I've been writing a lot this week. I wonder if it's because of the stage of the moon? Creativity is supposed to increase in the waxing of the moon, or as the moon moves toward full. It was a gorgeous harvest moon, too. That, I think, made for even more energy. Anyway, whatever, I know I wrote my little old heart out.

I'm loving my new story but it's still too soon to give you any ideas about it, or its title. I've had people ask me why I don't have excerpts here on the blog. My main reason is this: I do enter contests. I don't like results to be skewed. What if someone knows my title, and even though the name is removed from a contest entry, they know me and they score it higher than it should be scored. Or maybe they don't like me, and they score it lower. It's a possibility. Not everyone likes me. : )

So, I keep the title to myself, and I don't display my writing. I await contest results, do a weigh and measure of the input given, and then I do a rewrite, and then let it sit. At this point I've already started a new story and somewhere down the line I do a final rewite on the one prior. I'm never satisfied with my work, and so in the past year or two I've stopped sending it out to agents and editors. With my last two stories, I stopped sending after three rejections. Three. That's not near enough. I know. But I figure I'm still learning, and the next one will be better. Is that the truth, or do I repeat the same mistakes over and over?

For instance, I submitted to an agent and an editor after the RWA National conference. Since that time I have reworked both the beginning and the ending of my story. I know it's better than the submission sent in early August. What can I do about that? Nothing. Not a darn thing. All I've managed to do is waste a good opportunity to have someone look at my work. So, how do I alter this so it won't happen again next year? Submit to contests for earlier feedback? Do two rewrites, and then a final rewrite before going to the conference? Did I answer my own question? : ) I don't know. You tell me. Please.

How often do you submit a manuscript? When do you admit that enough is enough, and put the work aside? Do you ever submit the reworked title to the same contest in the year following? How many critique partners do you have? Does anyone else read your work? Beta readers, perhaps? Family or friends? So spill, because curious minds need to know.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maybe This Time.

Jennifer Crusie has written a new solo novel, Maybe This Time, and it is exquisite. Absolutely. Pinky swear.

I read the novel in one sitting and didn't even complain when I had to get up at six a.m after falling asleep at 2 a.m. In fact I couldn't write this post until I'd waited a week or two to let the story be fully absorbed. It was so good I had to let it stew for a while.

It is a lush, fast moving story that gives more than a passing nod to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Just think contemporary Gothic as you crack those pages. I swear, Crusie is a damn genius.

The setting is a creepy old mansion set in Southern Ohio, in the year 1992, and features all of the Gothic elements I love. You've got the house, the housekeeper, the two rather odd children, the nanny, and then all of the weird and wonderful secondary characters. Throw in the twist that the nanny is the ex-wife of the children's uncle, and the two (who divorced after a whirlwind marriage) are still in love with each other. Well, they are...they just don't know it yet. It's such a feast. Then for a side dish you have a nymphomaniac ghost, hee hee, and a darling middle aged doubting parapsychologist, a crazy mother, an ice queen of a mother-in-law, and did I mention ghosts? And seances?

It's's just classic Crusie. I know it has a cast of thousands but they are all so well drawn, and so necessary to the story, and the writing is exquisite. Did I say that already? The romance is subtle and takes a back seat to other elements, but it is still there and the story comes to a highly satisfying ending. Go buy it. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

So Much For On Location Research...

I took a trip down to the Salton Sea last weekend, to check out the south side. The north side was nice and I will go back one day and take a few more photographs; however, it didn't work scene wise for what I had in my mind for my new story. A lady friend went with me, and thinking this sounded like quite an adventure, she'd packed a few snacks and a couple of large bottles of iced tea. Thank goodness for her maternal instincts because she saved the day.

I saw Desert Shores come up on the horizon and it was a tiny little place set on the edge of the sea. Perfect. That was what I had visualized. We turned off the highway and ventured past broken down homes, rusted out trucks, establishments that no longer functioned, and the most awful trailer park I've ever seen in my life. But it was so exciting. This was exactly what my story called for. I parked the car on a stretch of sand, grabbed the camera and started shooting pictures. We both felt a bit nervous as there were some strange characters looking out from the partially rusted trailers that were less than fifty feet from us. I made the photography aspect as snappy as I could, and backed the car out fast.

About a mile or so up the road, we heard a strange sound. We thought we had a flat tire and got out to examine each one. Nope. Everything looked fine. Four miles down the freeway we knew we had a major problem. The car sounded like metal was grinding on the road. We pulled over and in the top of the driver side tire there were two huge pieces of wire and the tire was hissing air. It deflated right in front of us. We were on the highway halfway between Coachella and Brawley, which is almost at the Mexican border. I called AAA. They said twenty minutes. We figured no problem, and broke out the snacks and iced tea.

A half hour came and went and no truck appeared. A very nice young man from Border Patrol pulled up. He helped us get the car across to the shoulder, and stayed with us to keep us safe. So there we were, standing at the side of a bright red Camry, on hot asphalt, in blazing noon day heat. We were in the middle of the California desert, chatting with a twenty something young man who had recently relocated from the East coast.

I'd wanted to save the battery on the cell phone so had turned it off. I turned it back on and there was a message from our guy. He'd be a while. I called him back to find out he lived in Brawley, and it would be at least an hour. We'd already baked for forty minutes. The Aussie came out in me then, and I told him it was too bloody hot, and that I'd change the damn tire myself. The handsome young patrol officer hid a grin, and said he'd be happy to help. He changed the tire in five minutes and wouldn't even let me help. I told him he'd be in one of my novels under a different name, but he'd play the role of the handsome hero. He seemed to like that.

While it wasn't his role to change tires on the highway, he was a young man with a good heart, and he wasn't about to drive away and leave us to fend for ourselves. It's so nice to know there are guys like Nick out there. All I could think of was somewhere there is a mother who is very happy with how her son turned out. I offered him $20 but he refused it. I sent a letter to the department, praising him, and thanking them for watching out for women drivers travelling in places that are off the beaten track. I hope the letter was shared with him.

But as for doing anymore research, I think I'll stick to the internet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Research and other diversions...

I'm beginning to understand what I previously called procrastination, or diversionary tactics, when starting a new story. I used to wonder why each book scared the hell out of me until I was about two thirds of the way through the rough draft. I thought I was scared to commit. In a way I was, but not to the story, to the discovery of what the story was really about. I was afraid to kick back, spend time exploring, and just let the story unfold.

I now know this was simply the germination stage. You see, when you start out with a story idea it is really quite small. A seed, perhaps. Then it grows and flowers or fruits. Sometimes it will flourish and other times it gets all rangy and needs to be trimmed back, sometimes it dies. But from seed to maturation it needs many things: water, soil, nutriments, sunshine, occasional pruning, bug control, maybe even a different location to help it get the very best of all of these necessary things for its survival. Well, so does a story.

I've been having an enjoyable few weeks in my story idea's unfolding. I've visited the Salton Sea. I've researched abandoned cabins and veritable ghost towns. I've talked with photographers using modern digital equipment and photographers who will never change from their old equipment, plus I've looked into designing an in-home dark room. The funny thing is, all of this will feature in my story in about four or five paragraphs. But it's all part of that nurturing germination stage. A half a day spent to find one fabulous sentence, or one character motivation, isn't wasted time. It's a necessary part of the process, and I might be old-fashioned but I swear it beats doing research on the internet. That can be extremely helpful, but I like to think of it as putting on the finishing touches. The idea, the initial sketch, the outline, those are always taken from life. The color comes from life.

The writer who takes the time to research, to delve into why their characters choose one thing over another, make one choice instead of another, choose this person over that one to spend their life with, well, those are all the little crunchy bits that make those characters fully developed and interesting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I've been doing the discovery stage of my new romantic intrigue/suspense, and it has been a lot of fun this time around. I don't have my usual angst going into the new story that I've always had in the past. And that is thanks to Lani Diane Rich. I took her Discovery Class, which runs over six weeks, and came away from it with not just her step by step guidance but a new understanding of myself and my work. I'm a visual learner and that's one of the reason's Lani's classes helped me. I could see her talking, hear her talking, laugh along with her and the other participants. It was just like a classroom, except I didn't have to get dressed or drive anywhere.

One major thing I took away from the course was, I never thought I needed a soundtrack. Maybe just a CD that provided mood. I always have soft music playing and I love all kinds of music, so good enough, right? Wrong. When I made the soundtrack and chose music specific to my characters it changed everything about that story. It ramped up my writing skills, it ramped up my love of my characters, it resonated with me on so many levels. I did the rewrite of my last story, using Lani's techniques, and it came to life in full color. And I'm not an aural learner. Usually I need peace and quiet. Yet, that soundtrack opened me up, it allowed me to get inside my characters thoughts, and to embrace an important aspect of writing that had never spoken to me before.

For me it's always kind of hard to say goodbye to the characters in my latest story because I've come to love them, and I've enjoyed being a part of their emotional and physical journey. Those heroes and heroines consumed so much of my life you'd think they were relatives, and they kind of are. I made them. I made them up in my thoughts and then I transcribed them onto paper. How cool is that?

Now on to the next story and the next hero and heroine. Where to start? Research of course. The blank page beckons. I could stare at it, try to develop new characters, new plot, new love interest, new conflict, new internal and external motivation, and, make it all believable to the reader while pulling my hair out and drinking copious cups of coffee. Nope. This time around, no computer, at least in the early stage. I've gone out into nature and thought my thoughts. I've carried my notebook. After brainstorming with my critique partner, Gina, in the pool at National conference, a new story came to me. I've put aside Dia Sophia, the story I discovered and researched in Lani's class. I'll get to her later.

I now have a title for the new work, a yummy hero, and my heroine who is a spin off from a secondary character in the last story, and they are blooming and coming to life as I walk the dog. Yet they're still in my head. I've done no writing. I have done a soundtrack and almost completed a collage, I have my main casting done, their backstory floats into and out of my thoughts as I go about my daily life listening to their music. This is a strange and unusual way for me to process story but it's working all on its own. It's all humming along. Next week a friend and I are going on location. We'll hike the desolate land that will be a backdrop for the suspense. We'll take photographs. We'll eat in some divy little cafe, we'll visit an abandoned cabin that will become the house the heroine's father left her when he died. I'm beginning to see the villian and understand the part he plays in her life. It's all coming together faster than I can keep up with it, yet still I don't write.

This is all good. Next week I'll be primed and ready, and I'll hit the ground running.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Back from RWA National

I'mmmmmm baaaaaccckkk! How come it's only Californians that can say that and think it's funny? Hmmm? Ah well, The Gov won't be around that much longer so we have to use the expression as much as we can, have some fun. Something like that.

So, Orlando. What's not to like? We had a gorgeous resort hotel with restaurants galore, five swimming pools, a sandy beach front lagoon that featured Friday night glow-in-the-dark volleyball where the teams painted themselves with glow paint and the fireworks from DisneyWorld lit up behind them. Excellent rooms, fabulous service, lower rates than I can recall at any other conference. I ask you again, what's not to like? Well, perhaps the steam that fogs up your sunglasses when you go from 68 degrees fahrenheit inside the hotel, to 100+ outside. Yeah, you can trip on a sidewalk that way if you're wearing flipflops. Not that I would ever wear rubber thongs. No way! And the sweat. There is absolutely no way to call it ladylike perspiration, this is sweat pure and simple. You walk outside and your forehead beads, then sweat trickles down the side of your face and your neck becomes a freakin' river. Let's not discuss what happens to the breasts, or underneath them. Whew! It was so hot I thought they'd scoop me up with a spoon and slide me into a ziplock baggie and send me home.

All that heat aside, I had a fabulous time. My critique partner, Gina, and I went swimming one night around 8:45 pm and at close to midnight we returned to our rooms in seperate hotels, me in the Dolphin, she in the Swan. We had brainstormed our next novels. It was fabulous just standing in that warm water and talking for hours. Of course we looked like prunes when we got out because our skin was so wrinkled. And we'd been too late to get poolside towels. A bit embarrassing having to walk through the bar section in a bathing suit and mini cover-up dripping water from our soggy butts, but then again who cares? Will we ever see those people again? Probably. Were any of them agents or editors? Probably. I know I didn't make eye contact.

I got a request from an agent in NYC who says she likes mystery and suspense. I hope my story tickles her fancy. The editor I met with was a senior exec at Harlequin and she referred me to another editor, one who handles Intrigue. I'm to send a partial, two chapters and a synopsis. The agent wants the full. I've been at this point before and the end result wasn't good, so I enter into this venture with some trepidation, yet still I enter. :=)

Then talk about synchrodestiny, (this weird s*&t is always happening to me). I sat next to an agent on the flight to Dallas. We talked and she asked if she'd ever rejected me. I said nope but I'd thought about querying her. She said I should. I might just do that. I liked her and we're both Anne Stuart fans. After she saw what I was reading, Ruthless, by Anne, we did a little Stuart squee session and discussed the books we've both loved over the many years Anne has been writing. BFFs for sure. : )

When I got home my dear Nikki went nuts. She licked my face, ran in circles on the tile floors her nails clicking and her tail wagging, then she angled herself at my body and ran full pelt. I knew enough to stand still, legs apart, while she ran between them almost knocking me over. That dog weighs 100lbs. You don't mess with Nikki. After three or four of these games I gradually got her to relax and slow down. She hasn't left my side in twenty four hours. Trust issues, anyone?

I made a lot of new contacts at this conference, and I think networking is important. You never know where a new contact will take you on your journey. I've sent emails to everyone today and already received lovely responses. Also, just prior to going to National I learned The Blue Dolphin had made it into the final round of the Molly contest. My scores were fabulous. I would love to final, don't get me wrong, but even if I don't this feedback has boosted my spirits incredibly. I'll find out the results in late August.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hachi, A Dog's Tale.

Yesterday I purchased the movie, Hachi. It stars Richard Gere and Joan Allen, and some of the most amazing Akita dogs I've ever seen, and I've owned Akita's for over twenty years. I adore the loyal, intelligent, and very regal breed.

The movie is based on a true story about a Japanese Professor from the University of Tokyo and his Akita dog, Hachiko. Hachiko would turn up at the train station at the same time every day waiting to greet his master. When the Professor passed away at the University, from a cerebral brain hemorrhage, the dog continued to wait every day at the same time, for his master to return home. He did this for nine years. A statue was erected at the Shibuya train station and still exists today.

The setting for the American remake of Hachiko's story is a small town (filming was done in Rhode Island) where Professor Parker Wilson finds a puppy wandering around the train station late one evening. He takes it home but his wife doesn't want a dog. While Parker tries to find the owner, or someone who will adopt the pup, both dog and man bond. Hachi becomes Parker's loyal companion and a friendship of family and loyalty spans many years and touches the hearts of a whole town.

I label this a five hankie movie, but maybe I was relating the story to my own pooch who is fast approaching eleven wonderful years of age, and it won't upset you. But I doubt it, so grab a box of tissues, then sit back and let your heart melt. I swear you'll fall in love.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

It's July!

How did July get here, what happened to June? I've been so busy with writing and taking classes, plus a couple of weekend trips, that the month of June vanished. Poof! It was here, now it's gone.

I'm in week four of Lani Diane Rich's workshop called Discovery. It really is turning out to be quite beneficial. I've never explored a story in such depth (prior to beginning to write it) and maybe that's why I've always struggled with internal motivation for my characters. I never seemed to dig deep enough on first or second try and my critique partner would have to remind me. Plot seems to come easily enough, you know, the external factors that make a person do what they do, the shootings and car chases and bar scenes, but emotional reasons, not so much. Now I feel like I've been immersed in the emotional stew of my story and I'm liking it, enjoying discovering those elements of my characters. Who would have guessed?

Last weekend my daughter and I drove to San Diego to explore the Little Italy section. I took a ton of photos but had already done a cut and paste collage before going. Sophia Bush is the placeholder for my heroine, Milo Ventimiglia is the hero, Anjelica Huston is Mama Rosa, and Dennis Farina is Fake Uncle Frank. The title so far is Dia Sophia (the name of my heroine) but that might change as the story unfolds. I like that first collage, but I like my photos too. I think I'll make a second one and print the photos in sepia tones and use it as a history or backstory page. That might be fun.

This week we have to submit a free writing 500 word vignette of our protagonist to the Discovery forums. I was extremely nervous. Having all of those other writers look at my work is like walking into the daylight stark naked. Anyway, by yesterday nobody had posted, so I sucked it up and went first. I hate going first but knew that most everyone was thinking the same thing as me, and someone had to break the ice. We aren't allowed to give constructive criticism only what we like the most about each others scene. Lani says criticism at this point can diminish the creative process. I've had some nice comments made on my work but now I'm wondering what they really thought. Ha ha. The ego, what a dreadful companion to drag through life, eh?

Two books read lately that I thoroughly enjoyed:
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, by Guilia Melucci. I don't usually like first person point of view but this authors voice is enjoyable. Great recipes too.
Think Twice, Lisa Scottoline. Fabulous edge-of-the-seat pacing, a great thriller and all of Scottoline's usual fab characters. Love her work.

His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Watched and critiqued on Popcorn Dialogues. Enjoyed it for the one-liners, the occasional humor, but all of the screaming and shouting got to me after a while. I guess it was considered humorous back in the day. Today a lot of film is carried by the car chase scenes, or the sex scenes, back then it was the dithering and screaming. ; )

Rented a couple of other movies but have forgotten the titles. Yes, they were that memorable, but am I bitter? Ha ha. Nope. These days I'm into researching movies for my manuscript so I check them out for free from the library. I've found some fabulous older movies that I've never seen before.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A much needed breather...

We had temperatures hitting 110 degrees last weekend, and even with air conditioning that would cause icicles to form on a polar bear's nose hairs, it was still stifling. The hottest part of the day was from 3pm to 5pm. I couldn't get cool no matter what I tried.

I usually swim every morning and that seems to cool my core, and it gives me the strength to do the normal activities required in life, like go to the bank, post office, market, and so on. If there is outdoor work to be done, windows or gardening or hosing off the patio, I do that in the wet swimsuit. I know, I know...but I just love scaring the neighbors. : ) I think this year we were lulled into a false state by the mild weather in May, then June hit and we jumped about twenty degrees in one weekend. That's got to be hard on a body.

So the general idea in the summer months is breakfast, walk the dog, swim, then take a quick shower and go do what I have to do as fast as I can do it, and then come home strip off my clothes and throw on a loose shift sans the undies and head to the computer to work on my latest manuscript. By three pm I collapse on the couch with a book.(And pray that no unexpected visitors show up at my door, because I look like hell, and I'm terribly grumpy.) Thank goodness we have a gated community with a security gate and attendants, so we get a call from them if there's a visitor or service person. Call it a three minute warning, or enough time to slip on a bra. But the UPS and Fedex are allowed in and they show up unexpectedly, so do the HOA gardners. Then there's the occasional neighbor with some kind of emergency.

Three days ago one of my neighbor friends drove from her block to mine and rang my doorbell. And I was in my usual summer state of near nakedness, but I invited her in. I could tell by her wide eyes and rapid speech that something bad had happened. The evening before, she'd been walking her dog, a tiny black chihuaha named Elvis, and three coyotes came rushing down the pavement of the main road leading to the man-made lake. Two of the animals took off in different directions but the remaining one headed straight for her. She grabbed Elvis tight and scaled a four foot high fence. The bottom part was stone and had a ledge and the top was wrought iron. She said she had no idea how she got over it but knew it was her only choice. The coyote was frustrated and sniffed around on the grass where Elvis had been walking, and then it took off. She said her adrenaline was pumping so hard and fast and she ran the short block back home, and almost became a puddle in the front foyer of her home. It took her an hour or so to realize she'd scraped the skin on her shinbone and had a nice looking bruise forming.

Today we're petitioning the city, and animal rescue, to have the coyotes captured and released into the wild somewhere. We have rocky foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains behind us and there are all kinds of caves that make for a nice condominium complex for the animals. Of course the state where my friend comes from would just have a bunch of guys go out and shoot the coyotes but, hey, this is California. ; ) I know the animals musn't have been able to wait for nightfall, up in those rocks in 110+ degrees, and needed to come down for water. But it is scary when you have young children and small animals wandering around. There's one young man who has loved to walk his two dogs and his four children around the lake, I guess we won't see him doing that again.

And now for the breather part...

The temperature dropped down to ninety five degrees today. And there's a breeze. And there have been no coyote sightings in two days. It has been such a gorgeous day and I got so much work done outside and inside the house. And, another little respite, I'm not writing anything. Yay! No, seriously, this is because I'm taking Lani Diane Rich's class on Discovery. She has us working on our soundtrack for our next story. Each week we have a new assignment and she advises us to explore our story world, but not start writing yet. We're to read a lot, watch movies, immerse ourselves in the narrative form. I've never written a manuscript this way but am elated. It feels like vacation time. And it's least by desert standards, and it will stay this way for the next five days. In June! Can you imagine?

Movies watched this week:
Sex in the City 2, absolutely hated it. There was no story.
Why did I see this? It was my friend's birthday request.

Married to The Mob, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Mondine. Loved it! Why did I see this? Research for my next story.

It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Loved it! Why did I see this? It was a film discussion over at And the discussion is about writing and the critiques are done by Jenny Crusie and Lani Diane Rich, and well worth you stopping by. Every Friday at 7pm EST.

Books read this week:
The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason. Slow start but an amazing finish. The settings were London and Burma, but mostly the latter. The era was late 1800's. In retrospect I loved it, but while reading it found it a bit tedious due to some style issues the author chose.

Sizzle, by Julie Garwood. Loved it, loved it, loved it. It's a spine tingling contemporary suspense. Setting: Los Angeles and San Diego. Her hero is FBI agent, Sam Kincaid. What a great hero, tall, quiet, and with a Scottish brogue. Wonderful pacing and believable romance.

Monday, May 31, 2010


I just returned from a wedding in Los Angeles. The groom is Jewish the bride Christian. They had both a minister and a Rabbi officiate for the service, and were wed in a gazebo instead of beneath a chuppa. It was all handled so beautifully. As we passed into the outdoor seating area, a young attendant offered us a bowl of stones. We were instructed to take one and wish upon it, and then prior to the entry of the bride and groom, all stones were collected. They were handed to them in a crystal bowl during the service. I'm certain this must have been a tradition of the bride's family but forgot to ask.

Lovely. I adore tradition.

I especially love the Jewish traditions and the huge extensive family that is part of the faith. Everyone becomes family. I got a bit carried away in the Hora (you know the dance in the circle where everyone holds hands and they dance to the tune of Hava Nagila, which means let us rejoice in Hebrew)and I ran into a short step that led up to the stage where the MC was. I was convinced I'd suffered a sprained ankle. My heels were three inch stilletos and I don't wear heels much these days, and I had felt the foot twist a little. (Oh vanity, they name is stiletto). I sat out most of the other dances with an icepack wrapped in a linen table napkin pressed against the ankle and my foot elevated on a chair. Sigh. I'm such a klutz. Today it has a bruise and only a small swelling, and no pain, and I could drive the two and a half hours home with no problem. Whew! That's good, but just in case I'm still babying it.

As the wedding was on Memorial weekend, the grooms father made mention in his speech of those of our countrymen still in the war zone, and honored all of our fallen soldiers. And he reminded everyone that we live in the greatest country in the world. America. As an immigrant, he knows what this country is all about, and he, like me, is forever grateful for the freedoms we often take so much for granted.

The morning I was to leave for L.A., my dog jumped out of the back of the car and landed heavily on her front right leg on the concrete garage floor. She couldn't put the paw to the ground. I waited an hour but there was no improvement. Remember what happened only two months ago? Anyway, my dog sitter and I took her into the vet (why do these things always happen at weekend?) and I convinced them not to muzzle her as last time they'd tried for x-rays they'd been unsuccessful. She almost has a heart attack when they muzzle her and refuses to go along with their plans. The dog sitter and I held her on the x-ray table then when they were about to shoot the x-ray I'd duck outside. We got some fabulous views and it looks like she has some bone spurs around the scapula joint, where the humerus meets it. Might need an arthroscopy if this doesn't get better on its own (and with the aide of anti-inflammatories and pain killers, but not the stuff she had before that made her bleed) so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm already out $400 and have nooooo idea the cost of an arthroscopy for a pooch.

I'm thinking positive thoughts, and sending healing vibes Nikki's way. Help me out if you can. ; )

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Puff, puff, puff...

No, I'm not jogging, don't be silly. : ) The puff, puff, is from the little engine that could, because that's how I feel these days. There has been a lot going on in my life, a lot to juggle, but I'm getting there. Wherever "there" is.

I've been up and down to LA several times this month, a workshop, a graduation, a wedding still to come. It's all good but I'm getting rather tired of navigating Interstate 10. The pooch is doing fine and had no setbacks while I was away, but she was extremely happy to see me return. She's such a good companion, and she worries when I'm not here. Heck, she even worries when I walk over to use the swimming pool.

I've been hard at work to complete my latest manuscript (at least the rough draft) and now can let it sit until my critique partner can read the entire thing. We have critiqued each others chapters as we've written, but the entire read through is yet to happen, and that is the most telling part. Will it hold together? Have I lost any threads? Do I need to embellish the theme? Do any of the characters not hold true to form? All good questions, and I'm excited to learn the answers. While I'm thrilled that the story is finished, I know the real work is about to begin. Writing isn't about writing it's about rewriting. Whew! Just typing that makes me tired.

So, the plan is to get the rewriting done before June 6th. Then I'll let it sit until National conference, where I'll pitch the idea to both an editor and an agent. And I'll keep my fingers crossed that either, or both, request to see a partial. I'm very excited about my appointments this year. Then I'll dash home, take another look at the manuscript, and do a final, final polish, and then send that baby on its way to NYC.

In June I'm taking the Discovery class taught by Lani Diane Rich. I'm going to use that six week course to explore writing something bigger, maybe a single title romance, or women's fiction. There will be romance in the story, because it's a woman's journey and for most of the women I know, romance features in some form or other in their life story. An idea has bubbled around in my head for years. In the past I knew I didn't have the chops to write it, but something tells me it's worth giving it my best try.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


With the horrific flooding in Nashville, Tennessee, our RWA annual conference found itself displaced this week. The Opryland Hotel was in an even worse situation with ten feet of water flooding out the hotel conference rooms and restaurants. It was so sad to watch that on the news and to think of the tragedies happening in the state, and of the deaths and injuries and loss of homes. My heart goes out to all of those people who have suffered, and I hope and pray they can restore their city as quickly as possible.

But I do have to be honest, I was personally disappointed. I so wanted to go to Nashville. I'd hoped we could find another venue as I really wanted us as an organization to feed our tourist dollars back into that city, or if not, at least the state. But, it couldn't be done. Three months out is not enough time to book a hotel for a huge conference that accomodates 2,500 people, a black tie dinner, and numerous daytime conference or workshop rooms, plus have the room numbers to accomodate everyone. I know that, I understand that, but in a tiny corner of my heart I'm still sad. Maybe we'll make it to Tennessee in future years.

So we've had our hotel reservation deposits credited, our registration for conference still stands, but now we wrestle with the airlines. Ouch! I don't know if they'll honor my flight changes yet. I've put in a call but now it has to go to the reservations desk and they'll see what they can do. I used American Airlines advantage mileage, so it might just cost me a few more miles.

I worry about friends though. Some bought tickets that are unable to be changed, and they don't have travel insurance. Some from the East Coast intended to drive and now have to include the cost of a flight into their budget. I wonder how this will all play out? It must be an awful time for the organization, trying to hustle around and rearrange everything. A lot of our revenue comes from the annual conference, and I know they are doing the best they can do under these unexpected circumstances.

So, we have to go to hot, sticky, middle of Florida at the end of July, in the middle of summer vacation, to a theme park (you can tell I'm not a theme park goer) where there will be far too many kids. I'm still intending to go. I love this organization, and I'll do whatever I have to do to be loyal and show my support.

Orlando, here I come. Sigh.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What to do now?

Okay, so the pooch is doing okay. She eats grass and throws up every other day or so, but I know that's because she has a tummy ache and is getting a natural antacid. At least there's no more bleeding. She looks good (although frailer) and is active, enjoying her walks, eating well, going potty. What else is there in life? I swear I'm coming back as a dog in my next life, although, knowing my luck I'd belong to someone not as loving as me. ; )

I'm finished with the rough draft of my latest story. What to do now? This is the hard part. I know I have to let it sit unread for a while, then go in and rewrite, revise, reshape once I can read it again with new eyes. Well, they're still the old worn out eyes, but you get my drift. I have the synopsis done and there's this contest I'd love to enter. I've always jumped the gun in the past and sent off three chapters without revising the entire manuscript, and then I've kicked myself when I got the results. Even if I scored high, or placed, I knew what had been shaped over the months of waiting for the results was so much better, and that I'd shot myself in the foot by rushing. You only get one chance to get your work in front of that final editor or agent.

But I want to enter this contest. This specific contest. Not some other contest. I sound like a spoiled brat. But I wonder, is what I have the best I can do? I have shaped this story as I've written. And this time I'm working with a wonderful critique partner. Decisions, decisions. Maybe I'll let it sit for two weeks, and then revise for one. I'd still have time to meet the deadline. I'm beginning to sense a plan forming.

I got my results back from the annual Golden Heart contest. They don't provide comments or critique, just scores, but you can tell by your scores how well your story is received by your peers. There are five judges and the entry is scored from one through nine, with five being average. There are three tiers. This year I made it into the top tier but didn't final, you need to have eighty percent, which I did have but they can only choose the top eight scorers in each category. My scores were great, and I'm very happy, although part of me is sad that I was so close. I felt like the swimmer who came in second by a score of 112th of a second or something equally as ridiculous.

Oh, well. There's always next year. ; )

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sick Dog. Good Books. Comforting Blogs.

My dear Nikki (an almost 11 year old Akita) became seriously ill the week before last. On the Thursday morning she collapsed in the street when we started out for our walk. Thank goodness a neighbor came by and helped me. He picked her up and carried her back to the house, his comment "She's a substantial young lady" floating on the early morning breeze. Nik at that point weighed in at 108 pounds.

I got Nik to the vet and we couldn't figure out what was going on. She was acting just the same as my boy Akita who lived to be almost 13 (elderly for this breed) and he'd died with a cervical spinal chord degeneration. Nik wouldn't let anyone touch her and even with her being muzzled they were unsuccessful in getting any x-rays. She was given an anti-inflammatory shot and a pain killer, and sent home with a new NSAID drug to be administerd once a day starting the following morning. The plan was to give her a light anaesthetic on the Tuesday and try to get some studies done so we'd know what we were dealing with. My Vet knows that money has been tight lately and she was trying to help me as much as possible without running wild with tests and treatments. I appreciated that.

On Sunday morning Nik refused her medication and wouldn't eat anything. In the afternoon she vomited. I didn't worry too much as she's always had a sensitive stomach. If she gets nervous, that's the first place it will show up. Sunday evening she had a bloody bowel movement, but it was old blood. I rushed her home and took her to the emergency hospital. Four hours later they wanted $2,000 to keep her in overnight, medicate her, give her IV fluids etc. This month is tax month. I said I couldn't do that. I opted for $675 and one IV fluid replacement and pain meds, and something to slow the motility in the bowel. I'm an ex-ICU nurse. I figured I'd stay up all night and tend to her needs, and take her to her own Vet on monday morning.

At one am Nik had bright red blood from her bowel, vomited three times and was in awful pain and discomfort. I got out my emergency credit card and drove her back to the hospital. They kept her there for two days and $3,000+ later I got to take her home. She's thinner, she's been on oral medications, antibiotics and Flagyl for the tummy. She looks good, but is frailer than before.

So, we had the first vet bill, the hospital bill, the carpet cleaning bill, the new medication and diet food bill. Tomorrow I take her for a follow-up with her own vet. Another bill. This has been a harsh month. But you know, with all of the angst and the cost, the hardest thing of all was having to sign the resuscitate/do not resusciate (should she have a cardiac arrest) sheet. I'd taken one look into her trusting big brown eyes and knew she still had quality of life. But that's one hell of an awful thing to have to think about.

What got me through all of the terrors of the last ten days were my writer's blogs. Every time I felt down I'd visit Jenny Crusie's blog,
or Lucy March's blog, Just being entertained, or hearing of someone else's troubles was almost enough to cheer me up, or at the very least help me to put everything into perspective.

But the best...the very best cure for waiting for a loved one's results, and then nursing them back to health, is a good book. I read Wild Ride, by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.

What a fabulous story. I love how these authors write outside of the box. They tell a story that has so many layers. Not layers like in a seven layer cake (you know cake, filling, cake, filling, cake, icing) or a lasagna, where it's all the same. No this is more of a Mexican dip. You ever see or taste one of those babies? Yum. There's cheese, there's beans, there's salsa, there's guacamole, there's...well you get the picture. Jenny and Bob's books are like that dip. Everytime you think you've hit that final delicious layer you find another. And those layers all blend so tastefully together that all you need is a perfect corn chip to give it crunch. Oh, and a Margarita. Definitely a Margarita. And salt.

Anyway, Wild Ride is a must read. I think everytime I reread it I'll find something I missed the first time around. So, there are no spoilers here for anyone who is waiting for the paperback edition.
This is a quote from the flyleaf:
Mary Alice Brannigan doesn't believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she's been hired to restore, is a prison for the Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there's a guy she's falling hard for, and there's something about him that's not quite right.
Go get it. You'll love it. It's a suspense. It's a love story. It's full of spit and vinegar. And yet, underlying all of that are the basic needs of family, love, and the need to know that someone has your back.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Great weekend.

I had a super weekend. I hope you did too.

Mine started out with a shopping spree for a new bathing suit...and I just said this was a good weekend, go figure.

On Friday I'd gone swimming with a gal pal and we were both complaining about our droopy bottoms...not ours of course, but the bottoms of our suits. My friend says it's the chlorine that weakens the material. Hmmm? Why then does the rest of it stay intact? I'm not sure, but I think it happens because everytime I climb out of the spa or the pool I self consciously tug the bottom of the suit to make sure my bottom is covered. You do that too, right? So my theory is, we weaken the elastic by being prudish. If we weren't so shy and just let the droopy bits show, our suits would last longer.

Anyway, I hate shopping for a bathing suit, it's right up there with paying taxes, and going to the dentist, maybe not quite as bad as public speaking, but you get my drift. I thought suit buying would take up the better part of Saturday. My friend and I walked into the store, and I immediately found three suits I liked and everyone of them fit nicely. How about that for luck? One was such a perfect fit and style and color, I was actually excited to buy it. That never happens. I threw in a coverup for good luck, and we went home, changed, and hit the pool.

Today, a neighbor comped me some tickets to our annual art fair in the park. It's a huge four day event. There were even more vendors than in years past, and some of the ceramics, and the iron and brass sculptures, were gorgeous. Of course we stopped at every jewelery stand, and there were a ton of those. There were traditional and contemporary artworks, paintings, glass blown items, beaded suncatchers, you name it it was there. I think it hit 85 degrees today, and there was not a cloud to be seen in the bright blue sky. I invited a friend, and we had a great time. We walked around for three hours. Then we sat by the the lake and ate jumbo dogs that were cooked on the open grill, and we put everything on them, even onions, and had no heartburn. : ) That's always a plus for me.

When we got home, we put our new bathing suits on again and went for a swim. No droopy bottom. That suit is marvellous. And you know what? I think it even makes me look slimmer. And remember, I'd just eaten a jumbo dog. Do you think it could be a magic suit and tomorrow I'll wake up and it will have disintegrated? It could happen, but I really, really hope not.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bits and pieces.

It's so strange to have an overcast day in the desert; we take sunshine for granted and probably wake up to sun beaming in our windows 355 days in the year. Today it's overcast, yet warm and breezy. I went swimming this morning and actually shivered when I got out of the water. Oh, no! A shiver! : ) Most of you are still dealing with snow and rain and ice, and while I love it when it snows down here it never lasts for long. I can't imagine dealing with the white stuff for six months or more.

This has been an interesting couple of weeks. I've done a ton of reading. The latest story was Lisa See's book, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I loved it. I totally enjoy learning about other cultures and this one was a historical set in China. The thing that always amazes me when I read about other cultures, especially when the fiction is about women, is how much alike we all are on that basic level of love and friendship within our gender. This was a sweet yet sad story of a lifelong friendship between two women, soul mates, or as they termed it, old sames. It dealt with everything from their differences in upbringing, to one who fell from grace to another being raised to higher levels than ever imagined, to trust, loyalty, true heart love, pride, and how we can often misconstrue a conversation or letter's intent, and lose years in feeling justified about walking away from a relationship. Ms. See tells the story through the memories of an elderly woman and the narrative voice is pure and touching. I was extremely impressed when I read the four attached pages on the author's extensive research. Definitely a must read for all females who search for the meaning of their relationships with other women.

I haven't seen any movies in the past two weeks as my movie going buddy was out of town. Next week we plan to see The Last Station, I adore Helen Mirren's work. Tomorrow night is the Academy Awards. This is the first year in decades that I can say I've seen almost every movie nominated. It will be interesting to see how my personal critiques hold up. I know who I would give best actor, best actress, and best film awards to, but know they won't get them. ; )

Off to write a new chapter of the book. No more procrastinating allowed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Books and movies.

What? You were expecting something different?

I suppose we could talk about the new restaurant I went to, or the great balsamic chicken salad I had for lunch the other day. I can still taste that salad, it was fabulous. Or, hey, we could talk about my weigh and measure at Curves the day after the chicken salad. I didn't lose any weight this month, BUT I did lose inches. That made me feel pretty good. At least the weight stayed the same as the month before, and with all of the dining out I've been doing that was a surprise. I've been adding in more exercise. And my clothes fit better; zippers are staying up when I sit down. ; ) I figure the scale is only a number, but why then does it bother me so much? It's strange how it makes my entire day if I see even 1/16th of a pound loss.

Bookclub was today. We'd read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larssen. I can't say I loved the book. The first 70 pages were rife with exposition and way too large a cast of characters, and all with those difficult spellings and pronunciations. Besides which, the author lost at least two threads in the story, and there was one too many sadistic sex scenes for my liking. It was an intellectual thriller, originally titled Men Who Hate Women, and truthfully I think that was the theme. It was translated from Swedish to English, and I think something was lost in the translation, because the characters came across as cold and unemotional. I have no idea why this book became a best seller as it was clunky in the storytelling. Maybe it was the sex. That sure was graphic. Now that I think about the novel, it was a rather thick and meaty stew that seemed to leave no ingredient out, so something in there for everyone. It had hatred, religious zealots, incest, sadism, corruption, greed, lust, and a forty year old mystery to solve. What's not to like?

On to the movies. I saw Crazy Hearts. I've always been a Jeff Bridges fan, and a fan of country western music, and he played the part very well. Unfortunately, having to watch a sloppy drunk for two thirds of the movie, and suspending my disbelief that Maggie Ghylenhall would fall for such a character, was too much of a stretch for me. Also went to see Extraordinary Measures, with Harrison Ford. Actually, I didn't go with Harrison, he starred in the movie. : ) It was good. A very tender and moving story. I enjoyed the acting and the storyline. When I'd seen the trailer I'd figured it wasn't for me. I couldn't buy into Ford's character, he seemed nasty and angry and I figured that it wouldn't be much fun. But Flo wanted to see it. He played the role of a jaded but dedicated scientist brilliantly, and I adored the character. I'm so glad my friend had insisted on this one.

Then I watched Precious. Oh my, what an amazing bit of acting. For those who are squeamish about the visuals of physical and sexual abuse, you might want to psych yourself up for this one. While most of the scenes are not too graphic, or fade out quickly, there is a lot of emotional abuse. The shouting alone has you on the end of the seat and sometimes with the noise, the soft spoken girl, and the dialect, you can miss out on parts of the dialogue. A good one to rent and watch at home. I swore I would never complain about my life again after seeing this movie.

My writing is going well, and I'm enjoying my new story. It's a romantic suspense set here in the desert. I love my hero. Seriously. Today I recieved a CD set for 24 online lectures that I'd ordered last week. The topic might seem boring to you: Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft. But it's a fascinating study. I've already listened to two of the courses. The lecturer has a great voice and it's well-modulated. He's pleasant to look at, and stands at a lectern as he lectures. He doesn't patronize, he smiles occasionally, uses his hands when he talks, and is confident and at ease. Feels just like college, except you don't have to get up early for class, or get out of your pj's. : )

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Life, it's for the half dead too.

A friend and I decided at a New Year's Eve party that this year we'd make one evening each week into a dinner and movie event. Part of the reason for doing so was we realized how easy it is to stay home, curl up in our pj's, and eat whatever we wanted while slipping a rental movie into the CD player. When you live alone that becomes a problem because the dog really doesn't have any input into the movie, even if you ask really intelligent questions. My friend is older than me, but much more active. She's just what I need to get me out of my quiet existence. Because, well hell, that has just become boring.

Going out keeps me fresh. It makes me feel like a grown-up. I dress up a little, (even put on make-up) dine out, watch people, hear other conversations. Plus, I get to share. We discuss our thoughts on the movie afterward, along with other items in the news or our own neighborhood. Neither one of us is into gossip, which in itself is refreshing. For too many years now I've played the role of a recluse. I know, I know, it suits that whole writer personna. But I'm not really a writer, I'm a fake. I haven't published anything in years and the way publishing is going, I might never have that chance again. And half the time I'm playing around on email, internet, and blogs, instead of working on a manuscript. But that's going to stop. I'm re-energized. The latest manuscript is being looked at daily. While I haven't yet made huge inroads there are a few slightly trodden pathways emerging, and I'm getting into a rythm again. The pulse of the story has a nice steady beat. And it's darker, much darker than I've ever written before.

Back to that New Year's Eve party. I realized I'd become anti-social. I used to love going out. I liked people. Then my life began to change and disappointments seemed larger than they actually were. I withdrew. Now I didn't do that consciously, and I can't even pinpoint exactly when it started to happen. But looking back I can see that somewhere along the way I became a bit jaded, and the more I hid the more I stayed hidden.

So this being a new decade, it required some new thinking. Look out world. I'm breaking out. Ha ha. It might seem to you that it's only in a small way, this going to a movie thing. But remember, when you add that to my end of the last decade decisions to rejoin an old critique partner, to join a ladies gym, and to join a book club, well, hell. Maybe there's hope for me yet! I might get back into the swing of living instead of just existing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Love Things that Happen in Three's.

Except death, of course. Three friends lost loved ones last month. It's so hard to find the words to bring comfort, to somehow make it better, easier. I get tongue tied over death because the words seem trite, like I'm quoting from a sympathy card or something. It's easy to send a card, food, flowers, or a good book, but it's never the same as giving a big fat warm hug, just holding your friend and rubbing circles on their back as you squeeze them tight. I'm convinced there just are no words.

Anyway, on to more pleasant things in threes. I read three wonderful books in the last month. The first was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford. It's a wonderful story that looks at the cruelties of war and how we regard others. It reflects back on Seattle during World War II, and the internment of Japanese/Americans, and follows the journey of a a twelve year old Chinese/American boy and his first love, a second generation Japanese girl who is cruelly parted from him. I won't discuss it further because we may elect to read this one for our next bookclub, and I'd hate to leave spoilers.

In my opinion: If you are interested in indepth stories of humankind, what makes us tick, and a touch of American history, then this is a must. It will leave you all warm and tingly.

The second book was from one of my all time favorites: Barbara O'Neal/Samuels.
The Secret of Everything. I adore Barbara's voice and her characters are always so well drawn. Tess is involved in a tragic accident when leading a hiking tour. She heals as much as possible at her father's beach hut, but still blames herself for her friend's death. Knowing she has to get back to work, she takes on research of Las Ladrones, high in the New Mexico mountains as the next adventure tour for the company, but she has a history there that dates back to her childhood. Part of her quest is to unravel mysteries of her past, come to a better understanding of her roots and her own strange upbringing, and get the tours restarted. She meets up with Vince, a widower with three young girls, who has his own past tragedy. Together they embrace the home and the family both have ached to find.

In my opinion: A must read for anyone who loves a happily ever after. And the recipes. Do not read this one while hungry. : )

The third book was Echoes, by Maeve Binchy. I used to love reading Ms. Binchy's stories in the eighties then for some reason she slipped off my radar. I think I got all caught up with writing and went in several different directions with that, plus I was raising kids...hmmm? not really certain why she slipped away from my sweaty little fingers, but all I can say is this was a treasure. A real find. A real keeper book.

First let me say it was the cover that caught my attention. It almost leaped off the shelf and fell into my arms. The yellow gold and deep red, the red polka dot skirt, the old fashioned red shoes...just gorgeous. Then I read the back cover copy and was sold. I don't think I even turned to the first page in the bookstore, which is my norm. I trusted my memory of her voice. And what a beautiful voice it is. Ms. Binchy is an Irish author. Her voice is full of the heart, and love, and whimsy of her native country. Nobody does Ireland better. The story covers a young girl's life from age eleven through about twenty-one. It's more than a family saga, kind of a small town saga because the townsfolk feature in each phase of the girl's growing up years, and even the bad guys are loveable. : )

In my opinion: if you love stories of small towns, of family, of real life that makes you laugh one moment and tear up the next, this story is for you. It's a treasure of a story that will leave you thinking about it for weeks to come.

Happy reading!