Thursday, October 16, 2014


photo credit: morgantj via photopin cc
I love how Merrian-Webster defines relaxation:

re·lax·a·tion noun \ˌrē-ˌlak-ˈsā-shən, ri-ˌlak-\
-a way to rest and enjoy yourself: time that you spend resting and enjoying yourself -something that you do to stop feeling nervous, worried, etc. -the act of relaxing or state of being relaxed, a relaxing or recreative state, activity, or pastime -diversion

This weekend our family took an unplanned trip to Pismo Beach, something you can do when your vacation home is parked in your driveway, to celebrate my husband's birthday. Pismo Beach has been a favorite vacation spot for us since our early years of marriage. Back then we didn't have kids, a vacation home in the driveway, or much money. What we did have was the desire to get away and enough spare change for a room at Motel 6. The rooms were cheap and pretty bare bones, but we weren't going to Pismo Beach for the rooms, we were going for the beach... and the clam chowder. Seriously, if you like clam chowder, and haven't tasted the clam chowder from the Splash Cafe, you are missing a tiny bit of heaven on earth. 

Clam chowder isn't the only part of Pismo Beach I think of as heavenly; for me the entire town resonates heaven on earth. It's quaint, quiet (in the off-season) and somewhat quizzical in its ability to remain relatively unchanged year after year. Pismo Beach is a place where I can get away from my busy life, take a deep breath, and R-E-L-A-X. It doesn't take long, just a day or two, and I feel ready to dive back into the daily battles of revisions, rewrites, and rejections. I'm not sure if it's the town, the beach, or the calm chowder. I just know that when my battery needs to be recharged, Pismo Beach does it every time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

O.C. Agent's Day

Living in Southern California has  many advantages: the weather, the beaches, the mountains, but one major advantage for me, as a writer, is its proximity to events hosted by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, like the Orange County Agent's Day I attended this past weekend.

The event was hosted by the amazing Orange County regional advisors, Francesca Rusackas and Q. L. Pearce, on the lovely Cal State Fullerton Campus, (you can take a virtual tour of the campus here). This was a different venue from previous years which resulted in a shortened commute, free lunch, and free parking. All win-wins for me. 

The day began with the usual check in, jockeying for seats in the Titan Auditorium, a warm welcome from our hosts, a few announcements, followed by my favorite part of the day— the agent talks. 

The featured agents were:
Sean, Charlie, Christa, and Lori
Sprinkled in between the agent's were first pages panels and Spotlight Authors: Marianne D. Wallace and Marcie Wessels, who inspired us with their personal writing journeys.

Throughout the day, I gleaned quite a bit of literary insight. Some of which should be common sense: 
  • Do your research before you submit.
  • Follow the agency's submission guidelines. 
  • Address the agent by name.
  • Read, read, read!
  • Network with others in your field.
  • Don't send tweaks, changes, revisions unless they're requested.
...and a few suggestions that weren't so common.
  • Do cyberstalk (but not in a creepy way) to know what agent's and editors are looking for.
  • Don't compare your book with Harry Potter, Hunger Games Wimpy Kid, etc., if it's the next big thing, let the writing speak for itself.
  • Take your time on any requested changes or revisions.
  • Don't answer a rejection with a new project. 
  • A/B test your query letters if you're getting rejections.
  • Talk about your story, not the business.
As writers we spend a lot of time alone. Attending SCBWI events is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the writing world beyond our desks and computers. If you can, attend an event in your area. Schmoozes are free and fun. If there aren't any events in your area, join SCBWI and create one. Nothing sparks the passion for writing like being in a room full of writers!

Are you a member of SCBWI? Another writing organization? How do you connect with other writers outside cyberspace?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

  It's the first Wednesday of the month time for another IWSG post where we writers help each other deal with our insecurities. Thanks to Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for providing writer's a safe and supportive format to speak openly, and without fear, about the insecurities that come with the craft of writing. Be sure to check out the IWSG Facebook page where writers can garner support more than once a month.

noun 1.uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence."she had a deep sense of insecurity"
synonyms: lack of confidence, self-doubt, diffidence, unassertiveness, timidity, uncertainty, nervousness, inhibition; 

German psychoanalyst Eric Fromm said, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity." Great advice from someone who's best known for his concept of freedom being a fundamental part of human nature. From his quote am I to surmise that freedom from insecurity comes from my learning to tolerate it?

In the solitary world of writing, I've often found myself sinking in the sea of insecurity: Is my story strong enough? Will they hate my protagonist and love my antagonist? Will this story ever be finished? In a single week I can drift from the safety of my writing island of confidence to the treacherous waters of insecurity and back. Sometimes, I'm able to do it all in a single day. Can it be that the solution to all my insecurities is something as simple as tolerance? Of that I'm not sure, but I am agreement with Dr. Fromm on this:


How do you find the courage to deal with your insecurities? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

photo credit: UNE Photos via photopin cc

Aww, the good ole' days when all you needed were four magic words and poof! Your first line was done! Well, those days are as ancient as the quill pen they were written with. Now, according to experts in the field, you get nanoseconds to convince the reader to turn the page. Nanoseconds??? Seriously??? After all the work I went through to write that page, you only give me nanoseconds??? When I first heard this comment, I thought it was ridiculous, until I found myself in the bookstore reading book jackets and making my choice to buy or not buy in nanoseconds. 

It seems we writers keep having this conversation about first lines and or pages. Jill Corcoran of  Jill Corcoran Literary Agency did an entire blog post, including sample pages on , Why I Reject a Novel Based on Your First Page.  Dear dedicated two different post on why openings that break the rules like Gayle Forman's If I Stay and John Green's The Fault In Our Stars work. Proving once again you can break the rules as long as you do it well. Which brings me to the same conclusion as always; follow your heart first, the rules second.

What do you think about first lines/pages? How long do you give a book before you decide to purchase it?


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hi, thanks for stopping by! I'm sorry I'm not here today, but you can still touch base with me over at Nutschell Windsor’s blog, The Writing Nut. Today I am the featured author for her Wednesday Writer’s Workspace. Can you believe it? Me! A featured author! I can't tell you how excited I am. So, I'll let the Pointer Sisters do it for me. 

Thank you, Nutschell, for featuring me today. I've always enjoyed peeking into the writing space of other authors, I can't believe someone actually gets to peek into mine. Hop on over and see how my desk looks, after I've tidied it up for its 15 minutes of fame, or just to say hi!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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I have this pet peeve, it's bloggers who say they are coming back in say a week or so after their vacation, but never do. They leave you wondering, Where are they? Are they okay? Did they go on vacation to the Grand Canyon and fall in? Why aren't they blogging anymore? If they've quit blogging why don't they write a goodbye post? What's going on here?  I need some closure!!!

Sadly, I can't answer that question for those abandoned blogs out there, but I can answer for me, it was summer. As a former teacher I'm used to taking the summers off and somehow I slipped back into my old habit. But I'm back now and I plan to be here for my weekly post as before. If I discover that I can't, I'll be sure to blog a goodbye post. 

How about you? What's bugging you this week? 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hello, thanks for stopping by! I'm on vacation at the Grand Canyon this week. I wish you could have gone with me, but since you couldn't, why not check out my 2012 A to Z post G is for a Grand Canyon Ghazal?  It's as close as I can get to taking you with me.

If you can't make it over there, here are a few pictures I took back in 2008 of the truly GRAND Canyon:

The Grand Canyon is one of my favorite National Parks. Every picture looks like a post card. What are your vacation plans for the summer? Are there any grand canyons in your future?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's Up Wednesday (WUW) is a weekly blog hop created by Erin L. Funk and her sister Jaime Morrow. WUW is intended to help writers keep in touch and let each other know, What's Up.

Here's What's Up with me this week:

What I'm Reading ~ The question should be, what am I not reading. I've picked up so many books and sadly put them down soon after. It's funny how something that one person absolutely LOVES, at times, won't even garner a small like from someone else. Reading tastes are like food; what may be filet mignon  to one may only be liver and onions to another. So, since I'm not reading any filet mignon, I'll just ask you, what are you reading?

What I'm Writing ~ I'm still working on my middle grade fiction story and since I'm going on vacation soon, this will probably be what I'm working on next week, too.

What Inspires Me Right Now ~ Me! This week my husband and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary!
photo credit: vmiramontes via photopin cc
With both of us being the children of divorce, we are proud to say that we're making it work. Over the years we've had our valleys and mountain top moments, but we made a commitment to hang in there and that is what we've done for the past 24 years. It is a great feeling to say I did it! Plus, it's an even greater feeling to say I'd do it again.

What Else I've Been Up To ~ Packing, packing and more packing. We like to travel in our RV which requires a lot of packing. It's all worth it when we arrive, but until then, it's packing, packing and.... well, you get the picture.

What's up with you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In case you’re new to WUW, like me, it’s a blog hop created by Erin L. Funk and her sister Jaime. It's intended to help writers keep in touch with one another. If you’d like  to spread some writerly encouragement hop over to Erin or Jamie's blog and click on some of the links.

What I’m Reading: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. It was recommend by a former critique partner. Although she fell in love with it instantly, it took me a few false starts before I decided it was a book I wanted to finish. When I did finish it, I was glad I did. I can't tell you why I didn't love it right away, maybe I was tired, sleepy, hungry, I don't know, but the second time I picked it up, I couldn't believe that I actually thought about not finishing it. Once again my theory about taking a second look at a book rings true with Mockingbird

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful. 

What I’m Writing: I'm halfway through another draft of my middle-grade realistic fiction story. After putting Martha Alderson's Plot Whisper tips into practical application, I think this could be the draft that gets this work done. 

What Inspires Me Right Now: My girl. She lives each day to its fullest and believes in the impossible. Two summers ago she took synchronized swimming for the first time ever. As part of the lessons, she was required to participate in the local competitions. After several events, she decided she was going to get a ribbon at the finals. My husband and I are firm believers in letting our kids dream their own dreams, no matter how impossible they seem to us, so we went with it; even though her chances were about 25 to 1. Well, someone has to be the 1 in those odds and it was her! We were beyond surprised when they called her name. But she wasn't. She believed in the impossible. Recently she decided she wanted to be a part of a equestrian mounted drill team. Saturday they had their first show and her team took home FIRST PLACE! I guess nothing is impossible if we try. 

What Else I've Been Up To: Besides getting this draft done? Enjoying summer!  Bill Cosby once made a comment about graduating high school four times (the number of kids he had) now that I have kids in school, I can totally relate. I don't know who enjoys summer break more, me or them!

That's What's Up This Wednesday for me. What's up with you?

P.S. Since I won't post again before Sunday, this is for all the Dad's out there... 
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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Better Late...

Hooray! It's SUMMER in our home! For the next two glorious months I really don't have to remember what day of the week it is... which is how I forgot to post my weekly IWSG post :(

IWSG is a place where we writers help each other deal with our insecurities. Thanks to Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for providing writer's a safe and supportive format to speak openly, and without fear, about the insecurities that come with the craft of writing. Be sure to check out the IWSG Facebook page where writers can garner support more than once a month.

This month I'm feeling pretty good about my writing journey. I'm not sure if it has to do with the steady progress I'm making on my work, or the fact that it's summer, either way, I'm happy about it. However, if you're still counting the days until summer or you're just having a pretty insecure month, check out the links* below. They may be just the thing to help you get through this month.
Are you feeling secure or insecure this month? How do you deal with those feelings?

*This advice is to be used for information only, not as a professional diagnosis. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

photo credit: ClaraDon via photopin cc
This past weekend the USA celebrated Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day. It is a time when our nation pauses to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom as well as spend some quality time with family and friends at backyard BBQ's  During our dinner conversation the talk turned to favorite movie lines as well as how these lines have become a part of our everyday vernacular. Often the use of one of these lines can stand in for an entire paragraph.

On this blog I have stated that one of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption, which I've seen many times, but, I'm always up for seeing it one more time. Although I usually don't use lines from it in my everyday lingo, I do love this line from Andy Dufresne and have managed to work it into a few conversationsHow can you be so obtuse? Fortunately, using it has never gotten me thrown into solitaire like Andy, but using it has ruffled a few feathers.

As we chowed down on grilled meat and veggies several of us shared some of our favorites:
Those are just a few of the ones mentioned, as you may have guessed, this list could go on forever. Did you spend your weekend discussing movie lines? Are see any of  your favorites listed above? If not, what are they? Maybe I can use them at the next backyard BBQ. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

J.S. Pitts
I love my Goggle search engine sometimes I think a bit too much. I use Google ALL the time. Recently, my critique partner and I were having a discussion on whether to use italics or underlines as we had each received different advice. How did we solve this dilemma? I Googled it. You can check out the post on query tracker: Underline or Italics? for the answer. What did I do when I couldn't remember how to do a search and replace in Scrivener? You got it, I Googled it:Tech Tuesday: Project Replace in Scrivener. In fact while I was working on this blog post, I actually Googled the word Googled and discovered a book by the same name. Who knew?

I actually find Google to be quite handy and use it many times throughout the day. The only time I didn't use it was when I was on a cruise and we had to pay far too much to use the internet. But as soon as we docked, I used Google to settle an issue about an episode of Twilight Zone that arose as part of a dinner conversation.

As I said earlier, I use Google, often, probably too often, but as long as it's available and saves me the effort of trying to remember who played who and what was the title of that movie about the girl and the guy, I'm going to use it. Hey, it beats lugging around a set of encyclopedias.

What have you Goggled this week?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.” ― Raymond Chandler, The High Window

Did you just laugh out loud? When I first read that quote I did, too. Have you ever read one line from a book that made you want to read the entire book? That recently happened to me as I was reading Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisper. Throughout the book she quotes various authors to get a point across. When I read this quote I had to meet this character. I wanted to read something written by Mr. Chandler. I needed to get my hands on this book. Fortunately for me the line came from a book whose genre I enjoy but even if it didn't, I think I would have had to check out this book.

Happily The High Window is sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to devour its pages. When I'm done I'll come back and let you know if the rest of the book lived up to that one line. Somehow, I think it will.

A wealthy Pasadena widow with a mean streak, a missing daughter-in-law with a past, and a gold coin worth a small fortune—the elements don't quite add up until Marlowe discovers evidence of murder, rape, blackmail, and the worst kind of human exploitation.

"Raymond Chandler is a star of the first magnitude."-- Erle Stanley Gardner

"Raymond Chandler has given us a detective who is hard-boiled enough to be convincing . . . and that is no mean achievement." -- The New York Times

Since I've proven that I can be drawn into a book by just one line, I'd love to know if that has ever happened to you. If it has please share the line or title of the book. I'm always looking for something else to add to my TBR pile. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's the first Wednesday of the month time for IWSG where we writers help each other deal with our insecurities. Thanks to Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for providing writer's a safe and supportive format to speak openly, and without fear, about the insecurities that come with the craft of writing. Be sure to check out the IWSG Facebook page where writers can garner support more than once a month.

After being a part of this group for almost two years now, you would think I've run out of insecurities to talk about; sadly, I have not. This month I'm wondering if I'll have the strength to finish the fight. Will I have the stamina to stay the course? Yes, I've had months where I feel great about myself as a writer, but at other times I ask myself, "Why in the world are  you doing this?' It is in those times of reflection that I remember why I'm do it; because I love it!

All my life I have been telling stories to my siblings, friends, students, children and now, hopefully soon, with the public. Yes, writing a story from beginning to end is much harder than I thought it would be. Yes, some days I want to take my plotting chart, keyboard, computer, and anything else that relates to my writing, and through it into the deep end of our pool, but I don't, I just keep going. Fighting everyday to get the story that is inside of me, out. Staying focused on a quote I recently discovered by Pierre Corneille, When there is no peril in the fight there is no glory in the triumph. I hope that at the end of this fight, I'm able to take glory in the triumph.

How are your insecurities treating you this month?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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First let me begin by congratulating all those who made it from A to Z during the month of April; you're number one in my book! I remember the exhileration I felt when I finished my first challenge, it made me realize I could succeed as a blogger. Kudos to you all!!

spinning plates2
Sadly, missing my post last week, after taking two-weeks off, made me second guess myself, again.  With the push toward the end of the school year, birthdays, holidays, friends leaving town, friends coming in town, friends having kids, etc., etc., etc., I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and dreamily looking toward summer almost as much as my kids. However, after lamenting my woes with a friend, she shared with me one of her secrets to getting it all done. It's an app called which you can read about here, here and here. markets themselves as a family of apps designed to help you have a good day, every day: interesting, productive, well-balanced & fun. I'm not sure about all that, but it is helping me keep more of my plates safely spinning. The app is available for both android and apple devices. Plus, in 2012 won apple's "intuitive touch" award.

I don't know why it took me two years to discover this app, I'm just glad I did! It reminds me what I need to do, where I need to be, holds my to-do list for today, tomorrow and someday (I love the dreamy element of the someday column) all in one user friendly app. I think their mission statement sums it up best: Productivity through play. Control through balance. Good day, every day. I haven't had it Good day, every day, but I feel like my days are becoming more balanced and I'm getting closer to having my own good day, every day.

Knowing that we are ALL pretty busy, have you given a try? Or are you fans of Evernote or Wunderlust? Do tell how you effectively keep your plates spinning. Unless you're a superhero who never needs reminding because you can keep it all in your head. If that's the case, just smile and move on.