Welcome to the A to Z Blog Challenge Day One – The Letter A!

Welcome to April, and the A to Z Blogging Challenge! This month, I’ll be blogging each day, Monday through Saturday, and the day’s post will be related to the corresponding letter of the alphabet for the day – Day One is for A, Day Two is for B, and so on, all the way through the letter Z. We don’t blog for the Challenge on Sundays, which gives us 26 days in April, corresponding to the 26 letters in the English alphabet.

My theme this year is the A to Z of the Bellevue Botanical Garden. I’ll take you with me as I journey throughout the garden, exploring the gardens, the Copper Kettle Coffee Bar, Trillium Store, and everything in between. There will be a suspension bridge, a Japanese walled garden, a meditation building, native species cultivars… in short, everything an urban nature lover could ask for. I might avoid all the garden bugs, because I don’t really get excited about them, but since the garden is talking about them this month, you might get a glimpse into the creepy, crawly world around us.

But today, I’m going to talk about A is for Alphabet, and thus, writing, which leads me to journaling. Specifically, journaling suited for a journey through an urban garden. In her class, Expressive Pages: Journaling the Everyday, Judith Cassel-Mamet shows us how to use simple manila tags and a binder ring to create something she has dubbed a “tag journal.” Pictured above is one of my tag journals, in this case with a gesture drawing of a dandelion drawn with a brush pen. Tag journals are perfect for wandering around in a garden, because you can write, draw, even staple in ephemera and it all stays in one place, courtesy of the binder ring.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow as I visit the garden and look for the letter B – B is for Bellevue Botanical Garden!

Fallow Periods and Thawing

So it’s like this: one day in April, 2017, I was abducted by aliens and then…

No. That’s not it.

Let’s see. Once upon a time, there was a summer, and that summer morphed into a tree, and the tree…

Yeah, that’s not it either.

Well, if you follow me over on Noon and Wilder, you’ll know the last year and a half have been full of upheaval, chaos, and change.

But I have good news, Dear Reader. Yesterday, while swimming, I got a new story idea. It wasn’t a big story idea, and it wasn’t related to anything we’ve already written, but it was a little snippet of a possibility.

And that, Dear Reader, hasn’t happened in a long, long time.

Stress does that to a person.

And that brings me to my post today. I am in the process of learning how to do several new things, including book uploads (which isn’t entirely new to me, but I’m learning to be more efficient with it) and website design. The publishing landscape decided to skitter off under the furniture when I wasn’t looking and, frankly, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I was – change is inevitable.

I’m most grateful for learning to incorporate meditation in my daily round. I’ve meditated all my life, but I found an app that has really helped me on a regular basis, called Calm.

And I wish that I could give you some pearls of wisdom, something like “how to keep going in the face of really triggery events and massive national trauma playing out daily on the news.” But I don’t have any. All I can say is this: remember to unplug and spend time breathing real air. Move your body and get enough sleep. Eat clean and journal daily. And even with all of that, stress happens and it’s real.

Fallow times happen, Dear Reader, they happen to all of us. And me, I feel like I’m digging up out of a really deep, fertile field and all I have in my hands is rich loam and some really fat worms.

But swimming, man. I got an idea for a story. And I’m listening. With all my ears, I’m listening, Universe.

Stay tuned.

Hate Outlines? Timeline!

Keeping the plot of a novel-length manuscript can be a challenge for the most organized of writers. If you, like me, aren’t naturally left-brained sequential, then it can be more of a headache because your mind doesn’t organize information in a stepwise fashion. Have you ever looked at your story and realize that everything is happening in one day? or two different things are going on in the same night?

Reading a manuscript that is disorganized is no fun, for obvious reasons; but what do you do when you don’t like or can’t write to an outline?

One tool is a timeline that simply tracks each chapter and includes a simple sentence or two as to the action that takes place. I find that I have a bad habit of putting all my action on one or two days, and using a timeline helps me straighten all that out and figure out the flow of the action.

Here’s an example from Rachel and I, the timeline from our book, Burning Bright:

2017-02-12 ACN Pic 1timeline

I don’t start using a timeline until I’m about 10,000 or 30,000 words into a project.  Once I have enough material to have a clear picture of the story, then I’m able to write down what I have and see where I am trying to go.

Another tool is to build a literal calendar:

2017-02-12 calendar

This is from an earlier draft of the book, when we first worked on sorting out when things happened.  It’s important for the flow of the story that the action ebb and flow, rather than clot and spurt.  The calendar can help you sort out who does what to whom when.

I hope whatever you use works for you.  Every writer is different.  But if you need some ideas for how to play with and reorganize your plots, I hope this generates some solutions for you.

Write on!

This post originally appeared on the now defunct Samhain Publishing blog, 01/28/2012.

A New Year’s Party – and a Giveaway!

2017-01 Party Image

The party over at The Romance Studio is in full swing!  Throughout the weekend, I will be blogging on different topics – five posts a day! – as will the other participating authors.  We have prizes from each of us, and the grand prize is a $100 USD gift certificate to the online retailer Amazon.  If you like to read, then this is the party for you!

Friday the 13th!

  1. Happy New Year! and a State of the State
  2. Body Movement – Walking
  3. Body Movement – Get Help, Get a Trainer
  4. Body Movement – Get Help: Body Buddy
  5. Don’t Eliminate, Add – Five Colors!

Saturday the 14th

  1. Feed Your Mind – Writing Prompts
  2. Life of the Mind – How To Read a Book
  3. Morning Pages and Self-Dialog
  4. Meditation
  5. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Sunday the 15th

  1. Family and Friends – a Birthday List
  2. Non-Bill Mail
  3. Renewal Weekly
  4. Crafts To Explore – Zen and the Art of Knitting
  5. Tarot and the Subconscious

Monday the 16th

  1. Kon-Mari
  2. Routine – Daily Round
  3. Simple Abundance
  4. Candles – Slow Down and Unplug
  5. Happy New Year!  The Writer Zen Garden

How My Family Survives My Writing – #MFRWauthor

2017-01-13 Pic 1

I laughed when I first read this prompt.  I mean, my family isn’t particularly negative about my writing.  My husband is a professional photographer, so he knows what is involved in creating things.  My kid is interested in his own stuff, so he’s not particularly aware of what I’m doing because he’s absorbed in his own stuff.

But then I got to thinking.  There was a weekend where I wrote for fifteen hours Saturday, and eighteen on Sunday.  My husband informed me, on the Monday following, that I would spend the next weekend with the family and go to a movie.  o.O…  So I think it’s more a matter of learning how to balance writing with other responsibilities and commitments.  I’ve also made friends and have been fortunate enough to find people that they understand me and the way I see the world.  But that took a lot of work to find those people, and to find my “tribe.”

So if I had to say what my one piece of advice would be to people trying to fit writing into already busy lives, it’s this:  hunt for your tribe and balance your writing with the other things you’ve already got in your life:  day job, kids, marriage, friends, and family.

What about you, Dear Reader?  How do you balance passion and necessity?

Sunday Box Talk – New Year, New… What?


The year that just ended may well come to be referred to as the Year That Shall Not Be Named.  Aside from personal drama, (a close friend in the hospital since March and counting, my co-author’s sister’s lung function is 37%), there was publishing drama.  First, Samhain Publishing announced they were closing, then chose not to and tried to gaslight the writing community by asking in a hurt tone, why did you think we were closing?  Maybe because they announced they were.  Words have power, sunshine.  Then Torquere Press melted down in spectacular fashion, leaving those of us that believed the stories from the owner feeling lied to and cheated.  One of their top authors is owed $39,000 USD, editors haven’t been paid (one is owed $3,500 USD and another over $2,000 USD).  Then, if that wasn’t enough, All Romance eBooks announced it was closing and gave authors and indie publishers four days notice.  Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that the owner, an author in her own right, took salaries from book earnings and may actually have committed some serious financial fraud.  Then in November, the stunning upset in the U.S. election shocked many, myself included, ushering in a storm of disgusting white supremacy, homophobia, and misogynistic sentiment.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t recognize my country right now.

It’s enough to scare an author back into her hole, and I’ll admit, it did.

But that was 2016.  It’s 2017.  It’s time to rally.

So rally we shall.  It’s important for creative people to create, in times of great darkness and times of light.  I was planning on working on a memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain: Growing Up with a Mentally Ill Parent.  It’s been a rough project to work on, for what are probably obvious reasons, but now it’s more important than ever to me to tell my story.  Invisibility leads to oppression; we need to be out and proud.  Our stories matter.

Which brings me to stories – Rachel and I have recommitted to ours and are hard at work/play on the next two books in the Persis Chronicles.  That’s right, the next two books.  Here’s what happened:  we drafted Book 3, Sapphire Dream, and then realized we had a problem.  We had over 80,000 words, but half of it is not going to end up in this book.  It needs to be told from another character’s point of view.  Add to that the fact that half the story is a journey that doesn’t need to happen, and we’re into major rewrites.  But I’m pleased to say that Ruby Sands, the resultant second half of Sapphire Dream and now Book 4 of the Persis Chronicles, is nearly half done and fully plotted out.  I don’t have a release date yet, because we just got our rights back for Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep and are going to release all four books together, but it will be in the first half of this year (and in the first quarter, if I can possibly make that happen).

I’ve also started workshops again.  My passion is Story, both writing it and helping others to get onto the page.  Accordingly, I’ve started the Prompt Circles with Writer Zen Garden up again and our first one is Saturday, January 21st.  There’s more information on our Meetup page, here.  We’ll be doing some other classes online in February and March on writing, and another Artist’s Way track starting on January 22nd.  Details are on the Meetup, and also the main Writer Zen Garden page, here.

Beyond that, I’m knitting up a storm and taking classes at Craftsy in knitting, weaving, and sewing (and some other subjects).  I’ve made playdates with friends to sew and knit, both in person and online through Google Hangouts.  If you are interested in playing too, please let me know in the comments.

If you, like me, are feeling small and helpless in the face of a changed tide, please know you are not alone.  Journal.  Your thoughts matter, and having a relationship with yourself is just as important as having one with your loved ones.  Communicate.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, reach out to your friends and family for support.  There are groups online and in person that can give you much-needed community.  And most of all, make stuff.  If you cook, make food.  If you knit, sew, draw, color in coloring books, whatever it is: do it.  Make time, right now, this week, and do it.  Get off the internet.  Mindless surfing is hazardous to your health.  Creating is therapeutic.  Make.  Write.  Create.  The world needs your creations.

Write on.

A Few of My Favorite Things – #MFRWauthor

My friends at Marketing For Romance Writers came up with a challenge this year.  As writers, we struggle to keep content engaging and fresh for you, Dear Reader, and so the Weekly Blogging Challenge was born.  Each week, we’re given a topic as a prompt.  We work with a partner, and together egg each other on to post.  The objective is to blog once a week for the entire year – so look forward to some interesting posts, as I’m enjoying writing them for you.  The posts go live on Fridays.

Our first prompt is, “A Few of My Favorite Things.”

That’s a toughie – I have so many.  Just off the cuff, I’d have to say cats, yarn, coffee, books, and chocolate.  But I also like dogs, horses, words, psyanky, candles, bubble baths, tea, fine china, jewelry, crafts, friends, travel, cars, boats, really amazing recreational vehicles…


Want to play too?  Visit WordClouds to make your own word cloud.

What about you, Dear Reader?  What are a few of your favorite things?

Happy Thanksgiving! A Blog Festival and Giveaway


Now, more than ever, we need to remember all that we have for which to be grateful.  Our abundance will give us the strength to understand what we have the power to change, but also all that we already have.  True wealth is internal.  Freedom can be compromised, but liberty is internal.  Love is a verb.  And know this:  never be ashamed for reading what you enjoy, for relaxing and recharging your batteries, and for closing out the noise that has become much louder of late.  Reading, and writing, are radical acts.

And so, in the spirit of the holidays, I share with you my posts on The Romance Studio, and an opportunity to win our grand prize of a $100 USD Amazon gift card, as well as prizes from participating authors – not to mention, tons of great content.  Please enjoy, and remember: writers are people too, and we are emotional beings just like you.  A comment, even just to say thanks for posting, can warm hearts bruised by so much craziness.  It only takes a moment, but it’s a valuable gift that will bring a smile to the face of your favorite authors.  Trust me.  I’m one of them.  🙂



My posts for the party (will go live as they’re posted throughout the party):

Saturday, November 19, 2016

  1. Vital vs Urgent
  2. Quiet the Echo Chamber
  3. Six Weeks
  4. Simple Abundance
  5. The Artist’s Way

Sunday, November 20, 2016

  1. NaNo – Why You Should Care
  2. Consequences:  Where Story Is
  3. Writing and Mental Health
  4. Memoir, Family, Preserving the Past
  5. Recipes of a Bygone Era

Monday, November 21, 2016

  1. Cauliflower Potatoes
  2. White Bean Pasta
  3. Exercise & Holidaze
  4. Going Caffeineless
  5. The Pecan Pie Debate:  Chocolate or No Chocolate?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

  1. Introduction to Persis
  2. Why Keepers?
  3. Food in Other Places
  4. Resting in Plain Sight – Aroma Shower
  5. Take a Bath!  Salts & Oils

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

  1. Introduction to Chicagoland
  2. Travel in Place
  3. Gather Locally – Meetup
  4. Strength in Numbers
  5. Thank You