Monday, December 30, 2013

Every Goal in Life...Has a Learning Curve

As we approach the new year, many of us are busy setting goals. Dreams we want to achieve which aren't always easy. Learning from mistakes, failure even, is so important, especially when it hurts and you wonder if you have what it takes...So, here are motivational quotes to help you dig deep and keep you going through those tough times in the New Year. I have goals. I have dreams. I've been learning as much as I can, and I'm prepared to learn more. I've been working hard and while mistakes and setbacks are painful and disheartening...I'm dead set on using them as learning tools. So, come with me in 2014. Hell, let's set the bar high...dream big! But have concrete steps along the path to our goals. To get us started, here are some quotes on not quitting when it gets hard. Learning from failure. While I don't wish failure on any one of us, at the very least, failure along the journey shows we're trying and taking risks.

“I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.”
~Thomas Edison~

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up or sit down and grieve. Find another way.”
~Satchel Paige~

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
~Rocky Balboa~ Rocky

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.
~Chris Bradford~

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” - Henry Ford

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

Friday, December 27, 2013

Getting Ready

"The method of the enterprising is to plan with audacity and execute with vigor." Christian N. Bovee
On Life: Only five more days left in 2013 and I'm trying to get everything ready for the New Year. I like to start the new year with a clean slate, meaning Christmas decorations are down and put away, the house is clean, fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food again and a bright, shiny list of concrete goals for the year is ready to go. #1 son is will leave tomorrow to return to his AF base, so I'll probably take the tree down Sunday (while watching football) or Monday at the latest.

On Writing: I've narrowed my actual writing goals down to 4 projects for 2014.
1. The next Cates brother's story. I've written books about 2 of them. I have 3 more brothers to go.
2. A romance totally unconnected to my Cates brothers' series.
3. A Christmas romance.
4. Deep edit on another m/s that has been waiting. It's got good bones, just needs a new opening.

Non-Writing Goals:
1. Exercise regularly. Look up kettle bell exercises to add to workouts.
2. Drink more water.
3. Find a new volunteer opportunity closer to where we live.
4. Find a new church closer to our new house.

These goals are totally dependent on me. If I fail, I own it. I have other writing goals towards becoming a published author that I will continue to work on during 2014. Some of these I can't control since they depend on the opinions/needs of others, timing and maybe even a little luck. But I can control how I react, by staying professional, positive and persevering. So that's my roadmap to lead me into 2014. I hope you have a life goal or event to look forward to in 2014!

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”   ―Yogi Berra   

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Thoughts

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  ~Charles Dickens

 Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.  ~Calvin Coolidge, 1927

Wishing safe travelling to all who are heading to a loved one's for Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Traditions (aka How We Gain 5 lbs Over the Holidays)

My husband's family is Czech. He and his sister are the first generation born in America. So, along with that come many yummy Czech recipes...because boy, do the Czechs like their food, and it's pretty damn tasty. When we finally got all the kids home on Friday, my husband cooked his favorite Czech meal, Svickova na Smetane with Houskove Knedliky. Rough translation: Beef tenderloin with bread dumplings and an awesome gravy that takes many hours and many ingredients to prepare. But sooooo totally worth it. The kids love it too, especially the two oldest as they have both visited Prague and eaten yummy Czech food. We couldn't afford to cook this until just a few years ago (the meat is very $$$) but it has become a Christmas tradition our family loves.

Next on the list is the Czech Christmas cookies. #2 son cracked all the hazelnuts yesterday and ground them up last night, so we're all ready to make the dough today. The Vanilkove Rohlicky cookies are everyone's favorites.

Today, we're working on our new, yet fast becoming a favorite, family tradition...smoking meat. Threw a pork shoulder on the smoker about two hours ago and will be eating BBQ sandwiches and cole slaw for dinner tonight. Christmas day will see us eating the traditional ham dinner, but we might try smoking the ham this year.

Sending warm thoughts and prayers to all our military members stationed throughout the world who can't be with their families and loved ones this Christmas. I so very much appreciate the sacrifice they and their families make for us.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Making Lists

Yesterday's To-do List:
#1. Christmas Cards :)

Today's To-do List:
#1. Finish cleaning the house before my sister and her three kids arrive tomorrow. Get the beds ready.
#2. Plan meals to feed 10 for the week with the full house.
#3. Wrap presents.

On Writing:
Writing To-do List:
#1. Go over synopsis for WCTBL? Make sure it's got all the important stuff without being boring.
#2. Write a query letter for it.
#3.  Review my list of agents and get a spreadsheet ready to send out the first batch in the New Year.

What's on your To-do list?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas to Me

On Writing: I received an early Christmas present. I found out that Why Can't This Be Love? placed 1st in the ST category of the Unpublished Beacon Contest! My very first win and it feels pretty great. This contest is sponsored by the First Coast Romance Writers and they did a fantastic job of communicating throughout the process. The first round judges gave me great critiques on my manuscript so that even if I hadn't won, I know WCTBL? is a stronger m/s coming out of the contest than went in. So, a big thank you to the FCRW, the Unpublished Beacon, the coordinator Tory Michaels, the individual category coordinators, the 1st round judges and final judges and all the other writers!

On Life: #1 son will arrive home today. He got leave for Christmas and this time is driving home from his base in MS. (I think he wants to take his guitar back with him and doesn't trust the airlines.) The other three kids are all finally finished their semesters and darn if they didn't all have great semesters. In fact, #2 son might have gotten a 4.0, which is good, but the battle over his gaming addiction was constant and stressful over the semester. Daughter #1, also living at home and commuting, also tried to help me keep him focused, but the stress of it really got to her. I know she's dreading a repeat of another semester like it in the spring. I am too, so we'll need to sit down and with him and evaluate.

I'm taking the puppy-sister, Bella,  to the vet today to get her lytes checked and for her next percorten shot. My Vet is soooo not happy with me. He said he would try the "low-dose" percorten protocol (Thank you Dr. Julie Bates and the Addison's Dog Yahoo group!) that I researched but he is fighting me at every stage. I think I may need to find a new Vet after all. The good news though, is that even after the first reduction of percorten (from 2ml to 1.5) she is already more playful and affectionate and (knock on wood) no tinkle accidents for weeks now.

Other than the Vet, it's just a day of cleaning and getting the Christmas cards addressed. No more procrastinating on that. I'm going on record to say that I will not go to bed tonight unless I have all the cards addressed. Seriously. I mean it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Getting Ready For the New Year

On Writing and Life: I'm beginning to come up with my list of goals for 2014. Yes, I know, it isn't even Christmas yet. But I want to have clear goals for the New Year. And not just goals that I came up with on the 31st, as if on a whim. I mean concrete goals that I've thought about and can even plan how to go about them. I'm not ready to write them down yet, but I'll think about them as I clean and bake and wrap over the next few days. Are you already thinking about your fresh start in the new year?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Beginning to Look...

...okay, a little like Christmas, not a lot. Yet. Out of my list of 3 things to-do yesterday, I accomplished one of them. We did a big stock up food shopping trip at the commissary. We've got my sister and her three kids coming back for Christmas and oldest son was able to get leave from his AF base in MS, so we'll have a full house to feed for a week.

No Christmas baking yet, but I did get the house vacuumed and yesterday we went and got our tree. Yes, we still do live trees, messy but they smell sooo good.  This morning we put it up and strung the lights. We'll add the ornaments when a few of the kids are around to help. I did hang the stockings on the mantel and set up the nativity scene on the foyer table, so I may be late, but I'm getting there.

On Writing: I think I'll just spend the next week brainstorming ideas for my next project. I've got an idea for the next Cates brother (my series.) Ideally, though, I'd like to come up with something completely different. Oooh, plus, I get to pick a new spiral for my next WIP. Here's the post where I explain my love of spiral notebooks:  My "Harriet the Spy" Spirals .

On Life: Some days you just try to do the very best you can. Today, in respect to #2 son, is one of those days. I have no answers for him. And many days it seems like I'm trying to help him more than he is. I hate those days.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gotta Have Faith

I'm going to get a lot done today and none of it includes writing. And why no writing? Because I finished my book yesterday! Ha! I just wanted to say that one more time. No, today is about catching up on all those household jobs and Christmas prep that got put off while writing like mad.

1. Food shopping. Yes, the cupboards are bare.
2. Clean.
3. Start Christmas baking.

I think I'll get through most of 1&2 today. My favorite cleaning music is George Michael's Faith album. I like the concept...You've got to have faith. In something bigger than yourself. For me that's God. In Love. For me that's my family and friends. In yourself. For me that's this writing journey I'm on, but also the causes I believe in. Okay, I'm off to be a shopping and cleaning machine today.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stick a Fork in It!

On Writing: I'm done. Finally. I finally finished adding the 10k I needed to my m/s Why Can't This be Love? Holy cow that seemed to take forever! I think the problem was I originally wrote it to be a series length book. It is part of a series of my 5 Cates brothers from Climax, NC. So, it was originally about 55k. And then I got a judge's opinion in a contest from the first book I wrote in the series, Bringing Delaney Home, that she wasn't sure my voice was a good fit for a series book. Sounded more ST to her. So, I entered WCTBL? into its first contest as a ST entry to help get a second opinion...and it finaled. Delaney has finaled as a series entry and WCTBL? as a ST entry. I'm not really sure where my voice fits. I will need to puzzle this out. Or attempt to get an agent and let them help me figure it out...that is next on my list anyway.

But, back to the big news...WCTBL? is finished and entered into the Golden Heart contest with just hours to spare. This is the first year I've ever entered the GH, so it should be quite a learning experience. I've signed up to judge too and I'm pretty excited about that. I've read that it's not only fun, but a great learning tool.

On Life: I need to catch up on house cleaning and get some decorations up. Come up with a shopping list for any Christmas baking. Actually do some baking. Address the Christmas cards. Get gifts for our nieces and nephews. Okay, poor Bella has been so patient sitting with me all afternoon while I finished my book and uploaded my contest entry. Time to take her out to run!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Highs and Lows

On Writing: Highs: I had a good writing day yesterday. I added almost 3k to my m/s. The basic idea for this plot is my heroine is living a quiet, happy life until her sister tells her she is sick and might need a bone marrow transplant. Now she must suddenly find the rest of her long-lost foster family. Desperate, she ends up using a movie star in a nearby town to get on the cover of a tabloid and attract the attention of her family. Part of it works. She does find her foster family. But it blows up in her face because she and the movie star have a red-hot fling, until he thinks she was just using him. Which she was. Just not for the reasons he was thinking. And then the heroine finds out her sister was lying to her anyway. Her sister isn't sick, unless you call morning sickness sick. And that's just the first 50 pages of the book. I warned you I write quirky romances, right?

So, anyway, originally the sister just kind of disappeared from the story after that as the story takes a weird twist around page 88 with other problems for heroine to deal with. The sister does reappear near the black moment, but she did feel a little like a dropped thread.What I added yesterday brings her back into the story to add more conflict for my lovely, gullible heroine. And today I'm adding another scene with conflict. I know who it's between but not sure how it's going to end up yet. Should be fun.

On Life: Lows: #2 Son is home with us this semester taking classes at the local community college instead of the 4 year college where he's studying engineering. We brought him home because last spring semester he became addicted to on-line computer gaming. You know, role-playing type games. He stopped going out with friends in his dorm. He stopped communicating with everyone in the family. He stopped eating properly. He says he went to classes, but his grades plummeted. So, he's been back since May and we've been working on this with his family doctor and it's not easy.

A computer game addiction is like any other addiction. He uses it to escape when he's stressed. He can avoid reality lost in a game. I guess I'd liken it to someone who has a food addiction. With an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you can go cold turkey and build your life to avoid it. You can't do that with food or computers. It's been stressful on the family, trying to help him and watching the many times he tries to play. Like any addiction, there's a lot of lying involved. And that's hard when we're all trying to help him. He's a great kid. Smart, funny, sensitive, sweet. I want so badly for him to be happy and successful. Addiction is a painful thing especially knowing there is no magic pill. One day at a time, I guess.

And, since I ended this post on such a depressing note, I promise I'll find something happier for tomorrow. Like rainbows and puppies. Maybe even rainbow puppies.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sweet Reminders

On Writing: Writing started slowly, but I'm on a roll right now. I had to take a break to cook dinner, so I thought I'd write a blog post while waiting for the chicken to be ready. If you've read my older posts, you know I've been trying to add about 10k to an almost complete m/s. I had to go through it a few times to find where to add. I've found a few places. Now, one of my Beta readers wanted me to add more happy conversations between the h/H. But, as nice as that might be to read, we all know what editors want, right? More conflict. So, that's what these extra scenes are aiming for. I should know by tomorrow if the scenes are pulling their weight.

On Life: A few weeks ago, at the mini-reunion we had in MD, we helped my sister empty out the storage unit of furniture and boxes she's stored for the family since my mom passed away ten years ago. (None of us were emotionally ready to deal with most of the items for years after my mom passed away.) We ended up bringing home the kitchen table and china hutch that I grew up with. It's actually a formal mahogany table that my parents got from my grandmother's side of the family. So, we're the 3rd or 4th generation of family to use this furniture. Love that!

After ten years in non-climate controlled storage unit, they weren't in the best shape. The table was okay, but the china cabinet had some mildew/mold on it. We found someone to refinish them and got them back just before Thanksgiving. They look beautiful! Along with the table and china cabinet was a box of my mom's china. It's not my favorite, but my oldest sister loves it so we're storing it at our house for her until one day when she has space for it.

And it seemed silly that my mom's china was just sitting in a box, so we pulled it out and used it for Thanksgiving and filled the china cabinet with it. It still isn't my favorite china, but I have to say...there is something so comforting about seeing her china in the cabinet just like it was growing up. I confess, sometimes I walk through the dining room just to look at it. Sweet reminders of my mom. Of how lucky I was. I won the mom lottery. I still miss her like crazy, but seeing this reminds me of her and grounds me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fun Facts About Me

I've added to my "About Me" page. I started a "Fun Facts" list that I'll add to periodically. Here are the first ten...

Fun Facts about Me:

1. My favorite breakfast is a bacon cheeseburger.

2. I drink my coffee black. No sugar.

3. I do not like dill pickles or mustard.

4. I love windy days.

5. I am a dog person. The fact that I have always been allergic to cats may have something to do with this. I am not sure.

6. On our first date, apparently, I out-drank my husband. He remembers this. I do not. Whoa, wait. Not because I drank too much! It was just something he noticed and I didn't. Honest.

7. I am the 5th of 7 children, but the baby girl.

8. I have lived in (in order) CA, Turkey, Scotland, PA, MD, AZ, MD, NJ, MD, NC, TX, and NC.

9. I took ballet for many years. I was very good. Then late in high school, I quit. Some of my reasons for quitting were valid (bad knees) and some not (fear.) Quitting on my dream messed me up for many years. I will not let that happen with my dream to be a published author. 

10. Raising our four children, one of our ironclad family rules was no one could use the words "shut up." I think it's one of the worst things you can say to a child. I wanted our children to know that at home they were free to express themselves and they would always be heard and loved. No matter what.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time To Get Moving

On Writing: Okay, I feel like I've been moving in slow motion like swimming in mud. No more. Part of this is due to the time it takes to get a manuscript ready to submit to a contest. Since I'm new at this, the process takes me longer than I like. But after tomorrow, I am done and moving on.

The other reason for this turtle-y feeling I have is that I subbed a full manuscript to an editor and waiting for a response takes time. I totally get that. This is not a complaint at all. But, here's where I made my mistake...the next book I wrote belongs to the same series and the next one I was planning to write was also in the series...(5 brothers.) Well, in theory, I can't do anything with anything I write about that family of brothers until I hear from the editor on the first book. So, instead of starting the next brother's story as I was planning, today I decided I will swim out of that gene pool and start a shiny brand new totally unconnected story.  Because I need to keep moving forward.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Where did Thanksgiving go? Wow, I was so busy cooking all day I didn't even have time to call or text my siblings until today. As much as I like gathering with family and the traditional meal, I really hate spending all day in the kitchen. One day, when all our kids are grown and married, I think we'll move to a more pot luck style Thanksgiving meal where each family member brings a dish so no one is stuck in the kitchen for too long.

My sister and her three kids are visiting and my dad and his fiancé will stop by today for a few hours on their way from Charlotte back up to PA. Love visiting with family!

On Writing: No writing while visiting family is here. Hope to get back to it tomorrow. I did enter the Golden Heart contest for the first time this year, and need to read over my synopsis, partial and full again before the 12/13 deadline. I am so ready to start a new manuscript. Congrats to all the writers wrapping up NaNo! I'm jealous I couldn't participate this year (too many relatives during the month.) Luckily, I did my own NaNo in August. But there is a special camaraderie during NaNo that is unlike the usual writer's life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

“Patience is the Art of Hoping.” Marquis de Vauvenargues

On Writing: Most days I can forget I'm waiting to hear from people about my manuscripts. I send off a query, partial, full, or contest entry and do a pretty good job of putting it from my mind and moving on with other writing projects. But every so often I think...well, do they like it? Do they hate it? Are they gathered around the water cooler laughing at that one line I left in but should have taken out? Yes? No? "No to my manuscript? Yes to my manuscript? Just tell me where you're at with my manuscript."

I was looking for quotes on waiting, since I've read that the publishing industry slooooows way down between Thanksgiving and the New Year, and I found these quotes on waiting. While not really pertinent to the kind of waiting I'm talking about...they made me smile. And smiling helps me keep things in perspective.

"I grew up with six brothers. That's how I learned to dance - waiting for the bathroom." Bob Hope
"Ten men waiting for me at the door? Send one of them home, I'm tired." Mae West

See what I mean? It's easier to wait while you're busy laughing, isn't it? Well, maybe it doesn't help everyone, but I grew up in a family that used laughter to handle the tough times, so humor is my favorite "go to" weapon/tool in life. And hugs. They work too.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles"

On Writing: Although I did get a lot of work done today, it was editing my partial, full and synopsis, so it didn't really feel like much got done. Yet, my brain is mush after reading and editing some of my m/s in triplicate. Harlequin author Sarah M. Anderson spent the week generously explaining and answering questions on revisions over at the Harlequin community boards. She talked about how you know when you're done revising and it's time to send a m/s out in the world. Sarah said for her, it's when her own writing begins to sound like dreck and she's sure she sucks. I'm so there on my current m/s. I need to finish getting it ready for the GH so I can move on to something new.

On Life: I'm not even a "foodie" but I love Thanksgiving. Mostly, the gathering of family and the time to be thankful for the bounties in life. But there is a comfort in traditional family recipes. We have mac n' cheese, stuffing, and roll recipes that our family loves. We HAD a jello salad recipe we grew up with, but none of the next generation likes it much, so it hasn't been made the last few years. We just have fun being together, really. Along with all of our own kids (yes, even son #1 got leave from the AF!) my sister and her three kids, this year my Dad and his fiancé will visit the day after Thanksgiving, so that will make it extra special.

 I hope y'all have happy plans for Thanksgiving with people you like and love! I'm off to watch my favorite pre-Thanksgiving movie, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."


Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Plan

On Writing: I find myself chomping at the bit not being able to write creatively while I'm taking care of some of the other necessary parts of a writer's life. Writing queries, preparing a m/s for contest, reading in the constant effort to learn more... All really important things, but not the same as being creative. So, I have come up- with a new plan: I will write for thirty minutes a day on anything I want no matter what is on my "to-do" list each day. And you know what that means, don't you? Yup. A new spiral notebook or two to jot these creative sessions down into. I love shopping for new writing spirals! Yay.

On Life: I made up the shopping list at 6 a.m. this morning. (Husband is shopping now.) I cleaned the fridge out so there's room for all the holiday food.I've texted one sister for her sweet potato recipe that my visiting sister said is soooo good. Cranked out some laundry and cleaning the stored boxes out of our dining room that have been there since we moved in over a year ago. Getting things done.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Inspiration Emergency

Feeling the need for some emergency inspiration...

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to keep going that counts.” Churchill

"Never, never, never, never give up.” Churchill
 Okay, that should do it for now. I shall breathe and carry on. That is all.

Thanksgiving Menu

On Life: Today I need to write up the menu/shopping list for Thanksgiving. Our family, like many I'm sure, usually does the same dishes for the holidays every year. Each dish is wrapped up in childhood memories, so it makes it very hard to take it off the table and replace it with something new. (aka people get upset.)

We'll mix it up a little by using the smoker this year along with the usual oven-roasted turkey. We're thinking of smoking some beef briquette and a smaller turkey. The standard pumpkin and apple pies, of course. My favorite, coconut custard pie, is harder to find in stores down south, and I'm afraid to make one from scratch because the store-bought ones are the ones that remind me of my mother and taste pretty yummy too.

On Writing: I'd like to wrap up Why Can't This Be Love? as I'm anxious to move on to a new WIP. I think it's time to set WCTBL? to the side to marinate for a bit to get some distance from it. You know, like a couple sometimes needs time apart, so when they get back together they appreciate each other even more and can look at them with fresh eyes and a clearer head? I've got some ideas for the next brother's story, but I need to get going on it because if the brother is really who he is telling me he will require a little rewriting of the first two books in this series to accommodate him. I wish he had spoken up sooner, but he's the strong silent type apparently. ;)   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Almost There

On Writing: I am almost there on my Golden Heart entry. I would like to shorten my synopsis by a page, but it will work if I can't. My partial is now at 51 pages with the hook at the end, but the last two pages need some cleaning up. Just a punch up of a few lines so they are more "hooky." Then I have to still add a scene to the full, but then I think it's ready. Of course, I still have to run it through my edit list from the Angela James "Before You Hit Send" class and read it aloud.

My sister is here visiting from up north, so I try to work on writing for only a few hours a day so we can spend time together. I think I'll get up early tomorrow a.m. to get some extra time in before she wakes up, though since I'd really like to get this GH contest entry finished and submitted.

On life: Time to clean house to get ready for our Thanksgiving guests. And get the menu and shopping list together. And maybe run the china through the washing machine. And polish the silverware. Figure out seating for our family of 6, plus 4 from my sister's family, and 2 of my husband's friends from work. I think we have 10 chairs for 12 people, but we do have a piano bench that can fit one normal or two skinny people. We've got some skinny people, but they've got long arms and sharp pointy elbows too, so not sure two of them will work on the piano bench.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nada, Zip, Zilch. Yet Success.

On Writing: None. Not a word. Yet. I could still scratch something out tonight. I did come up with an idea for one of the other brothers in my series. So there's that.

On Life: Spent the day doing errands. I did do a short grocery trip, got my hair cut, picked up son #2's Rx at the pharmacy, got paint samples for the dining room, went over to the furniture refinisher's house and picked the stain for our dining room table and china cabinet, edited a paper for daughter #1, answered a survey for daughter #2 and spoke to Bella's Vet about this epic battle the two of us have been having.

I think I've mentioned my saga with the Vet. It turned a bright corner today and he is willing to change how he medicates our dog Bella who has Addison's disease. I'm pretty sure he's waiting to see if it works, but I have to give him credit for being open-minded and trying it. (Even if I had to drag him every step of the way.) If this newer method works, (and it does on many other A-dogs) then not only will Bella feel better and cost us less money for treatment, but he can use this on his other A-dog patients. So, tomorrow Bella gets her monthly shot and we're reducing it by 25%. We'll check the electrolytes on day 14 and 25 after her shot and if all looks good, her shot the next month will reduce another 25%. Really excited to see how Bella will feel on this lower dose.

After I get back from the Vet with Bella tomorrow...writing will commence and it will be prolific. Seriously. I kid thee not.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Contests and Cold Weather

On Writing: I'm thinking about entering the Golden Heart contest. It opened up yesterday and although it doesn't provide feedback, just being a finalist is a big happy deal. I'm getting both manuscripts ready just in case. Bringing Delaney Home is ready to go. I spent time working on cleaning her up yesterday and shortening/tightening my synopsis some more. Today, I'll work on Why Can't This Be Love? This will be more challenging because they say "end on a hook." But my hook ends on page 53. The combined entry of synopsis + m/s = no more than 55 pages. That would mean a 2 page synopsis. Right now my synopsis is 4.5 pages. I think I need the synopsis closer to 3 pages and need to edit my m/s pages to get the hook on page 52. That's my goal today. Anyone else thinking about entering the Golden Heart?

On Life: A cold front moved in yesterday. We even had freezing rain last night for a bit. It was 28 degrees this morning. Brrr. Although I grew up in the Northeast with cold winters, I've lived in AZ for 5 years, TX for 2, and NC for 10 and I've grown spoiled with moderate winter temps. I don't like being cold. The only thing I really miss about a colder winter is the "potential for snow." Not necessarily snow itself, mind you. Sure, everything is beautiful and peaceful looking covered in snow, but then you have to shovel it. No, what I really miss is the anticipation of snow. Hearing the weather forecast call for potential snow, and stocking up on fun things like hot chocolate, bread and hearty meals. And the feeling in the air the night before, like an electrified silence. Going to bed wondering what you'll wake up to. And if the snow falls, that safe feeling you have of being hunkered down inside with people you love. That's what I miss about living in the South.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You, Veterans!

"As we reflect on the blessings of our liberty we ask our Heavenly Father that we may be faithful stewards of the freedom we have been granted. Let us never forget that we cannot rightfully celebrate the joy of our freedom without remembering the great price paid for that freedom. We stagger at the eternal debt we owe to the untold number of American Veterans who chose to set aside their personal ambitions and dreams to assure the well being of our great nation. We, the living are indeed the beneficiaries of those who made tremendous sacrifices for the advancement and surety of our liberty. May we always be humbly grateful to those brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the glory of God and for the freedom of all Americans."

Coulby Dunn
4th Battalion, 503rd Infantry
173rd Airborne Brigade

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Writing Sample

    On writing: Just for fun: a sample of my writing. I wrote this as an assignment for a "First Pages" class and hope to turn it into a book when I'm done with my Cates' brothers series. I can't remember exactly, but I think the assignment had to include the heroine coming home after a night of drinking. It definitely gives a taste of the humor I write with.

     “Hey Red, whadda ya say we bump together and make some magic happen.”

     Frankie Hart slowly turned her head toward the offer. Slowly, because the shots of tequila she vaguely remembered throwing back a few hours ago were close to coming back up. The guy sitting next to her looked like he was high on something and it wasn’t life. Grinning at her, revealing his lifelong boycott of dentists he wiggled his eyebrows a few times and then winked. Or had a seizure. She scooted over to hug the passenger door just as it opened and she all but fell out of the police cruiser. Thank goodness hands caught her since hers were handcuffed behind her back.

     “Hi, Frankie. How have you been? I heard you were back in town. Um, teaching at the high school.”

     “Hey, Dave. Was. Got fired yesterday. Seems they got an anonymous tip that I had a record. Tell me you’re not still partners with— well, hell, yes you are.”

     Frankie thought it was cruel that her ex was even better looking today than he was seven years ago when she fell in love with him. Tall, dark and ratfink, that was him. He walked his muscular body right in front of her and stepped closer than he needed to, closer than he should have, trying to intimidate her. Did he remember how well they used to fit together? His cold green gaze said he remembered everything. And it meant nothing to him. She should have been ready for that, but wasn’t. It cut deep.

     “Francine Hart. You have the right to remain silent—”

      She head butted him. Hard. “So do you, Officer Hart.” The shooting pain in her head reminded her why she hadn’t been making any sudden movements with her head, and then Officer Hart, her ex-husband, was wearing her tequila shots and bean burrito down the front of his crisp police uniform. Who said reunions weren’t fun?

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's Here!

It's NaNo time! Waking up this morning on my way to make the coffee, I realized I did make one mistake already. I should have done a massive cleaning day of the house yesterday since lots of things don't get done during NaNo. I'll at least make time for a quick vacuum, load of towels later today. Visiting other blogs and on-line forums the last few days, I love the excitement everyone has for NaNo. Happy first day of NaNo everyone! Happy writing!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

                                         A blast from our past! Halloween many moons ago.

Now, everybody ready to NaNo tomorrow?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Weakness of My Plan

On Writing: Ah ha. I have discovered the weak underbelly of my "add 13k to my m/s" plan. Every scene must do something. It must serve a purpose that moves the story forward, but making the book longer doesn't count as doing something. Making a book longer is not a good enough purpose for a scene. That's called filler and it's boring. It's trickier to add a new plot thread to a woven fabric. You can't just stitch it on like embroidered decoration after the fact. No, you have to unweave the fabric a little (or a lot!) and make it part of the whole cloth. Once more into the breach, dear friends...


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sidetracked By Life

No writing yesterday due to inability to wrap my head around sad news. Our oldest son texted to let us know one of his friends from AF Basic training had died. He was sitting at a red light on his motorcycle and a driver didn't see him and hit him. He died at the scene. He was a super-nice, hardworking, all-around great guy. He was 19 years old. A baby. My heart is breaking for his parents and siblings. Just couldn't focus yesterday after hearing that.

No writing today as I spent the morning researching a low-dose percorten treatment for our Addison's dog, Bella. I think our vet has her on too much percorten and prednisone and both of those can cause serious side-effects. I either have to talk him into trying a different method (that's what all the research was for) or switch to a new vet. If I can find a neighbor who loves their vet, I'll go check them out since I haven't been happy with our vet for a little while now.

So now at 3 pm, I am finally sitting down to try to write. Worrying won't help, so might as well escape into a fictional world where there is always a happily ever after.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feeling the Excitement of NaNo in the Air

On Writing: I was just thinking that the last days of October to writers feel a little like the excitement of kids counting down the days to Christmas. It's so exciting waiting for NaNo to start. Many writers are plotting and planning and there's something special about the feeling of community in participating in NaNo when writing is usually such a solitary endeavor.

Remember in another post I said I wanted to write a standard trope into my next WIP since my first two m/s are a little "different"? I think my brain just doesn't like to conform. I started playing around with the surprise baby/child trope for this next brother, but my brain starts whispering...yes, but make him a virgin. ??? Why would I even think of attempting that? Because I'm guessing most romance readers like their men to know what they're doing in the bedroom. And it would have to be just right or it'll fall flat. I think I'll have to start writing and see what this brother tells me, because I can't just force him to be something he isn't for the shock value. I'll see what happens...

On Life: We had a mini-reunion with family over the weekend in Maryland. Six of the seven siblings and their spouses were able to make it. Yay! And we saw my mom's sister and her husband who are so wonderful but too far away in California. It was great seeing all my brothers and sisters. We may be very different in personalities and lifestyles, but we all love each other and get along. I love that.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Need More Plot! Cue Evil Sister

On Writing: I'm hoping to get a little of that 13k written today on Why Can't This Be Love? I have one definite idea of where to add to the plot that will add conflict, and hope once I start writing this it will spontaneously morph into something bigger and amazing. That's not too big to hope for, is it? About 1/2 way into my book my h/H are placed into a "forced proximity" situation where they must work together and neither is happy about it. So, in the short version of the m/s my heroine's sister enters the first 1/2 of the book and causes some havoc and then slips away. In the longer version of the m/s, I think the sister is going to join them in their "forced proximity" and cause more havoc, because...why not? Okay. The sister isn't evil. She's just a product of really bad, selfish parenting, but she's about to become a bigger P.I.T.A. for my heroine. This is my writing plan for today.

A few errands and odds and ends today too. I need to go get more "special" food from the vet for the puppy. We're not sure this food is helping her at all, and not even sure of the vet at this point. He's taken care of our puppy since she almost died and was subsequently diagnosed with Addison's disease, but I'm reading things now that do not "jive" with how he is medicating her. I need to do a little more research into this and print a few articles and see if he's willing to read them and either try them or give me a good explanation for why this different way of treatment is bad. But I think I'll start asking around for recommendations for a new vet. Just in case.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Need a Trope

On Writing: I'm  starting to throw ideas around for my next book in my series of brothers. I need to pick which brother is next and a favorite romance trope since my first two have been anything but standard romance tropes. Secret baby? Friends to lovers? Secretly in love with the boss? Marriage of convenience?

I had very good progress (finally!) on my synopsis yesterday. I would like to edit it down another 300-500 words. And add in a few lines to hint at the humor. But this one, in all its sloppiness, could work in a pinch. So, I'll spend a little more time on it today, but then might put it aside to write the extra 13k I need for the m/s. My incentive to get that 13k done in the next week is it frees me up to do a mini NaNo before all our relatives arrive toward the end of Nov.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Keep Moving Forward"

On Writing: Today's inspiration...
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!” – Rocky Balboa

Today I will keep moving forward. I will write. I will be bold. I will write where my imagination takes me. I will write what I need to write. Even if it feels like baby steps, today I will keep moving forward.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Procrastination is Opportunity's Assassin" (Victor Kiam)

On writing: Today I will hunker down in my writing space in the basement and not come out until I have finished my synopsis for Why Can't This Be Love? AND have a list of a few plot ideas for adding 13k to a manuscript that needs it. That is all.

Went to the North Carolina State Fair yesterday. Went with #1 daughter and her boyfriend and #2 son. Watched a goat competition. Picture the Westminster Dog Show...only with goats. Saw blue ribbon steers, pigs, turkeys, chickens. Baby chicks (so cute!) which they will no longer let you hold. Very sad. Prize winning quilts, cakes, baked goods and jars of pickles. It was fun, but we have decided we are over fair food. Next year we'll go to see all of the above, but save our money for a nice meal somewhere else. I mean how many times do you need to have a fried Twinkie?

 "Some Pig"s

Monday, October 21, 2013

To NaNo or Not to NaNo?

On Writing: I've actually only participated in one Nano during which I wrote my first full manuscript. It's a YA, not a romance, that I still like and hope to edit and do something with one day. I sorta did my own version of NaNo during the month of August. I wrote my romance manuscript Why Can't This Be Love? in just over a month. I think it took me the first week of September too, although I'm still not satisfied with the ending.

So...I was just starting to get excited for participating in NaNo this year, when it dawned on me that I don't think I can due to visitors and the Thanksgiving holiday. To be clear, I am very excited about sharing time and holidays with people I love!! One sister will visit the week before Thanksgiving and another sister and her three kids will be here during Thanksgiving. Plus #1 son is coming home from his Air Force base in Mississippi and possibly my dad and his fiancé will be stopping by for a night on their way to Charlotte before the holiday.

But the writer in me is still disappointed I might miss NaNo. My other NaNo limitation is I don't think I can start a brand new WIP yet. I have to add 13k to a m/s. I will attempt to do that this last week of Oct, but since we are travelling this weekend, not sure I'll be successful with that. Not to be deterred...I think I will do my own "mini-NaNo" during the first two weeks of November and I'll either aim for that 13k I need, or if by some miracle I get that done then I can start a new WIP during my mini-Na(1/2of)No. That's my plan. Now to hammer out that synopsis (No. Insert eye roll here. It still isn't finished.) and the 13k.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Synopsis Work Day 2: Hazmat Suit, Machete and Blow Torch

On Writing: I'm trying to keep the synopsis for WCTBL? to three pages (cue eye roll.) Right. Broad strokes.
Who are my heroine and hero?
What do they want?
What/who is stopping them?
Internal and external conflicts.
Character and romantic growth/arcs.
The happily ever after.

Oh, yeah, and if I could come up with a brilliant, catchy opening to make editors/agents drool to read it, that would be great. Plus, a few lines that convey the humorous tone of my writing. (This is always the hard part while trying to be concise.)

After yesterday's work, I have 3 1/2 pages, but I haven't stood back to read what I've got. Could be a hot mess. I guess I'm going to have to read what I cobbled together before moving on today. I'll have to pull on the hazmat suit and dive in. I'll bring a machete and blow torch with me, because you never know, right? Synopsis writing: It's a dirty job.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


4 1/2 yards of dirt. Moved. 1 1/2 to go. Functional workout? You bet your sweet...slightly sore today a$$. Plus my arms, shoulders, and lower back. Legs feel fine. Son #2 helped, so it went quicker. The sore muscles though, are really just a reminder that I need to get back to regular exercise. It's too easy to let life get in the way and I've got to make it a priority. (Especially because writing is so sedentary.)

So, today, more moving of dirt. Then the spreading of grass seed. I believe tulip and daffodil bulbs are ready to be planted. This is a lot of work to feed the deer, yes? Because I know they are going to eat those flowers like they're bars of Ghirardelli chocolate. Hopefully the 1st two of this list can get done before any rain arrives.

On Writing: I accomplished nothing on my to-do list yesterday. But, I did get two thank you notes to judges written and sent. That was really at the top of my list, only I forgot to put it on. So, today I seriously need to work on my synopsis for WCTBL? Seriously. I really mean it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Ice Cold Bohemian Style Beer"

The leaves are starting to change in our neck of the North Carolina woods. I love this time of year. Except to my husband, this time of year means over-seeding the lawn. Over-seeding the lawn means laying down topsoil. Six. Yards. Of. Topsoil. I like to think of this as a functional workout. Shoveling dirt works out your arms, shoulders, back, abs, glutes, and quads. We'll blast some music from the garage stereo to make it go faster. And I can work on mentally plotting/planning my next WIP while I'm working ;) . I'm all about silver linings.

Writing To-Do List:
#1 Synopsis for Why Can't This Be Love?.
#2 Edit and add to WCTBL? I'm not happy with the ending, so I need to work with it a bit.
#3 Begin brainstorming/plotting for my next book.
#4 Write a query letter for Bringing Delaney Home. The full of Delaney has actually been with an editor for not quite three months now. I'm going to get a query letter ready so I'm ready to send her out once I hear back. (I like to prepare for worst case scenario and be happily surprised if it isn't needed.) *I just realized I finally have some bling to add to my query since Delaney has now finaled in a contest.

Okay, I need to get going on this to-do list, since later this afternoon I'll be working. Shoveling dirt.
Fun fact: Drinking beer is a functional workout too. Yup, biceps :) .

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Contests = Learning Experiences

On Writing: Okay, now that SYTYCW is over for me, let's talk. In my post yesterday, I gave a list of Silver Linings from the SYTYCW experience alone. There were lots of benefits for me just entering! Now, I'm not a wealth of contest experience here. I have very limited experience, but so far I've learned a lot.

To break it down: I have 2 completed romance manuscripts. My first, Bringing Delaney Home, I entered into a contest in February. It was my first contest ever and before I had anyone read/critique my m/s. I must say the judges were very kind and generous with their critiques. Not only did I not place in that contest, but I don't even think my scores were very good. But, boy, did the judges comments give me a lot to think about so I could edit and improve my manuscript. That was invaluable.

Next, I entered the *new and improved Delaney* in its 2nd contest. I found out in the beginning of Oct that it has finaled. (Yay! My first final!) And again, with some wonderful comments and critiques from the judges, (can you believe writers carve time out of already busy lives to judge voluntarily?! Fricken amazing!) once again I was able to make Delaney a stronger manuscript before sending it back in for final judging. Delaney is now the bionic woman at this point. (And if you had read the m/s, you'd think this was funny. Trust me.) Now, of course, Delaney is the m/s I entered into SYTYCW, which as you know, did not make it past the first cut. It's possible my voice is not a good fit for a series line. Delaney and I are still trying to figure this out.

The opening chapter of my other romance manuscript, Why Can't This Be Love?, has caused havoc from day one. (See posts We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program...and My Wonderful Critique Partner for the full gory details.) I made a few changes hoping to fix some of the problems with chapter one and entered it into a contest in August. Because, at this point, I really just needed an unbiased read and opinion of this m/s and my writing. Well, guess what? This week I found out WCTBL? has finaled. Totally unexpected, but so wonderful because I was beginning to think I'd end up a crazy lady writing only for myself. Like I said, I write with a quirky, humorous voice and until this contest not too many people seemed to dig it, let alone love it. Well, these latest judges did. Woohoo! And these lovely judges, who again, donated their time and expertise to read not just my manuscript but many others, also included comments that helped me improve my writing and my manuscript. And yes, they may be the only two people in the world who find enjoyment in my writing, but it was fun to make someone smile. I finished the edits on the contest entry and emailed it back this afternoon.

So, that is my contest experience. Not a lot, but what a great learning curve. My two cents: If you enter writing contests to win, it will probably be disappointing half of the time. Maybe more. But if you enter contests to can't lose.
Footnote: Just because SYTYCW is over for me, it's not over! Almost 650 great chapters are still posted for your reading pleasure. And next week they'll post the list of Top 50, some of which I know for a fact are brilliant chapters by some of my new friends. So, go on over and read! I'll be there rooting on the Top 50!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


On Writing: I am double posting today to say the first cut in the SYTYCW2013 took place today. They selected the Top 50 chapters out of 650. Mine was not one. And I'm okay with that. Like I said in an earlier post: win/win scenario. The list of all 50 will be out next week, but I do know that some of my favorite chapters were selected, so it'll be easy to root them on towards the Top 10. And it's good to see strong writers succeed.

Silver linings:
~I met lots of great women that I now consider friends.
~the m/s I thought I was going to enter, but didn' better because of it.
~the m/s I did enter is stronger because of it.
~I was able to get my 1400 word synopsis for m/s entered down to 750 words. Which I previously couldn't do. Nothing like pressure to help get something accomplished.
~I've connected with my second critique partner. Yay! That alone was worth the price I paid...what was that? Oh, yeah, here's another beautiful silver lining...
~all of these great things were FREE. Yup, no entry fee, but quite the mother lode of benefits!

So, a big congratulations to, yes the Top 50, but to all 650 writers who took a risk and put their work up there for all to read and critique. Because that's what writers do. And it's not always easy. The amount of talent in all those chapters was ridiculous! Be proud people, go forth and write some more!

More Fun Than a Basket of Puppies

On Writing: Yesterday I finished the edits on the first manuscript. Today I will read the edited pages aloud to make sure everything sounds good. Hopefully that won't take too long, then it's on to second m/s. I came up with a possible secondary plot for this book, since a few beta readers mention liking my heroine's best friend (but I don't have book planned for her.) I might attempt to work it in, but not today. I'll have to mull over the possibilities for a few days.

Oh, yesterday I read an old post on the blog Seekerville ( by Bob Mayer on writers feeling like a fraud and believing in oneself. I know this is not unique to writers. I think it must be a human trait because I have seen this mentioned by people in all walks of life. I have felt it myself. When I was young (high school young) I was a ballet dancer. I was pretty good. Went to NYC for auditions and won 4 scholarships to 4 of the best ballet schools (Joffrey, ABT, SAB and Harkness for any ballet aficionados.) So, I had some talent. the back of my mind was always this fear that one day a teacher was going to find out that I was only good because I was doing it wrong; that I was a fraud. And once they discovered that and made me do it the "right" way, I'd be no good. I used to have dreams about it.

So, when those doubts start to poke at me on my writing journey, I try to focus on how my writing makes me feel. Am I proud of it? Does what I write and the process of writing make me happy? So far, the answer is yes. My learning curve is going in the right direction. Would I like for other people to get pleasure from reading my work? More than a little kid wants a basket of puppies! But at the core of it, I have to write for me. I have to be happy with the process and proud of the product. That is the part I can control. Anything above and beyond that is a blessing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.
Ferdinand Foch, Battle of the Marne, 8 Sept. 1914

On Writing: This is my theme for the next three days. I am editing two different manuscripts. Hope Plan to have one finished today. The other finished by Thursday. Like the scene from "Apollo 13" when the engineers have to fit a square peg into a round hole to save the astronauts lives.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Watched Pot...

I am trying to get a few things accomplished instead of obsess over the SYTYCW contest. A few things I am thinking about...

#1 I have a manuscript that I wrote intending it to fall into the romance "series" category. But someone suggested to me that my voice may not "fit" into a series line, so now I have to decide, do I keep trying it for a series line, or set it aside and chalk it up as a learning/ writer growth exercise? Or...behind curtain #3... do I look at the plot and see if I can't add some twist or subplot that could turn it into Single Title worthy book and see if my voice is a better fit there? I think what I'll do is finish the synopsis (I have a rough (think rough enough to get splinters) draft) and see if I don't get any ideas as I do that.

#2 Plotting my next WIP. I have written two manuscripts about two brothers. There are three more brothers. (You knew there would be, right?) So, which brother do I want to write about next...Whichever brother I choose, I am going to work in a standard trope or two for this m/s. My first two m/s haven't really contained or focused on any. So, which trope to do is another question...friends to lovers? Secret baby? Marriage of convenience? What are your favorite tropes? Which tropes am I forgetting?

#3 Our family Christmas letter. I know, I know, I hear you! It's only October! But by default, I am the family Christmas letter writer, and I have failed to write one the last two years. Maybe longer. Life just got too crazy, you know? I think it started when I went back to school to finish my degree. Who wants to write a letter during/after a 16 credit semester where half my classes required me to write multiple papers? Apparently, not this girl. And then our twins graduated high school. And then we decided to move out to the country, so had a house to sell and one to build.  I am determined to write one this year- even if all it says is, "Merry Christmas." That's what I've got cooking. How about you?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Win/Win Scenerio

On Writing: Someone asked me tonight how I thought I would do in the SYTYCW contest. Do I think I'll make the Top 50? And my answer was...I wasn't stressing because I was in a win-win situation. What I mean by that is it lets me see how people/editors receive my writing. I have a slightly quirky, humorous voice, which isn't for everyone. At all. I get that. I mean, romance plots get tough criticism, but add humor to that? And it's even harder. Humor is sooooo subjective. What I think is funny, many others might not/ or do not. So, it's tricky.

But, I'm pretty new at this, so I'm writing what I want to. What I need to. And then depending on how editors and agents react to that...I can adjust accordingly. It's a learning process. I am definitely learning as I go, and crafting better stories each time. Heck, each draft/revision is better than the first, so it's all good right now. Each contest makes me really consider my first sentence, my first five pages, my first chapter, my conflict, my plausibility. See? Win/win.

Or, as James T. Kirk says in Star Trek, "I don't believe in the no-win scenario."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Some Girl Time Today

Going out to lunch with Daughter #1 today. She's on fall break from school, so we decided we'll go get some Chinese. Should be fun! Then I believe she's got a gift card to burn at the mall, so might hit that since it's right across the street from lunch. I am not a shopper, but she totally is. I can put up with it for a bit. Some days. Luckily daughter #1 is our happy girl, so most anything is fun with her.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Did It!

On Writing: Yup. I finally wrangled, wrestled, sliced, diced, surgically removed, whacked with a machete, stomped and then crammed in, sitting on the lid until it all synopsis down to 750 perfect words. Woo, boy! Let's hope that's as low as I have to go.

On Life: I'm missing my mom a lot today. She's been gone ten years now, but some days I really feel the loss of not having her with me. Maybe because with all of the writing, contests and submitting, I think she'd get a real kick out of it. She loved to read romances. She looked forward to her Harlequins in the mail every month and was a voracious reader. I was blessed with my mother. It was like winning the lottery of parents...she was that wonderful. Today is one of those days when I wish I could pick up the phone and call her.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

If It's The Last Thing I Do...

I am finishing reading through my m/s entered in the SYTYCW. I'm on page 72/195, so I really need to finish so I can edit my synopsis. I have what I think is a pretty solid ds 1400word synopsis. (Solid? what do I know, this is the only one I've written!) But, Jennifer Hayward, last year's SYTYCW winner said she needed one for the competition last year closer to 750words. Yikes! You know, I slaved for two weeks on explaining the essential plot and romance elements of my 58,500k story in 1400 words. Now I need to cut that in half. So, that is my plan for tomorrow.

#1 Finish reading/editing Bringing Delaney Home
#2 Tighten synopsis- shorten by 1/2. (Did I just roll my eyes?)

Then, when both of those are a few more SYTYCW entries. I think I have a glimpse of the fun part of being an editor. I love to read an entry that has no comments, fall in love with it, tweet about it, and get other people to go read it. Fun for me and great for the author and the readers.

I realized I never reported back on the BBQ smoking. If you are vegetarian or vegan, now is the time to turn your head or stop reading.... okay? The BBQ ...Was fricken awesome! We had done the pork shoulder before, but never beef brisket. Oh. My. Gosh. It was amazing. I ended up using the first rub I found on the Internet, and I wouldn't use the same one again, or at least cut the salt waaaaayy down. But, words do not describe how good smoked meat over a low heat for 10+ hours is. I am honestly going to research smoking a turkey after I am finished with my SYTYCW entry.

By the way, I am writing this post (essentially tomorrow's post) so I don't use writing a post as an excuse to not get my to-do list done. See how serious I am about finished my list tomorrow? Okay, that's it for me tonight since I've got things to do tomorrow!

If A Tree Falls In The Woods...

...and no one is awake to hear it, does it make a noise? No. Apparently not. We're experiencing the tail-end of what used to be TS Kate. Rain all day yesterday and gusty winds last night and today. We had a pine tree come down overnight in the front yard. My husband said it was dead, and luckily it fell fine, not taking anything out with it. Just a little clean up with the chain saw this weekend.

Another fun HIMYM episode last night. It is one of the very few TV shows my husband and I watch, and as it's the last season we're making a point to watch each one when it airs. No spoilers. I'll just say this week's was better than last week's.

On Writing: Tomorrow is the last day for entering the SYTYCW2013 contest. There are over 530 entries so far. So many great writers with fun creative ideas. I guess the next thing the public will see is the full top 10 manuscripts which the editors will pick out of their top 50. Those 10 will easily be strong and entertaining based on all the chapters I read, so it'll be fun to read them and root and cheer people on. Wishing good luck to all who entered.

I hope writers who didn't get many comments on their entry don't get discouraged. Honestly, there are just too many entries to even make a dent in reading all of them.  So, comments or no, I hope every writer who entered pats themselves on the back for the accomplishment of writing a manuscript, and then uses this contest as a springboard. Finish polishing the rest of the m/s, get that synopsis written and then send off some query letters and get your work out there. Come on people! I saw lots of great writing in this contest...which means potentially...lots of great romance books!

For me, I think it's time to start brainstorming my next book. As I'm doing that I can probably begin my first round of edits on "Why Can't This Be Love?" That is the m/s I was planning to enter in the SYTYCW contest, but then didn't since it hadn't been through any edits yet. But, silver lining, my first page and first chapter are stronger because I got them ready for the contest. Plus I wrote the 100 word pitch for it too! I've got a (very) rough draft synopsis that I need to finish also.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


On Writing: I've been reading my manuscript too long! I mentioned some editing changes I made yesterday, and how two of those changes had ripple effects, yes? So, I think I made all necessary changes in the first 50 pages, so far. But, I've had to read the manuscript out loud to make sure, otherwise my brain just reads what it knows I intended to write and sometimes skips right over mistakes that way. It's been a long two days, and I still have most of the book to go! Yikes. But, I know over 400 other writers in the SYTYCW contest are going through the same thing, so I don't feel lonely. I'm wishing everyone who had the courage to put their writing out there good luck.

We've been smoking BBQ pork butt and brisket all day. It smells luscious outside. We were just discussing smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving this year, so we'll probably need to practice later this month and work out all the kinks before the holiday. I guess the only concern would be if smoking made the white meat too dry. I'll have to research it. I know deep frying turkeys is popular, but not sure about smoking. Okay, I'm off to eat BBQ and check out some football! Happy Sunday night!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Getting Stuff Done

Nothing like three strong cups of black coffee to tackle my list of things to do. I've changed the sheets on the bed, started the laundry going, plus read and commented on some great SYTYCW entries. Now a little editing on my manuscript, then a little clean-up in the kitchen and finally...da..da..da.. vacuum the tumbleweeds of dog hair rolling by me.

We've got 3 of the 4 kids home, which is always fun, so I have to come up with something to cook for dinner. I believe I heard one of the kids trying to plan a family game night. Tomorrow we'll pull out the smoker for some BBQ pork butt.

On Writing: The editing I'm doing is from some feedback I received back on a manuscript. I have to rewrite a few things. Some rewriting is no problemo. Easypeasy. But other rewriting causes a ripple effect and once you make a change you have to go back and make sure everything it touches is fixed too. I've got both of those. Two changes that create ripples, so I'm trying to make sure I don't miss any changes associated with those. I had to omit a scene, which, honestly, I should have done on my own. It was a scene that had my heroine coming across a little bitchy. Granted she's at a low point in her life, so a little snarky, but I don't want readers to think she's a bitch. It had been rubbing me the wrong way each time I read it, but I let it stay because it was in the original draft. Also because it was hard to come up with something to replace it. I think I finally managed that yesterday. That's it for me. What are y'all up to today?

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Best Laid Plans...

On Writing: I spent some time reading and commenting on some of the SYTYCW13 entries. Wow, there are so many talented and creative writers! And I haven't read very many, but I've got to stop to finish my own editing/rewriting, darn it. I would love to finish it today so I can move forward with other writing. That is my plan.

And the laundry and vacuuming that I was part of my plan yesterday...? Yeah, now that's part of today's plan.

Oh, the wisdom teeth extraction went well. #2 son is recuperating and eating soft foods like a champ. Hopefully he won't be too sore today. #2 daughter arrives home today. Both are on fall break from college. #1 son has another Air Traffic Control test today to move further along in his Air Force training, so we've sent up a prayer for that.

Okay, off to execute the plan...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Quick Post Before Errands Post

I am taking #2 son to have his top two wisdom teeth removed today, so I'm making a list of foods to eat when you've just had your wisdom teeth removed...macaroni, applesauce, pudding, Jello, ice-cream, oatmeal, popsicles, I missing any obvious ones? 

On Writing: I've been reading some of the SYTYCW chapters and commenting. I try to point out the good stuff but I have left a few observations that *I think* would help make the chapter stronger. I hope it isn't coming off as snooty, but I know one of the main reasons I entered was for comments from other writers. If I'm going to learn and end up better a writer after this is over, it helps to get feedback. But I know not everyone feels that way, so it is tricky.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Kitchen Sink Day

Today I took the Bella-dog to the vet for an ultrasound on her bladder. They were looking for bladder or kidney stones. They found them. Kidney stones that is. Which, apparently they don't do anything for except change her diet and wait and see if that stops all the UTIs she's been having. The diet might as well be lobster and champagne for what we have to pay for it. Yikes! I will have to shop around to see if anyone else sells it cheaper. Hopefully, she'll feel better soon because the squirrels in the yard won't chase themselves.

#2 son gets his wisdom teeth out tomorrow after classes. It's the first day of his fall break and the best time to get it done. He only has two, so shouldn't be too bad. (Easy for me to say, right?)

#2 daughter (#2 son's twin sister) is coming home in two days for fall break. Yay!

On Writing: I finally submitted my chapter to SYTYCW13. I ended up going with Bringing Delaney Home, since I've done more editing on that one and feel it's a stronger story because of it. I have some more editing/revising to do on it during the next week, but then I'll go back to my newer manuscript and start the first real edit on it. Then it's on to a new WIP. Yippee Ki Yay...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday, Monday

Okay...good weekend.
Beautiful weather, Redskins finally won (Yay!), East Carolina beat Carolina (Double Yay!), NC State won, husband's basement project almost finished (woo-hoo), and this morning I was able to get the usually impossible-to-get urine sample from the puppy-brother to see if her UTI is cleared up.

On Writing: So, still okay with my 100 word pitch. Wish I could convey the comedy better, but I think that's the best I'm going to do. Edited my 1st chapter some more. Will reread this morning to see if the edits accomplished what I was attempting. I hope to submit to sytycw no later than tomorrow. Once I've done that, I'll spend some time reading more entries and leaving comments. Then I have to finish my synopsis (only have a long very rough draft.) And then it's time to move on and start thinking of my next WIP.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

These Squirrels Are Killing Me

It's going to be a long fall if the squirrels around us don't get smarter. Now, our dog Bella is not the sharpest crayon in the box. She is the sweetest, but let's just say she won't be on any Amazing Pet Tricks show. So you'd think the squirrels were pretty safe around her. Except I haven't seen such dumb squirrels before. If a dog has treed you, why would you choose that moment to come back down the tree where the dog is waiting? Or, the squirrels will run but instead of running up the nearest tree, they will pass ten trees to get to a certain tree as Bella gets closer. Now, maybe these are really evil-genius squirrels just toying with our sweet, not-so-smart dog. Either's going to make for a looooong fall until they get to hibernating.

On writing: I might have finally fixed my 100 word pitch in the shower this morning. I get some of my best ideas in the shower. Go figure. I've had my pitch done for a few days, but like I said before, I don't love it. So, off to write out my idea and see if it works. I just want to say of the over 200 entries in the So You Think You Can Write 2013 contest so far, there are a lot of great ones. And how great for all these writers to put their writing out there. It's a scary thing, and kudos to all. I plan on getting my chapter up early next week. The pitch has delayed me and then while I was hashing over the pitch I started changing my 1st chapter some more so need to reread and make sure they were good changes.

Edited to say: Yes! I think I have my pitch! 100 words exactly. Says what it needs to say. Aaaaand...I think it has the punch of presentation that was missing up until this version. I'll leave it alone for now while I go run some errands and then work on my 1st chapter. Crossing fingers that when I read it tomorrow I still like it. Whew! I will sum up this pitch odyssey with a quote from My Cousin Vinnie, one of my favorite movies: "I'm done with this guy!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Who Let the Dogs Out? Who, Who, Who?"

Yesterday was a beautiful, open the windows wide kind of day. We live in the woods so you hear the wind in the trees and birds and frogs. Very relaxing. Except that our neighbors decided to let their dog/dogs out and then leave. I didn't think people did that anymore. I know decades ago, that was more the norm, but I haven't lived anywhere in the last few years where people do that, on account of safety for the animals. (And I've lived in MD, NJ, AZ, TX and now NC)

Our neighbors have three dogs. Very sweet dogs. I've met them. Let me go on record saying this is not about the dogs. This is about the owners. They left their dogs outside yesterday and one of them literally ( I am not kidding) barked for over four hours straight. That is why I am assuming they left for the day. How can anyone listen to their dogs bark for that long and not react or bring them in? So sad for the puppy, but I think our family was on edge after a few hours of listening to it. Shutting all the windows only helped a little.

On writing: I worked on my 100 word pitch yesterday. I'm close. I like it, but don't love it. I have 10 more words to play with. I'll see if I come up with anything more today. I want to read my chapter out loud today and go through the Angela James "Before you hit send" editing list from her class. I'm sending out good luck wishes for everyone entering SYTYCW2013. Hoping for an inspirational and positive learning experience for all!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Baby Chicks!

We went to the local feed store this morning. I love that place! Now that we moved out to the country (over a year ago) we have these fun stores. Lots of salons and restaurants run out of people's houses in town. It's so sweet. Very old-fashioned in a sense since the fast growing town we used to live in had lots of rules against this kind of thing.

Anyway, now that we live in the country, we live where people have horses, livestock, chickens etc. They have baby chicks at the feed store! So cute!

One day we might get chickens for fresh eggs, but not today. Today we got some grain-free dog food for the Bella-dog. There are other Addison's dogs that have GI problems with some grain-based foods, and since we're trying to narrow down why she gets sick, we decided to try new food. Happily, she loves the new food! But now we'll wait to see if it makes her tummy feel better so she doesn't have to keep eating grass the way she does. She's still being treated for a UTI, but after the round of antibiotics is done, if that didn't clear it up then the vet said we need to do an ultrasound for stones. It's always something, but we love her.

On writing: I am still working on my 100 word pitch. (Insert eye roll here.) I did a little more editing on my first chapter. There is something about entering a contest that makes me look at my writing with more unbiased eyes. My problem with the 100 word pitch is fitting everything in that is needed, keeping it clear, and trying to add humor since the pitch is supposed to reflect the tone of the m/s. It's not there yet. Maybe not even close. I have a very rough draft of my synopsis done, but I'm trying to get the pitch and first chapter polished first. Okay, back to my pitch because it is not writing itself.

Friday, September 20, 2013

So Much To Do...So Little Time

My writing "To-Do" List:
1 Finish the 100 word pitch for my SYTYCW13 entry.
2 Finish synopsis for the same.
3 Go over chapter 1 again.

I still have to finish the last chapter of the m/s, but that is wrap up/ epilogue for the most part. I'm still not positive which of my two manuscripts I will use. The editors say enter your strongest, but I'm not sure I've decided which one that is. The Harlequin editors posted critiques on 22 First Pages yesterday, and the writing level and talent of people is amazing to see. It makes it agonizingly understandable how hard it is to get a book published when there is so much talent out there. Okay, off to tackle my to-do list. But first...more coffee.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Harvest Moon

"The Harvest Moon is the full Moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox, the beginning of northern autumn.  In 2013 the Moon is full on Sept. 19th (the night of Sept. 18-19 in North America)  while the equinox follows close behind on Sept. 22nd.  The coincidence sets the stage for a nice display of Harvest moonlight." More on the harvest moon at the link. Cool stuff.

Slept with the windows open last night and it got down to 50 degrees. I love the cool air when you're under a toasty quilt. But, if gets any cooler I may have to put the winter-weight comforter on early. It's silly, but I like to rotate quilts on days like 1st day of spring (off goes the winter comforter. on goes the spring quilt.) 1st day of fall... like that. But I just realized I don't have a summer quilt...I will have to start looking around to see what I can find.

On Writing: I'm participating in the on-line SYTYCW13 Conference as much as I can this week. (But also busy writing my synopsis for the manuscript I plan to enter. And also need to write the 100 word pitch. Yikes!) I had never heard of the competition until this year, so I have never seen it. I've heard some of the other writer's stories though and it sounds like if you go into it as a learning experience you can get the most out of it. Once the actual contest starts, I plan on using the comments as if they're input from unbiased beta readers to make my writing stronger. Digest them, decide which ones ring true (i.e.- lots of people make the same comment) and which ones to set aside.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The End...Sort Of

On Writing: Well, I arrived at my word count goal (and then some) but this ending- I'm not sure about it. I still have a little wrap up/epilogue stuff to put in the last chapter, but this ending just doesn't feel as "right" as my last book's. Maybe I just need to put it aside for a few days and then reread it and see?

So You Think You Can Write '13 week long conference begins today. I only just discovered the Harlequin forum last December after the contest was over and done, so this is all brand new to me. I think I'd like to enter my current WIP, but not only do I still have to write a synopsis, but may need to edit the first chapter a little. Should be a fun educational week!

Day 13 of Whole 30 (no sugar, wheat, alcohol) and I'm feeling great. I am starting to wake up remembering my dreams again and have more energy. Day 13 is the amount of time it usually takes for sugar cravings to stop. So far, so good. Now, if I could just get the exercise going regularly...

SWG: DWC: 2,015 ( total from 9/13, 9/14, 9/15 combined)      TWC: 56,989  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pardon my Contruction Zone

I'm going to be working on this blog in the next few days trying to add pages, but since I'm not super techno savvy I guarantee it will be like any construction/reno project...a chaotic mess before it comes together into a beautiful, more user-friendly website. Some of the pages I add may be blank for a few days while I figure this out. The management thanks you for your patience.

On Writing: I am so close to finishing my WIP. So close, but...I'm having trouble with my final scene. I just can't come up with something that feels "right" for my characters and the book. I can't decide if it's because the ending in my first completed manuscript felt so very right that I was lucky with that one, and I should just write this and it'll be fine....Or, I should keep on mentally torturing myself until I have something better. I've been struggling with this for a for a few days and have concluded that today is the day. I'm just going to write that final scene because:

 #1 You can't edit what you haven't written
 #2 Writing it may spur other ideas.

I am actually 26 words away from my goal of 55k. So, yay! This scene should take a few k of words, and I always add more during the editing process, so this may a m/s that I'll have to pull out a scene since the wc for this line is 55-60k. So, here I go. Roll Tide.

SWG: DWC: 1,597 TWC: 54,974

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Land of Hope and Dreams"

Just like so many families in the US and around the world, Sept 11 is a sad day for our family. Still hard to get through. Along with 9/11/2001, a few years later my wonderful brother-in-law, Brian, lost his courageous battle with cancer on Sept 11. He put up a fierce fight, but cancer's a f'ing bitch. I know Brian's up there watching over my sister and their children. Their strength has been amazing, like so many families on 9/11 who've had to carry on without their loved ones who left this earth way too soon.

So, for Brian, I'm off to listen to his favorite Bruce Springsteen song...Land Of Hope And Dreams.

On Writing: Not much yesterday on account of the day. But here are the stats:
SWG: DWC: 1,273  TWC: 53,377  (and the daily word count is for 9/10 and 9/11 combined)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just a Tuesday

and taking the Bella-dog to the vet for her monthly Percortin shot for her Addison's. Just wanted to flash through here with my writing update.

On Writing: Eh. Not a great writing day yesterday. I guess I'm trying to figure out how to get the last few scenes aka tying up loose threads right. I have a few ideas, but as yet, none are jumping out at me as the way to wrap this up. I hope one of my characters speaks to me today.

SWG: DWC: 379 TWC: 52,104

Monday, September 9, 2013

Feeling Good Eating Healthy

I know. I know. I've never really talk much about food in here. Other than our BBQ smoker experience. This isn't a food blog, but a writing blog. But, today I feel so good I feel like sharing. So, today is day 6 of my latest Whole30 (
eliminating sugar, wheat and alcohol from my diet. Once I get through the "carb flu" (your body's reaction to transitioning from using mainly carbs to burning mostly protein and fats) then it's amazing how much clearer my brain feels. It's pretty amazing. I even feel more creative. My husband and I have been eating primal for over two years now. Not 100%, but maybe 90/10.

The Whole30 is a very strict way of eating that really cleanses your system and gets you back to the basics. I have probably done a year's worth of Whole30's over the last two years, and stick to mainly a primal diet in between. Really, the main difference for us is the Whole30 is very strict and clean; a little more work in cook prep and planning, although not much once it's your 'way of life.' A primal diet is still a diet based on whole foods: meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruit (minimal), some people include dairy. I cook with coconut flour, almond flour and coconut oil. Still avoiding wheat, except for the occasional loaf of sourdough that is a must in our family. But primal life allows for red wine ;) and a little bit of dark chocolate on occasion.

Anyway, this works for me. The first 13 days of trying anything new are the most difficult. I find once I get through the first 13 days where sugar, the nasty bitch, is calling my name so 'sweetly,' trying to temp me, once I get through that, the sugar cravings go away. Well, so anyway, that's what I'm up to, but if this newsy information about the eating habits of a slightly quirky writer was more than you had signed up, I apologize.

On Writing: I had a very good writing day yesterday. I actually wrote a scene out of order, which is not my preferred method. I really like to write a story from beginning to end. Mainly because new characters appear and turn a story so often, that to me it doesn't make sense to write a scene for the end when I don't even know if my characters will be taking that road by that time of journey, you know? But, I'm pretty close to the end of my WIP and I was unsure of what the next scene "needed" to be, so I went ahead and wrote a scene toward the end (possibly the final scene?) because this showdown had to happen, it was just a matter of where and when. And I still need two more things to happen. So, I'll reread this morning and see if now I can't figure out if those two things can fit in my missing scene.

September Writing Goal:  Daily Word Count: 2,778  Total Word Count: 51,732

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Geese Overhead!

It's that time of year again. I was sitting out with Bella and my coffee on the front porch this morning when the first wave of geese flew overhead in formation, honking away. Yay! It's one of those first signs, a harbinger of fall. I. Love. Fall. I think it reminds me of my childhood and running and playing in the woods near our house as a child. I spent so much time there. Sometimes I feel such peace in the woods, other times nostalgic. Often though, it invigorates and renews my optimism. Love the sound of the wind blowing in the treetops, especially deeper into fall when the leaves have turned all the colors of fire and earth. The drier leaves have a different sound quality...crisper, sharper, with an edge of excitement. Is it just me? Or does everyone love fall like I do?

On the "to-do" list...
I did the laundry, and exercised, although the exercise wasn't a quality workout. Sometimes the first few workouts for me are just about showing up. It's only after the first few that my body connects to the muscle memory of movements that it begins to love it again. I have to finish downloading the Scrivener class today, since that will only be accessible for another week or so. I think I'll put the tub of wood putty on my desk next to me, that way I can start that project when I'm brainstorming/thinking during writing or just getting up to give my butt a rest.

On Writing: I'm down to the last 6k, but I might have to cut the scene I wrote yesterday. You know the idea that every scene must move the story forward/have a purpose or cut it? I'm not sure this scene does everything it should for the word count. It could be I need to do this in another scene. But I think I'll write first, then reread yesterday's work and see if it's a scene that moves plot forward or is too stagnant to stay.

SWC: DWC for 9/6: 1,552  DWC for 9/7: 1,219  TWC: 48,954

Friday, September 6, 2013

Do-over on the "To-Do" List

Yesterday's "To-Do" List
1. Write.
2. Exercise.
3. Download the rest of on-line Scrivener class lectures.
4. Reread health insurance info. Make decision.
5. Vacuum and laundry.
6. Research yellow jackets to see if we need an exterminator.
7. Wood putty the nail holes in trim in writing space.
8. Make egg omelets for daughter #1.  done

I let myself get distracted by a problem one of our twins is having. I can't let myself do that. I have been trying to help for months now, but maybe what he needs it to crash and burn for the life-lesson to stick. It's hard as a parent to watch. But I've offered help and advice. Now I need to step back. I can't let it mess up my whole day worrying, you know? So, needless to say, my "to-do" list is still calling to me. I will try to chip away at it after I get some writing done.

On Writing: Not much. Planning for a better day today.
SWG: DWC: 394 TWC: 46,183

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Today's "To-Do" List

1. Write.
2. Exercise.
3. Download the rest of on-line Scrivener class lectures.
4. Reread health insurance info. Make decision.
5. Vacuum and laundry.
6. Research yellow jackets to see if we need an exterminator.
7. Wood putty the nail holes in trim in writing space.
8. Make egg omelets for daughter #1.  done

On Writing: Good writing day yesterday. I have under 10k to go. Last week I was worried my plot was going to run out of steam before getting to the necessary word count, now I'm worried that I don't have enough space to write the scenes that I need to wrap everything up. Gah! The lighthearted scene I had planned to write yesterday morphed into something more serious and emotional. It was something the h/H had to discuss, I just didn't think they'd do it in this scene. But often the best scenes end up being ones you didn't plan, but the ones the characters insist you write, you know? I still have to reread it this morning to see if it works. And it probably changes where I go next, because I'm pretty sure they're about to jump into bed...

September Writing Goal: DWC: 1,612 TWC: 45,789