Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 2014: The Gift of Presence vs. Presents

The marketeers bombard us with their best efforts at this time of the year. You are led to believe your Holiday won't be complete without a 70 inch television, a diamond, or a child's sized motorized car. If you don't deliver you have failed as a parent, partner, or lover.

Andrew and Jane 2013
This holiday season encourages us to teach our family about being present for each other. Start by instructing everyone to turnoff their cell phones, ear pieces, ipads, and computers. Collect their electronics in a beautifuldecorated basket and place them under the tree. Announce to your loved ones, the plan for the next few hours is to be present for each other. We are going to talk to one another. Proceed with your planned festivities minus the electronics. The tolerance of this activity helps you gauge whether your family and friends are ready to further learn about the gift of presence.

Rachel and Jane 2013
A present is a material object subject to loss. A gift of presence is a moment in time when someone feels you are there for them totally completely. You are present in their universe. You feel their happiness and pain. You are listening. The gift is you and your time.
So during this season of merriment and giving, pause to think about what would make you happy.  Cost only your time and undivided attention. No, don't tell me. Write it down.

Tim and Jane 2013
Yes, write it down. If you can't tell your children you'd love to have them clean their rooms, help you bake, or walk the dog. Write it down. If you want your partner to be really be present for you, write notes. Place messages under his or her pillow with suggestions and ideas on how the two of you can practice being present for each other

We all shop around for the very best gift for each person on our list. Perhaps, the gift of time, a special meal, or time cleared to do a project with a love one is a better than a gift.  Perhaps it is too late to do this  year with your family, but as you gather around the New Year's table, suggest the gift of presence as an achievable gift.
Tim and Pat 2012

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 2014: Cookies, Community, and Celebration

Cookie Exchange, Hostess

On the first Saturday in December, an eclectic group of women meet to exchange holiday cookies. Now the uniqueness of this event is we don't really socialize as a group during the year. The organizer and hostess of this Annual Cookie Exchange is Helen. She has opened her home and maintained this tradition for more than thirty years.

Our annual invitations originally came by mail. We confirmed attendance by our land-line phones. Technology changed. We then received an email and RSVP back electronically. An Evite now arrives mid-November to remind us of our yearly gathering.  A map is attached to the invite to download on our phone.  The phone's GPS can talk to us to her home.We have expanded our communication horizons, but the baking habits haven't changed.  The essence of cookie creation is traditional and substantial. The ingredients measured and true.

You are probably wonder why do we come every year? Why do we bake twelve dozen cookies and include a recipe? Why do we search for a food item to make or buy to enhance the potluck brunch? Why do we engage in this holiday tradition with women we don't socialize with, work with, or congregate with at church?

Helen and Emily,
Mother and Daughter
We come to celebrate being women and the torchbearers of tradition. The past, present, and future is represented in this mix.We are writers, public relations directors, special event coordinators, geologists, programmers, admission officers, professors, nurses, structural designers, teachers, painters, etc.  We stand together to toast another year even though we are from different places, stages, and directions.

The air is electric. The energy warms Helen's home.  This group honors a past tradition carried on by today's women who are teaching their daughters for tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014:NaNoWriMo Week Two Hits A Wall

Grueling describes the effort of my second week of NaNoWriMo. I missed a day of writing last week. Believe me, it is tough to try to make up 1667 words the next week. No matter how prepared you think you are before you start, pacing is key in achieving your goal of 50,000. I know people who have already written more than 30,000 words by the end of the first week. I don't know their strategy, but either they live alone, are unemployed, don't sleep, or have someone come in to cook for them. I cancelled much of life during the month of November, but 30,000 to 40,000 words in two weeks is beyond my scope. Master WriMos please tell me your secret in my comment section.

Then there is the fear of your plot running a muck. I outlined my idea. Started writing my story and somewhere near the end of the first week the main character (MC) does something that throws my original outline askew. To make matters worse, the MC goes off the rails in the second week. Then out of nowhere a supporting character decides to use an alias. Doubts begin to creep in and rattle my psyche. Do I have a plot? Is this a viable story? Should I forget this ideas and quit.

Did I say QUIT? Okay, make a natural disaster happen. Add an obnoxious neighbor who happens to be a key gatekeeper in the MC's life. Maybe, just maybe, I can save this draft.

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014:NaNoWriMo Week One Explodes

Torturous, my preparation did not allow for the unforeseen family issues popping up during my first week of NaNoWriMo. I scheduled the local write-ins on my Google+ Calendar. I planned to hunker down with my fellow WriMos and write my heart out.  Didn't happen! I squeezed out my story in the wee hours of the night, in waiting rooms of health services, and anywhere I could sit for a half hour and write the next section.

To add to my frustration, I wanted to finish early so I could get a better discount from Scrivener for completing my 50,000 words. What I didn't realize was my tutorial watching and software learning took days off my trial run. So I am under the gun to finish my 50,000 words sooner than I planned.

This stop and start method of writing makes me feel stilted. My story doesn't feel like it has the rhythm and flow I like to see in my writing. I don't know if my feelings are the result of the external pressures of my environment or if my idea isn't good.

Here is the bottom line: Completed 13, 466 words in 9 days. I have 36,534 words to write in 21 days. I can accomplish this feat if I write more than 1740 words daily.
The added pressures comes with wanting to finish early before my trial of Scrivener evaporates with all my notes and my book.  I need to write 1922 words per day. Can I do it? Only my "little grey cells" know for sure. Until next week readers, write on.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 2014: Final Prep for NaNoWriMo

When I describe that I write more than 50,000 words in 30 days every November, people look at me and say how? The answer is preparation. Not just thinking about the story you are writing, but adjusting your life for the task ahead. The need to prepare for the month of focused writing is crucial for success.

The two secrets to reaching National Novel Writing Month's (NaNoWriMo) challenge is a space and a designated block of time to write. These two elements are critical in meeting your goal of 50,000+ words during November.

Scheduling time to write is a personal. Some participants get up before  the sun rises to write.  While others "WriMos" make a large pot of coffee or a hot chocolate and write until the birds welcome the sunrise. There are some authors who write on the weekend only.  I have reached my goal by writing an exact number of words per day during a specific block of time, or sometimes two blocks of time. Hey! I'm one of those "outliners," so it may be indicative of my style. 

Selecting a location that allows the writer to become vulnerable is a must.  It needs to be an environment prone to coaxes the characters from within to erupt. Again, this is a personal preference.  I prefer a
sound proof area. I use my office if I want to have silence.  If you like white noise coffee shops, small cafes, and public libraries are perhaps your favorite places. Find the place that makes you comfortable and happy.  Many famous writers wrote in bed. Myself find writing where I sleep uncomfortable, but that's another blog.

If you haven't set up your NaNoWriMo account, now is the time. Complete your set up on "My NaNo." Explore the options and tools that can help you during this last week of prep time and during "NoNaWriMo."  Try to make a few friends on the site. I encourage first time "WriMos" to find their "Municipal Leader(s)" on the site. It is located under the heading "My Region." Take time to research the dashboard.The days before the challenge begins are numbered.  Make use of these precious hours and get ready to write that book.

Awaken Your Muse!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October 2014: The Business of Writing

Today, hard covered books are not the only publishing option. You need to understand all the aspects of Traditional and Non-Traditional Publishing. Even if you plan to get a literary agent, a business manager, or a public relations specialist, inform yourself about the writing business.

Writers aren't referred to as "faint-hearted." Everyone who scribed a piece of prose or poetry needs to understand their craft. A struggling apprentice needs to stay current about the business of writing.

This weekend I dared to explore the world of independent and self-publishing writers. Watch for my blogs sharing the following information gleamed from two fruitful days:
  •  Traditional publishing vs. Self-publishing
  •  Selecting a third party vendo that meets your self-publishing goals
  •  Writing a marketing plan 
  • Selecting alpha and beta readers and a critique group
  • Finding  independent book reviewers
  • Making friends with technology

A big thank you to all the organizers of IndieRECONLive! 2014 for a great conference. It was well-organized, offered multiple options for learning, and  attracted a sharing audience. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 2014: Silence, Inspiration, Solution

My book is in its final edits. Yet, I still struggled with an issue one of beta readers pointed out to me months ago. She had a very valid issue. It haunted me during editing and rewrites like a pebble caught under the sole liner in your shoe.

It was a "maybe it is just me who finds this a bit confusing, but..." comment. Was this confusing for my other readers? Did my method of naming my characters make it difficult for the reader to follow the characters and the story line? Should I let this issue go or continue on with the final edits? Any new revisions may take be back a month, maybe two.

This character problem was solved shortly after a hot shower. I just finished putting on body lotion and flopped across the bed. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I only needed a few seconds rest before going out to dinner.  Bong! Bong! The clock's chimes woke me. In a short five minute nap, the solution to this nagging problem came to me. My editing timeline has been adjusted. The beta reader's issue can be solved without rewriting the entire novel.

The solution came in one of my moments of silence. Yes, sometimes I have the luxury of short periods of silence.  Many times they occur right before the alarm summons me to start my day.  You know when the daylight creeps in the bedroom and you cover you head and go back to sleep until you have to get up.

An answer may come to me as I finish a deep breathing exercise. While laying still feeling my mind connecting back to my world. Bingo! a problem passes by and meets its answer.

My Point: Stop, when your world seems out of control. Yes, many of you live very busy lives.
  1. Sneak away. Lock the bathroom door.  Take deep breaths.
  2. Grab a cup of java, tea, or hot water. Set your stove timer for five minutes. Tell your loved ones they may sit quietly for five minutes. You will come back when the timer goes off. Step outside and breathe deeply.
You don't think you can do it. My mother did. She would get dressed up every Mondays. She would have our supper ready. When my dad walked in the door,  she would kissed him goodbye. Dad was left to feed, bath, and put us to bed. (This was the 1950s.) She'd hop on the bus. Go downtown to shop and have a hot dog at Woolworth.  After a few hours, she'd come home a new woman. This is how a woman with six children under the age of eight kept her sanity for many years.

Always have a mental health escape plan from your reality to help you untangle your "knotty, unsurmountable problems." You may not always solve them, but you can hack away at the weeds or push away the clouds in your mind. With a little silence, sometimes inspiration or a solution appears.

Please share your mental health escape with us. Use the comment space below.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Publishers Accepting Unagented Manuscripts

I came across this blog and thought many of my readers might find this interesting. Enjoy!

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Publishers Accepting Unagented Manuscripts: Most of the large publishing houses require an agent, but smaller houses often accept manuscripts and proposals directly from writers, as do...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

2014 - September: Writing Again

Many colleagues have consoled me by saying a "writing slump" is a normal part of a writer's life.  I have observed others endure the agony of rewrites and the tediousness of editing. These tasks wear on the soul of a creative person. This process put my muse out of commission until I returned from my Counsins' Reunion.This newly founded tradition lifted me out on my slump.  I am planning my next project while completing my rewrites on my book.

 What is a Cousins' Reunion? A few years back at a family celebration my sisters and several of our female cousins reminisced about the great fun we had when we got together as kids. This prompted my cousin in Texas to initiate the first Cousins' Reunion in 2011. We flew to visit a small town, in the big state, that cultivates artists of all designs.

Our visit was filled with catching up on the history of the area and our lives. The days were filled soaking in a life style in a state most of us had never visited. The wonder and awe of being tourist and the joy and mischievousness of teenagers helped us renew our bonds. We shrugged off the cloaks of wife, mother, grandmother and ignited the fire of our lineage. We are our mothers' daughters and the granddaughters of a lone immigrant woman who came to the United States for a better life.

This year was our third reunion. Yes, we left with great memories and a sense of rejuvenation, but the essence of who we are also is restored.  We hugged one another goodbye knowing the blood that courses through our veins does more than makes us family. It gives us all the strength of generations of courageous and strong women.  We are reminded we are a support system of women.  We carry the legacy of generations while we continue to share the torch with our daughters and sons.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Celebrating the Piano and Healing

Let me introduce you to Alexia Lantgen, musician, writer, teacher, just to name a few of her talents. We met on "Aspiring Writers Blogs" on She blogs about music, great literature, and writing. A while back she invited members of our group to write for her blog. I am honored to say, she accepted my contribution. It is a short blog on how music helped me back from a devastating stroke.
The link below takes you to her site and my contribution:

Stop by and browse through the richness of her topics. It is wonderful to meet and to share experiences with this multi-talented woman.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 2014: Celebrating a Personal Partnership

 When in Doubt: DANCE!

This weekend my husband and I celebrate spending half our lives together as a couple. If you consider the marriage vows as a measurement of success, we have touched all the aspects of the challenges those vows predicted. Yet, here we are waking up each morning happy to see each other. Laughing, hugging, and yes, sometimes even disagreeing with one another on the little things. But, we still like one another more than we did when we first met in graduate school.

How does a couple accomplish longevity? There is no advice to give to anyone. Each couple must tackle their own unique issues and problems. There is one mantra that we both feel has helped:

Staying married is the hardest thing you do in your lifetime!

A couple's life would be simple if all they would have to do is tend to the dynamics between themselves.  Extended family members, children, friends, the demands of work, sickness, the maintenance of health, financial issues are just a few of the "mine fields" waiting to tear you apart.

Staying together is work, not to mention a whole lot of compromise. You need to learn to balance both ways. It is honoring the wants and needs of your partner. Collaboration on diplomatic levels ia critical (especially when it comes to any children who come into the marriage). It is sex, fun, interest in the other person's ideas, dreams, motivations. It is talking to each other all the time (but only when both parties are ready to listen). It is knowing the "rules" are negotiable because life never is static.  It is knowing when the other person needs a time out, space.

It is with deep love that I dedicate this blog to my partner in life, my husband. Thank you for expanding my life and challenging my intelligence. As we face the years ahead, please let me know:

"Will you still need me,will you still feed me?
When I'm 64?"   ~John Lennon

Tim and Pat still hanging around together.

Click here,

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 2014: Writing Slump: Social Interuptions or Opportunities?

My all important writing schedule dissipated into scratches and mad attempts at midnight. I vigilantly maintained a four-hour a day prose vigil, since January. Boom! It is July, an overbooked social calendar exploded my best intentions.

The seventh month of the year proves to be too much for me.The national celebration of the
country's independence is marked in our household with gusto. My husband and I grew up among relatives who came from foreign soil to become Americans.  Celebrating America and acting as an American is a natural imperative. So, Fourth of July is a big deal.

Of course, living in Utah, our neighbors remember the courageous Mormon pioneers who trekked across the United States in search of religious freedom. Fearless people who sought a place to practice their new founded religion. Today, they celebrate because of the categorical imperative of their ancestors. Multiple week long festivities and gatherings commemorate their ancestors' bravery.

The partying continued with family and friends who entered the world in the month of July. This was the first year our youngest daughter was in Utah for her birthday. We celebrated her birthday and her presence with gusto.  This summer we rolled from one event to another.

Summer's celebrations and distractions offers a writer moments to stop and observe humanity. The warm weather elicits youthfulness in everyone. The human race smiles readily.  Laughter permeates parks, restaurants, swimming pools, and sidewalks. The children are carefree as they run through musically-timed fountains. Car windows rolled down provide impromptu concerts from the driver and sometimes passengers. Couples of all ages hold hands as they lift their faces toward the sky. I ask you. Does people watching count as "writing time?"

Monday, July 7, 2014

2014: Linkedin Networking Helps

Every writers' workshop or conference reinforces the concept of networking.  One of my earlier blogs addressed my decision to expand my social media connections.
Neal J.
Neal James
British Novelist

I communicated with Neal James, author, and editor, in the "Aspiring Writers" group on Neal asked members of this group to consider writing stories for his website. I responded by inquiring about requirements and deadlines.

Neal was professional and supportive. He had suggestions for the Flash Fiction piece. It was wonderful to have an established novelist interested in my work.

 At the end of June, this link:  appeared in my email box. My heart leaped! Joy! Joy! Neal James is featuring me as his July 2014 "Guest Writer."

I am thrilled and delighted. Being published on The Neal James Website has expanded my audience. This generous and supportive act gives new writers an opportunity to expand beyond borders.

Thank you Neal for your gracious invitation. This blog and the story written for your website is connected and integrated with all my social media platforms. May your generosity towards me prove to enrich your life.

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014: Epublishing Adventure Continues-Editing Software

Critiques Lead To Discovery
When my beta readers returned my manuscript, their truthful notes were humbling. I felt I gave them a presentable copy. Yes, the spelling and grammar was in order.  They liked the story line, but they yearned for more colorful characters, deeper emotions, and a better story pacing. Lucky for me, their truths about my story sent me on a quest for an editor.

Editorial assistance is costly. It is difficult to acquire a person with quality skills fitting within your budget. My quest for a technician ended when Editing Wizard appeared on my computer.  Documents receive quick and clear editorial feedback using this software. 

Take the Test Drive
I took advantage of AutoCrit's Editing Wizard generous trial of three, free 500-word submissions. I extracted the maximum amount of words allowed for a test from my novel. In less than thirty seconds, the following categories summarized areas needing editorial attention:
  • Overused Words - saps energy from sentences and your story
  • Sentence Variations - impacts the vibrancy and readability of your writing
  • Clich├ęs and Redundancies - assists with clean and lean prose
  • Repeated Words and Phrases - spots not so easy to see errors readers hate
  • Phrase Summary - helps stop repetition and aids in varying prose
  • Pacing - keeps readers engaged 
  • Dialogue - uses characters' actions to move the story, counts dialogue tags
  • Initial Pronouns and Names - identifies pronouns or names at the beginning of a sentence
  • Readability- calculates difficulty of your writing for several reading level scales
  • Homonyms- assists writer in clarifying word usage
  • Combination Report- reveals a writer's trouble trend by combining three reports 

The program's "side by side” feature allows the writer to edit text while using the report. The Editing Wizard offers several paid subscription levels. I chose the Platinum Level because it best suited my writing needs. The link below gives access to the “Free Wizard” sample. Take your document for a drive by clicking this link

Detail Reports Deliver
Editing Wizard's scrutiny is valuable for both novice and veteran writers.  My writing experience expands beyond twenty years. The world of fiction is new writing territory for me. This software reminded me of what I already knew and what I needed to remember.  Stronger and varied nouns and verbs are appearing upon my screen.  Adverbs are waning. The dialogue report improved my ability to show more than tell. Each report offers writers those “aha” moments. Click this link; it demonstrates what "Editing Wizard's" reports add to a writing career.

Wizards Share Information
A current and accessible ‘Writers Library' filled with information on the writing business is another user feature. Contemporary writers share experiences and knowledge in this section. Also available is support for editing issues from the analysis report. Click this link to access the Editing Wizard Writers Library. 
Go, Don’t Stop!
Check out this writing tool today. In my opinion, all writers need Editing Wizard. Not only does it help you with your writing, think about what it can do for the documents you read for your critique group.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014: Father's Day - "If Only I Could..."

The topic of Father's Day dominated the last few weeks.  Newspapers remind us with ads of things 'Dad needs.' Television, radio, and the Internet prompt us of items every father wants for his workshop, garage, or cabin. This mild rant about Father's Day, like every holiday remembering a loved one, focuses on things.

My husband and I no longer can pick up the phone and talk to our fathers. We lost the moments of hearty laughs, intense conversations, strolls through the gardens, and the comfort of their presence.

Both our fathers born at the beginning of the twentieth century lived complicated lives.  They served in World War II. They came home. Built a life with a woman they loved.  Raised a family and wanted their children to have a better life than they did.

My dad would be 97 years old this Father's Day.  My husband's father would be 104 years old. Today we yearn for the day of talking to them face-to-face.

This holiday invokes strong memories. The celebration of Fatherhood evokes thoughts and questions we'd like to ask our fathers today. If only we could ask them:
What are the pleasures of your life?
Tell me something about your parents.
Tell me something your grandparents.
What were the hardest times of your life?
What were the best times of your life?
Explain to me the things you do at work.
Share with me the folks you like to spend time with to relax.
What innovation has been good for the world?
What would you like to tell me today?
Do you know I love you?

Give the gift of your presence: pick up a phone, text a message, Skype, Facetime, send a card, drop by, email, Instagram... today we can keep in touch so easily.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2014: Expanding My Social Media Platform

I finally took my daughter's advice. I created my first board on Pinterest ( This social media platform serves a personalized file for media content and the content of others.
Users save individual pins to one of their own boards using the "Pin It" button. Pinboards are organized by a central topic or theme. Users personalize their experience with Pinterest by pinning items, creating boards, and interacting with other members. The users "pin feed" displays unique, personalized results. (Wikipedia )

Many writers may feel this activity is a waste of time. The exercise of creating a board and selecting my areas of interests became a springboard (I love that word) to multiple uses and ideas on how to maximized my Pinterest experience.

First, I had to stop and think what did I want to use this tool for me personally. My daughter's words rang true in my mind, "Mom, it help you organize your research." Well, I am researching self-publishing, the 1960s: a world without much technology. I need multiple boards already, not to mention the boards for my other books in various stages of development.

Secondly, Pinterest offers writers ideas and marketing strategies for their books. Not a bad find for my first run through the applications. Now, remember like all technological platforms, Pinterest is a tool. Your key motivation is to make it easier for yourself or your readers to find you.

In November, 2013, I began posting my blog on Tumblr (  This website is defined by Wikipedia as a microblogging platform and social networking website founded by David Karp and owned by Yahoo! Inc. Users post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users follow other users' blogs. Users also are to make their blogs private. Much of the website's features are accessed from the "dashboard" interface.  Bloggers are give multi-options to post content, media, and posts they follow. (Wikipedia ) It allows uses to link posts with Twitter and Facebook accounts.  A time consuming social media maintenance plus. is easy to use. I have found an increase in my blog traffic since placing it on Tumblr.
My blog statistics have shown an increase in hits from new readers.