Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NaNo Eve

The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win. Everyone wants to win, but not everyone wants to prepare to win. Preparing to win is where the determination that you will win, is made. Once the game or test or project is underway, it is too late to prepare to win. The actual game, test or project is just the end of a long process of getting ready, in which the outcome was really determined. So if you want to win, you must want to prepare to win. Once you prepare to win, winning is almost anti climatic. - Edward W. Smith, Sixty Seconds To Success

Yesterday I finished my preparations for NaNo. I roughed out basic character sketches on my secondary characters, Kate and Pete (I really like Pete... he might be too good for Kate and need his own book). I brainstormed a few more scenes -- I now have about twenty-five, which is fewer scenes than I normally start a book with, but more than I had for lasts years NaNo novel and I managed to muck through then.

I double checked what I had to do for NaBloPoMo and discovered that they're now offering prizes! Woo! I think that I'll be preparing my blog at night instead of writing it in the morning so that I'll have enough time to work on getting at least seven pages written each day.

My plan for the first week is to write at least ten pages a day in preparationg for hitting the wall in the second week. I thought I was alone in this last year until I re-read Chris Baty's book. He says that it's really quite common. Good. Misery loves company.

Yesterday, Allie asked me: You have dogs in almost all of your stories, don't you? Interesting - ever think about why that is? Or is it a deliberate choice?

It didn't start out as a deliberate choice, but after they popped into to my first couple of books (along with a very interesting rat), I figured I wouldn't fight it. Still, with Liv's story, I wanted a weird pet... not a cat or a dog. I managed to give my hero a ferret, but somehow a gorgeous Mastiff named Spike nosed his way in as well. It might simply be because I love animals and can't imagine anyone not living with a pet.

Yesterday Ceri said: I like your collage. I don't know how to make those.

They're created in Power Point as a slide and then saved as a .jpg file. If you have Power Point, give it a try!

We went to two libraries yesterday to stock up on books (mostly for my daughter, since I won't have a ton of time to read). Between DD and I, we only have 46 books checked out... I feel like a slacker. I typically have more! See, I am making sacrifices for NaNo!

I can't decide if I'll post my blog tomorrow after I write, or before. I'll be posting a total word count each day... Hmmm... I'll probably post before I start with a big goose egg, since that's how I'll be starting the day.

I. Can't. Wait.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Yes, I'm Ready....

An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing. - Samuel Smiles

One more day until NaNo. Even though I have no idea how my novel starts, I'm really excited! Woo! The short story that this is loosely based upon starts with the heroine in bed, but "the rules" say you should never start a novel that way... we'll see.

Oh... I did do some work on the NaNo novel though. I finished my character profiles on the H/H and made up a collage (which will probably change as I get to know the story better, but works for now):

The dog is Sheba... and she's the one who gets the ball rolling. The red-head is the heroine's daughter and the older man is the ex-husband. The man feeding the chickens is the hero's roommate (and, yes, there are chickens in the story -- because it was a NaNo dare and I didn't have any weird pets yet).

So: "Are you ready?", "Yes, I'm ready" .... do you have the song in your head now? And if you do, can you name that tune and the people who sang it?

To NaNoWriMo: Yes. I'm ready.


Hey -- thanks for all the suggestions for books yesterday. Many she's already read: the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables, the Chronicles of Narnia ... but I'm looking for the Edward Eager books, Trixie Belden (would you believe my library has NONE?), Encyclopedia Brown and the Great Brain books. I actually own the Bonnie books and don't know why I didn't think of them, so will dig them out. That should hold her for a week or two.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


This nice and subtle happiness of reading, this joy not chilled by age, this polite and unpunished vice, this selfish, serene life-long intoxication. ~ Logan Pearsall Smith

My daughter needs help. No... not that kind. Sheesh.

Last night she asked me if I had any interesting books she could read. I asked, "Why? Don't you have a bunch of books from the library?" But she's already read them, and is bored with the books she owns.

I am soliciting suggestions for books appropriate to a seven-year-old who reads at an eighth grade level. And no books with bratty kids, please. They annoy me.

Here are some of the books she's already read:

The Boxcar Kids series
The Bobbsey Twins series
The American Girl series
The America's Diary series
The Prydain Chronicles
The Betsy-Tacy books (Thanks C!)
The Magic Treehouse series
The Animal Ark series
The Nancy Drew Notebooks (she's too young for regular Nancy Drew)
The Chet Gecko Mysteries
The Horrible Harry series
The Mandie Mysteries
The Redwall series
The Black Stallion books

As you can see, I love series! This is because I don't have to read all of the books first, just one so I can get the flavor of it and make sure it's okay. She's easily spooked by things, so scary books are out. She's read probably another 200 books outside those I've posted, but you don't have time for that.

I'm looking for books you remember from when you were a kid. I gave her a copy of "Black Beauty" because it was my absolute favorite along with the Prydain Chronicles.

She reads fast and constantly. And I can't keep her in books! ACK!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Seeing With Your Eyes Closed

What you lose in blindness is the space around you, the place where you are, and without that you might not exist. You could be nowhere at all. - Barbara Kingsolver

I can't imagine being blind.

When I get up in the morning, I seldom turn the lights on until I'm ready to make my cup of coffee. For some reason, this morning as I walked downstairs -- feeling my way with the tip of my toes to know when the stairs stopped -- I thought about being blind.

Of all my senses, I would miss sight the most. What's worse is that a natural, human fear of the dark would be a problem all of the time. I have a vivid imagination (don't we all?) and this morning, I pictured someone ominous standing there watching me blindly fumble my way around the house, staying just out of reach but knowing that he could reach out at any time without my knowing of his presence.

Then I thought of all the other ways that I, as a blind person, could know he was there. Sound? Would I, with my sharper ears, hear his quiet movements? Smell? Could I smell is soap, his cologne, his fear?

It made me realize that I rely far too heavily upon sight in my writing, and don't utilize the other senses as much as I could. As much as I should. My scenes aren't as deep, my characters aren't as rounded.

As I write for NaNo, I want to make certain I utilize that ability. How does that person or place or thing sound? Smell? Taste? Feel? I plan on writing a note that reminds me I have more than one sense on my fluorescent Post-its and attaching it to my monitor.

And, periodically, I will write with my eyes closed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Time... or the Lack Thereof

How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you're on. ~ Zall's Second Law

My husband advised me that he's working from home today. I had set up today as "craft day" at grandma's for my daughter and had looked forward to spending most of the day alone (I love to be alone). *sigh*

Worse, his desk is only a couple feet from mine and he can't work unless he CRANKS the music. I can't work unless it's quiet... so I imagine that working on my editing is out (sorry D), though I'm going to give it a try.

I took a glance at my calendar this morning and noticed that both the novella that Jenny Crusie wrote a new story for ("Santa Baby") and the final book in Nora Robert's latest trilogy are being released on October 31st. That's simply unfair when I have NaNo starting the next day and have already realized that my reading time is going to be slashed.

Then I realized that I had the copy of "Lover Awakened" sitting on my desk that I purchased the day it was released and then forgot about. I wonder if I can read that before November? I've heard that Ms. Ward does something hinky in this book... am I going to be angry? Has anyone else read it? I don't mind spoilers... I've already admitted to the fact that I read the ending of the book first. I'd love some input.

One of my writing groups is planning to dissect the Womans World romance stories in December because several of us have written for them, and we want to try to figure out just exactly what it is they're looking for. I know, for me, each subsequent submission has gotten closer and closer. I figure I'm going to hit the nail on the head very soon, but it should be interesting. And it'll be something to look forward to after NaNo -- that doesn't require writing. I imagine I'll be a little burned out... though, as I recall from last year, I felt a little lost when I finished. Not burned out, but lacking a goal or a purpose. And I wished NaNo would start again in a month.

It appears that I'm boring you all to tears lately with my gabbing. I wish I could present something deeper or more interesting, but as I've said before, I'm having a hard time focusing on anything but the upcoming month.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Written in the Stars

Goals are dreams with deadlines. ~ Diana Scharf Hunt

Since Charity has been reading her horoscope lately, I decided to check mine out today (from Yahoo):

Today, you need to cut out whatever is holding you back in your life -- clean house.

CLEAN HOUSE?!? Oh... wait. They mean that figuratively. Phew...

A little fire in your belly helps you attack a new task with vim and vigor. This astrological influence gives you the ability to really see the long view, which whets your appetite for the current challenge.

I see NaNo in all things -- so this is telling me that I'm excited about this project! Woo! Though I didn't need the stars to tell me that.

Yahoo allows you to flip ahead a few days to read, so I went on up to November 1st -- NaNo's first day -- just to see what it had to say:

Creative writing is a gift everyone has -- and it's something you should explore.

Oh... I'll be "exploring" it all right!

Boundaries dissolve under this dreamy astrological influence. You find yourself questioning what it is you want to achieve and why. Once this period is through, your goals will be more firmly in place than they ever have been.

Hmmm... questioning my goals on the first day of NaNo is not a good thing. BUT, having them firmly in place is.

Still, I think I prefer my Humorscope instead:

More trouble with that annoying "bluebird of happiness" today. With any luck, the cat will get it.

What do the stars hold in store for you?


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Gabbing about Plot and Setting

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. ~ Mark Twain

I find myself with little to say today. I haven't written a word in three days -- very unusual for me -- though I have opened up documents and stared at them for a really long time. Does that count as writing? I still have a week to finish edits on Liv, and I'm trying (D, I'm really trying...) but I can't get my brain off of my NaNo project.

Oddly enough, I'm finding the subject of my story popping up all over the place (it relates to the quote at the beginning of this post). It's like when you buy a car (or a dress or a piece of jewelry or whatever) and suddenly, you see the same thing everywhere! The subject has been talked about ad nauseum in the comments at the He Said, She Said blog. Yesterday, it was covered on the Dr. Phill show. Nope, I'm not telling you what it's about, you see if you can figure it out!

When Tori suggested I use the name "Podunk" for my actual town, I looked in to it a little and discovered that Real towns named Podunk often live up to their name. I may end up setting this story in New Hampshire, somewhere near Durham and UNH, just because I'm familiar with the area -- though I may make up a town just because I like to manipulate areas to work with the story (you should see the things I created in Colorado Springs for my "Playing House" story -- that book will need a disclaimer).

It's times like this that I consider writing fantasy again. Then I can world build and no one can correct me about whether Podunk is really in Pennsylvania or not (not that anyone did, but you get the idea...)

What do you do when you write? Do you typically set the story somewhere you're familiar with or do you try to wing it with research? Do you like to create your own towns?

NaNo approaches. I wish it would just start.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Found: Hero and Heroine

The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it. ~Daniel Webster

Thanks for everyone's input for pictures of my hero! I had a wonderful time looking at some yummy pix...and I did use your input, but in a backwards sort of way.

Ceri suggested Christian Bale. When I pulled him up at IMdB, he popped up with another guy who was perfect.

Brandon Routh:

He's still a little too handsome for what I had in mind, but I'll deal with that because, overall, he's right on.

For my heroine, I kept envisioning Jenny Crusie. I knew she wasn't quite right, but she was close - I wanted an older, moderately plump blonde. This morning I had a brainstorm (thanks to Grand Ole Opry).

Trisha Yearwood:

Now I just need to cast the secondary folks: Kate, Pete and Dan.

And the dog. And the chickens. And figure out where I'm setting it (right now, I'm saying they live in Podunk, PA, but that should probably change).

Ah... what joy...

Monday, October 23, 2006


Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett

In reading through Writer's Digest this month, I found myself drawn to the "Notable Debuts" section, as always. Interestingly, all of them (with the exception of the featured author) took several years and many drafts to complete and sell their novels.

There is no failure. Only feedback. ~ Robert Allen

As I plan my NaNoWriMo novel for this year, I continually second guess my choice of subject. It's been done before, it's outdated, or whatever. It's frustrating, because I couldn't change the storyline at this point, even if I wanted to, and succeed at NaNo.

The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ~ Lloyd Jones

I actually shared my NaNo idea with a writing friend last week. It was the first time I've told anyone the entire thought as if speaking it out loud (or via email) would somehow make it even more ridiculous.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~ Thomas Edison

Maybe as I begin to write the story I'll feel better about it. I think it has the potential to be a strong story. I don't know if it will be funny or not, but knowing me, it'll have some humorous moments, because I can't seem to filter them out completely.

So, NaNo approaches -- oh so slowly. Have days ever gone by with such sloth? I just want November to begin so I can stop doubting and start moving, because then I'll be so busy I won't have time to second guess myself (except in week two, but that's another story).

Sunday, October 22, 2006



I'm looking for a model for my hero in my NaNo WIP and am having a terrible time. See... here's the problem: He's not a GQ hunk.

He's youngish (24), and not particularly athletic (his favorite sport is air hockey). He's cute, but a little geeky, and not particularly vain. He sort of looks like the kid from "Heroes":

But he's a little more mature looking and not so scrawny. Anyone have an idea of who I could use? Most hollywood folks are either more mature (ala George Clooney) or very young. I'm having trouble finding someone in between.

All help appreciated!

Author, Author

"Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives." — Willa A. Foster

Yesterday, because I had so much extra time on my hands (ROFLOL), I did a little blog-hopping to some new blogs -- because most of the blogs I read regularly haven't been updated.

I stumbled across Jennifer Echols blog where she asks for book recommendations for the following authors:

Jennifer Crusie

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Jennifer Weiner

Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb

Linda Howard

Jane Austen

There were four comments before mine. One had a recommendation for Jennifer Weiner, the others only talked about Jane Austen. They admitted to NOT reading the other authors. One did say she read some other fairly popular authors, so she's sort of excused from inclusion into the rest of this blog… but…

I know I've ranted about this before but, hey, I don't have anything else but NaNo to talk about and you'll get enough of that in November.

You have to admit that the authors listed above are pretty much the queens of their niche. Jenny is absolutely the best rom-com author, followed closely by SEP.

I don't care for Jennifer Weiner's books because she's too depressing and not just plain old romance (she's more that "romantic elements" kinda gal), but she's well appreciated by others.

Nora. Well, what can I say …her books are usually quite good (even though the head-hopping drives me NUTS) and she is, after all, the queen of everything, so she must be doing something right.

Linda Howard writes some awesome romantic suspense.

And Jane Austen? Of course, the ladies admitted to reading her -- guess that's not as embarrassing or something. Geez.

How can you write romance and not read these ladies? Even though I'm not a huge Jennifer Weiner fan, I've read several of her books. And I always take a look at her new ones, just in case they're different than usual.

Even if you write paranormal, you can learn from ladies like Jenny Crusie. Her writing is amazing, clean and no head-hopping. Read Bet Me or Getting Rid of Bradley and prepare to be entertained and educated.

And if you do read those authors, get over to Jennifer Echols blog and give her your opinion on their best books.

NOTE: I've been trying to post all morning, but Blogger has had issues… sorry!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Here is the prime condition of success: Concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. — Andrew Carnegie

I'm focused on NaNo. So focused, I can't settle down to do anything else. I can't even read because I can't find a book strong enough to pull my thoughts away from my own gestating story.

I suppose this is good, right?

I tried to work on editing Liv -- I have a couple of scenes I need to add -- and I tried it again yesterday and ended up with three paragraphs that were absolute crap. It was all a bunch of passive voice telling:

The day passed slowly. The dog had fun. The phone didn't ring.

Nothing like it should have been:

Liv's foot tapped the leg of her chair while she stared at the phone, willing it to ring, and more importantly, willing it to be Mike.

Or whatever.

So I stopped working on it. Again. I kept thinking about the character profile I needed to complete for my hero and the scene ideas I had for the NaNo novel.

When I sat down and worked on the profile for Benny/Ben/Benjamin (he is many things to many people, LOL) it flowed. It was as though his past was just waiting for me to write it down. Before I started, I had little idea of who he was, but as I answered the questions my finger typed the answers without hesitation. He's a pretty interesting guy, and mature for his age -- though you wouldn't guess it based on his job or his wardrobe.

But, dang it, I really want to get the edits done on Liv before November 1st. I have a little more than a week and only about thirty-five more pages to go through and three scenes to add. It's not out of the question.

I just need to adjust my focus.

Friday, October 20, 2006

E-Pubs vs. Print

I know, I know... we've talked it to death, but still -- Allie has an interesting post on this. Go check it out and give her your two cents worth.

Also, I love this as an idea:

A novel use of technology

You'd never have to worry that your bookstore doesn't have the book you want!

What are your feelings about that?

Me? I'll get an e-reader eventually, I suppose. But I want it to look at least a little like a book. I love books. I love holding them and feeling them in my hand. My eyes get so tired when I stare at the computer too much. Reading doesn't do that to me, so I can't read as much electronically.

I'm on the fence. I understand the benefits to e-Publishing, but love my print books.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

NaNoWriMo Dreamin'

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending. ~ Author Unknown

Yesterday I worked on my NaNo project a little. I've done a character outline on my heroine and discovered that my original idea of who she is was completely wrong. I like the person she is, now, but it'll be hard for her to grab the reins and control her story... she's always been a bit of a follower.

That'll change.

I can't get as good a grip on my hero, but it's coming very slowly.

In the meantime, I searched the "dares" forum on the NaNo site and started my list of writers block breakers. I did this last year for Liv's story and it added a different flavor (and a character -- Frank). It's a hoot to read through the dares and see what you think you can use. There are currently 31 pages on the message board. I read through three and got a list of ten so far.

I've also tried to think up some scenes and have created "scene cards" in Excel. It's a reorganizable spreadsheet so I can shuffle the "cards" at will.

I've been reading through Chris Baty's book, too, and he's got some ideas of how to get ready for NaNo, though he doesn't recommend getting too much stuff done saying that if you're too invested in the story (by having put in weeks and weeks of pre-writing work) then you expect to write a masterpiece and won't let go of your inner critic. I suspect he's right to a certain degree.

I'm doing a few things he recommended in the part called "Your Book in Ten Questions or Less".

I have two more weeks to do everything else I wanted to do before NaNo starts. I'm still working through Liv's story, but the last third is ROUGH. Hopefully I can get it done in thirteen days. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm on the jazz. (Thanks to the A-Team for that phraseology).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Drum Roll Please....

And the winner of the "Name That Spa" contest is:



It's a backwards sort of award because she suggested "Choyez-Moi", but I wasn't in love with "Choyez-Moi Spa". However, as she pointed out, Choyez-Moi means "Pamper Me" which I do love. Simple and straightforward. So Liv's spa name will be:


Runner-up goes to PAM for these great suggestions (and I was sorely tempted to use them):

Liv Well

Love-Leigh Day Spa

Thanks to everyone who played. Darcy, email me your address offline, and I'll pop your prize in the mail tomorrow.

Why I'm So Unproductive

The future is an opaque mirror. Anyone who tries to look into it sees nothing but the dim outlines of an old and worried face. ~ Jim Bishop

Lately, I haven't been able to write much of anything. I'm struggling with my edits. I have a short story that I wanted to submit before NaNo began and it has problems (one very honest friend called it "boring" and... well... it is). It's been frustrating.

But at least now I have a reason. Check out my horoscopes:

From Yahoo horoscopes:

The frenetic pace of your life is definitely going to slow down starting today.

Precision, precision, precision. Use your words and efforts just as cleanly as a surgeon uses a scalpel -- you don't want any of your work to go to waste. Cleaning up would just be squandering your energy.

Maybe if life slows down a bit (and, actually, it's true -- today is "craft day" for my daughter at gram's house, so I have virtually nothing planned after we "do" school today) I can accomplish something. It looks like that "something" should be edits (what else could "Use your words and efforts just as cleanly as a surgeon uses a scalpel" mean?).

Then there's AOL horoscopes:

You are in a more than practical phase, and that says a lot for someone who can normally be so production oriented. Be open to pleasant experiences that might not further your development. Just take them for what they are and smile while your key planet Saturn receives a kiss from sweet Venus.

See... my production is down. They're right on about that. But... be open to "pleasant experiences"? I'm always open to those, but the pleasant-est thing that's happened lately is watching the A-Team on a daily basis (and that is pleasant... it always makes me smile).

Incidentally, thanks to the folks who come by and visit and comment. I love to hear from you!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Firsts and Lasts

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~ Author Unknown

Voting has started for the American Title III contest... I voted yesterday for "best first line". I have to be honest, I found myself agreeing most with Flavia, and it really made me think about first lines. Again.

I agonize about them. I hate the first lines for pretty much ALL of my completed novels. Hate. Them. But I move on because I want to finish and then I can go back and agonize some more. So I struggle through the first draft, knowing that I have a substandard beginning.

I read a book, not too long ago that shall remain nameless, where I loved, Loved, LOVED the first line, paragraph and chapter. Woo! I was excited as all get out and ready for more rolicking fun.

Boy, was I disappointed. It was clear that the author had poured her heart and soul into the beginning and then glossed over the rest. I'm certainly no where near perfect -- in fact, I'm so far away from perfect that I'm not even on the same continent. But I know what good writing should look like (in my oh-so-humble opinion), even if I can't always get it to come from my fingertips.

So my question for you is this: how can you manage to put as much care into your entire novel as you do the first few "partial" chapters without taking five years to complete each novel?

I'm struggling through my second-and-a-half edit of Liv's story (turns out that I only made it about 2/3 of the way through on my first edit and it's really thrown a wrench in my plans to have it completed by October 31st... grrr....) and mainly focusing on getting the plot down correctly. I know I can add more details. I know I have some serious gerund overuse and undoubtedly a more-than-suggested amount of passive voice.

Here's another question for you -- how many times do you typically edit and what is your system?

And another -- when do you decide a book is done?


Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don't like - then cultivate it. That's the only part of your work that's individual and worth keeping. ~ Jean Cocteau

A writing friend of mine, Dorice Nelson, posted on her blog about critiquing other writer's work. She expressed a frustration at people who submit obviously first draft material for nits, completel with wrong words, poor grammar and incorrect punctuation.

I feel her pain. Thankfully, she's posted some ideas on giving constructive criticism to folks. You should take a look.

I also have trouble with people who state clearly that they are writing to be published, sometimes even throwing names around like "Harlequin" or "NAL" or whatever... and then write their story in present tense (Mary walks down the street and takes her cell phone out) or worse, second person (You see Mary walk down the street and then you notice that she's taking her cell phone out).

And yet, when you suggest that mainstream publishers probably aren't going to accept the novel for publication, they're angry. Or insulted.

I know that, for me, it's sometimes hard when someone pokes at some brilliantly (or so you think) constructed scene. So I step back and I look through their suggestions for any truths (and typically, even in stuff I mostly disagree with, there are truths). And I never, ever, ever respond in anger, annoyance or frustration. That person took time away from their precious writing time (or time with their family or whatever) to give me their thoughts. They deserve a medal, not my temper.

I'm so grateful for my critiquing friends. I can't imagine writing without them to slap me around.

Remember -- if you're doing NaNo, let me know. I'm going to create a list of blogging crazies who are documenting their NaNo journey, and keep a link to you on this blog through November. Just leave me a comment (and make sure your profile is linked to your blog address).

Have a great day!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Put Your Coffee Down...

... before you watch this. I laughed so hard I cried. NOTE: I've had reports that this link isn't working... if you can't see the video box below, try clicking here and see if that works.

This is why I want a kitten ...

Give Me an "N"! Give Me an "A"....

There's nothing wrong with having your goals really high and trying to achieve them. That's part of the fun. - Tiger Woods

Anno reminded me about Chris Baty's book No Plot? No Problem. She recently purchased it because she's planning on dipping her toe into the NaNoWriMo pool this year. I'm currently re-reading it, hoping for some inspiration.

You see, I read it last year, and it's what got me all fired up to do NaNo. I'm a 2005 winner. I'm planning on being a 2006 winner... but this year I'm nervous. I wasn't nervous last year. I wasn't prepared, I'm actually more prepared this year. But I'm terrified for November to start. Is it because I know better now?

NaNo is hard. It takes a lot of time and energy and brain power. And courage. Courage to just write and not go back to fix the funkiness of your first draft. I know a couple of ladies in my previous writing group who are VERY talented ladies and aren't doing NaNo because they edit as they write, and don't think they can give that up.

But, see... that's the beauty of being forced to write so much so quickly. How many aspiring authors out there have never even finished a first draft? But how many have a super-fantastic first chapter?

So, even though I'm terrified this year, I'm also excited. And -- if you're doing NaNo, let me know. I'm going to create a list of blogging crazies who are documenting their NaNo journey, and keep a link to you on this blog through November. Just leave me a comment (and make sure your profile is linked to your blog address).

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reading and Writing

If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~ Toni Morrison

I can't seem to concentrate on reading lately. I have zero patience for a book that doesn't absolutely thrill me from the first sentence. I tried reading yet another Harlequin Intimate Moments -- a paranormal -- that had a great premise and was actually interesting...


Except again the hero and heroine were having hot, sexual fantasies for each other in totally inappropriate places. Given the success of this Harlequin line, I must be in the minority about this. Regardless, it was tossed in my "can't get rid of this fast enough" bag along with its sequel. Ugh.

I've fallen back on reading old favorites. Out come my Jenny Crusie novels or a few of Nora's. I've started reading the "In Death" series from the beginning again, because it's been a few years since I've done that.

Why, oh why, can't a find a new book that can hold my attention?


Yesterday, my mom saw Danielle Steele on Good Morning America and called me about it.

"She wrote 96 books in 38 years AND raised nine kids!"

"I know, Mom. And Nora Roberts has had more than 130 books published in the last 25 years."

Clearly, I'm a slacker... LOL... I've only produced six complete novels in my lifetime, three in the last five years. I'm falling behind.

Still, it is quite amazing to see the output of these ladies. I'm not a Danielle Steele fan, but she has legions of them, so her output must be pretty good quality as well. To write so much, so well, so quickly is amazing to me.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Feast One Hundred Fifteen

You can feast along with me here!!

Approximately how many hours per week do you spend reading other blogs?

Probably four or five... I have about twenty that I read regularly BUT they don't all update daily, so it doesn't take that long.

Your community wants everyone to give one thing to put into a time capsule. What item would you choose to include?

A music CD. Nothing brings me back in time like music and I think it shows the attitude of the time as well.

What is the most interesting tourist attraction you've ever visited?

Mother Goose's grave. Seriously... it's on the Freedom Trail in Boston (along with other famous dead folk like Samuel Adams).

Main Course
If you could give an award to anyone for anything, who would it be and what would the award be titled?

To my friends and family: For "Love beyond measure" and secondarily for "Going Above and Beyond to Put Up With My Neroses".

What do you think your favorite color reveals about your personality?

You know... I don't really HAVE a favorite color. I tell my DD that it's pink, but it isn't, not really (it was when I was her age, which is why I say that). I love mint green and other "soft" greens for clothes and to paint the inside and outside of a house. I find it relaxing. I'm so keyed up inside most of the time, that I need something to bring me back down again!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why I Read the Ending First

A blessed companion is a book, - a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend,... a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own. ~ Douglas Jerrold

Many, many moons ago, I read Where the Red Fern Grows. C'mon, you did, too. Right?

Did you cry like a baby?

I did. And I swore that I would NEVER read a story without a happy ending EVER AGAIN. Of course, that was before I took English lit (and why, oh why, must all "literary" novels and "classics" be so flipping morose?), but now that I'm a grown up and no longer have assigned reading, I look for HEA. Period.

Real life is depressing enough, isn't it?

So... the other day I pick up a book I checked out at the library and flipped to the end (of course) and thought, "Huh. There isn't a blank page at the end like usual." and then I read the last line. It read: "I searched eagerly for his faded".

What? His faded... what? He who??

Can you believe it. The book was printed without the last page or pages. And if I wasn't the kind of girl who read the ending first, I'd have been REALLY mad to have invested all that time in a novel and then not gotten the end.

What puzzled me was that I surely was not the first person to have checked it out. Why didn't someone else tell one of the librarians?

So, I stand by my habit. All HEA's, all the time, and I'll read the last page. Just to make sure.

Shopping and Research

The hardest thing is to take less when you can get more. ~ Kin Hubbard

I had my first foray into grocery shopping at Amazon.com today.

I bought Bacon Bits -- you know: those chunks of artifically flavored textured vegetable protein? Yum.

You see, I don't eat much meat (almost zero - occasional fish, rarely chicken, NO pork or beef -- ever) and am working to bring that to absolute zero, but I love bacon and so had to find a substitute. I have baco, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. I sprinkle them on my salads, in my pasta…. mmm…

Sam's Club used to carry the ginormous sized Tones brand bacon bits, but they don't anymore and the puny little 4 oz bottles you can buy at the store just don't do it for me. But I can buy a case (WOO HOO) of the little buggers at Amazon.com for less money and free shipping (over $25).

And, if I had to buy a few books to bring my order up to $25, well -- I still saved money, didn't I? *G*


I've been busy plotting out the NaNo book lately, when I realized I didn't have a clue where to set it. I typically try to write what I know (or where I've lived), but I've only lived in a few different states, and I've pretty much covered them with my last several novels.

I need a small-ish town with lots of homey neighborhoods (both affluent and not so much) that also houses a university (and a couple car dealerships… but I didn't figure that would be a problem since those things are everywhere). I was thinking about Pennsylvania, but I've only just driven through there a couple times, maybe stopped to pee, but didn't really take notes (on the state, not my bodily functions).

Anyone out there know anything they could share? Any town out there sound like a good fit? I could use some input.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Help Me and Win!!

The heroine in a current WIP (Olivia Leigh) owns a swanky salon and health spa in Boston. Right now, I'm just calling it The Spa because I couldn't think of an appropriate name. I still can't.

So I'm offering a bribe to you for help. Win this Halloween tea light holder when you Name That Spa (I'm giving away the teal holder with the bats on it - brand spanking new):

Send me your suggestions to Marianne@mariannearkins.com - please put "Name That Spa" in the subject line - or leave a comment on this blog post and I'll pick a winner on Wednesday, October 18th. That gives you a week to think of a truly amazing name.

Here are some of the spa specifications:

    • They cater to a very upper class clientele
    • It is quiet and peaceful, with the impression given to each client that she is the only person there.
    • Each client is left with the impression that they are the single most important client at the spa.
    • They offer full day appointments, complete with healthy lunch and limo ride to and from the spa.

Please. Send. Help. I'm desperate.

Rats, Liberation and Publishing

Write a novel if you must, but think of money as an unlikely accident. ~ Pearl S. Buck

In light of Allie's discouragement last week, Charity has located and shared some great articles on why we shouldn't allow our desire to get published to kill our love of writing. Interestingly, both articles were by my hero, Jenny Crusie, which not only makes them valid, but also fun to read.

The first, A Writer Without A Publisher Is Like A Fish Without a Bicycle: Writer's Liberation and You, is all about the fact that not being published means that you're not a writer. This is a must read.

The second, Rats with Islands, was printed in a past RWR. Read it. Seriously... it's fantastic. I remember thinking that the first time, and I'm glad Charity found it for me again.

I feel like an infant in seeking publication. Charity has been writing since her son was born -- and that's been many years. Mary mentioned on Allie's blog that she's been trying this whole writing thing for twelve years! I've only been doing it seriously for about five. I'm not sure if I should be encouraged or discouraged by their stories. I do know this: Charity and Allie are two of the most talented writers I know (I'm sure Mary is, too, but I haven't read any of her stuff!). I know that they'll hit the right combination eventually and I'll hold one of their books in my hands.

Honestly, I think the same of me.

Just call me a rat with an island.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Nine

Story people emulate real people, though they are actually just the creative genius of the writer who develops them. Creating something or someone from nothing and convincing others the creation is real IS creative genius. - Dr. Vicki Hinze

Yesterday, after I finished revisions to my story and finished the middle of Liv, I sat down to watch a little TV. Last week, I'd TiVo'd The Nine but hadn't watched it.


I haven't finished it yet (DD finished her seatwork FAST yesterday, so "mom time" was shortened dramatically), but WOW.

In the first five or ten minutes, we're introduced to the characters who are important to this story -- the nine hostages along with another bank teller and the bank robbers. And we have to care about them or this story doesn't work.

Five or ten minutes.

Five or ten pages.

The writers of this story took one or two significant character traits and amplified them. This is who the cop is. This is who the bank manager is. This is who... well, you get the idea. I was fascinated - both as a writer and as the audience.

I want to create memorable characters like that. And I want to make them three dimensional, believable and interesting. And, yes, I'd like to do it with only a page or two.

Certainly, it's a bit easier to do that with a television show. You can see gestures, clothing, facial ticks, etc., without having to take the time to describe them. But still. Wow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Get Thee Behind Me, Gerund!

"Every single word that I publish I write at least six times." - Paul R. Halmos

I received edits for my story at Wild Rose yesterday. All in all, not so bad.


My biggest problem is gerund overuse. I had a contest judge tell me (and then proceed to show me on my entry) the same thing. I thought I'd made myself more aware of it but apparently I just don't see them.

Many of my sentences are constructed thusly:

She stepped inside, entering the house.

She put up her hair, twisting it to the side.

I do this again and again and I'm not entirely certain why. So I need to go fix them -- maybe not all of them, but many of them.

The good news is that there really weren't that many other edits suggested. Yay.

Out, out damn gerund. Out, out I say!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

NaNoWriMo and Insanity

"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say." - Sharon O'Brien

My dog woke me up last night around 1 a.m. -- she's afraid of certain noises, and my husband was making one (he makes a wide variety... some day I'm going to tape him). So she paced and stuck her nose in my face until I couldn't ignore her anymore. I took her out, then crashed on the couch until, about 30 minutes later she decided that she had to go back to bed. I let her back in to the bedroom, heard the chainsaw that is my husband and opted for the couch again :-)

Turns out that this was a good thing! I haven't spent much time working through my NaNo idea. I've been more focused on editing existing projects: a novel and a short story.

Last night while I lay on the couch, half in and out of sleep, I considered my NaNo idea. And although I didn't have a notepad to jot things down, the things I thought of I remembered. Woo!

My hero has a name and so does the comic strip he writes, two things that have weighed heavily upon my mind.

I feel ill prepared for NaNo this year and, although it seems that I have time to prepare better, it's flying by and I have much to accomplish in the next three weeks prior to going insane.

Still, I love NaNo. Love the rush and the excitment. Most of all, I love the freedom. In the desperate rush to "win" and write 50,000 words in such a short time, often you (I?) contemplate ideas that you never would have before. You don't toss them aside immediately for being too crazy or strange or difficult. Mostly, you entertain every plot idea or twist that comes to mind with the sure knowledgle that it can always be edited out later if it doesn't work.

It's exciting to work that way.

So even though I don't feel quite ready, I am ready. Ready to go a little insane.

Anyone joining me?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

When Will It Be Finished?

You have to write a million words before you find your voice as a writer. ~ Henry Miller, The Pen Commandments

I'm working through editing last years NaNoWriMo novel. I know, I've said this before, but it's been an interesting journey and I'm not sure when it'll be done because, even though I'm editing now, I'm mostly editing for content because I made a couple significant plot changes.

As I read through, I'm still not entirely happy with the results. I keep thinking it could be better, richer. This confession will surely excite the lovely people who have agreed to a read through!

This is the second time I've been through Liv's story. I'm wondering how many times before I call it "done". This time, I'm trying to put together a synopsis as well which is killing me. I can't tell you how much easier it is to write a novel than it is to write a synopsis. Gah.


Here's a peek into the goings on at our home:

A couple nights (mornings?) ago at about 3 a.m., I heard my daughter get up to go potty. When I didn't hear her return to her room, I got up to find out if all was well. I found the bathroom door closed, but the light was on (it has a night light, so that wasn't necessary). I stuck my head in and found my DD reading.

I suggested to her that perhaps reading at 3 a.m. wasn't the best idea, and she needed to get back to bed. She returned to her room, I returned to mine. But the problem for me was that it was close enough to when I get up normally that I couldn't get back to sleep.

At about 3:40 a.m. I gave up and got out of bed. My rountine is to kick the cat off (my hubby doesn't like her, so she has to come with me), grab my slippers and head downstairs. This time, when the cat and I stepped outside the door, the cat did one of those swivel headed things toward my daughters room.

What had she heard? I could tell the light was off, because nothing showed under the crack in the door. I quietly peek inside and out pops DD's head from her tent (yes, she sleeps under a tent on her bed). I look to the right where her nightlight is plugged in and there is a book, lying open.

"Were you reading by the night light?"

"Yes." She drops her head, looks ashamed.

"It's not even FOUR O'CLOCK!"

My daughter carries a book with her everywhere. She is seldom seen without one. Reading is her lifeblood. Taking away her reading is a terrible punishment. Last week she lost TV (for the second week in a row) AND she lost reading before bed. Guess which one she wants back first?

So folks, don't worry. There will still be at least one buyer for your books as the years pass... LOL...

Friday, October 06, 2006


Woo Hoo! I finally figured out how to work in FrontPage AND how to publish my website from FrontPage. I'm feeling pretty good right now.

In any case, my website is new and improved. Take a look... see what you think. It's still a work in progress, but at least I feel like I'm up to the task!


Friday Feast

I was all ready to write a different post this morning when I remembered it was time for The Friday Feast! Join in by clicking the link below:

Feast One Hundred & Fourteen

Name a song you know by heart.

Geez, I know hundreds. I do remember once, in high school (that's been a few years... and the song will give away just how many), a friend and I had a contest who could write all the words to "Renegade" by Styx the fastest. Don't know why and I don't remember who won, but I still know all the words!

What will you absolutely not do in front of another person?

Scratch my private areas. I mean, geez, I'm not a guy!

How often do you use mouthwash and what kind do you like?

Seldom, but when I do, I use Listerine citrus flavor. I floss daily and brush a couple times a day... who needs mouthwash?

Main Course
Finish this sentence: I am embarrassed when...

I say something really stupid.

What was the last food you craved?

Aside from chocolate, which is an hourly thing (in fact, I'm drinking chocolate soy milk in my coffee) the last real "I must have this thing or die" craving I had was when I was pregnant.

At nine months (DD was 2 1/2 weeks late!) I HAD to have prime rib. Since we had just moved, and I didn't know any restaurants in town, I opened the yellow pages and there was this huge ad that said, "Spatts: Where Manchester goes for prime rib". Guess where we ate that night -- my waitress was scared to death I would go into labor right there.

I also craved salt and vinegar chips all during my pregnancy. It's a wonder my daughter was healthy!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Do You Do?

"We conquer, not in any brilliant fashion, we conquer by continuing." - George Matheson

We have done it at one time or another, haven't we? Questioned whether we should continue fighting the fight, or whether we should just send up the white flag? I know I have. Some days I wonder why I get up early and write. Or stay up late and write. Or bring a notepad with me on vacation and write. Or lay awake in the middle of the night thinking about my stories.

Wouldn't it just be easier to give it up? Look at the odds... seriously. How many unpublished authors are out there doing the same thing, writing like crazy folks, sending out queries and getting rejected? Thousands? Millions?

My friend, Allie, is going through this crisis right now. And I think that we can all understand how she feels.

I know, for me, that I always write. When I wasn't writing fiction or poetry, I kept a journal. Writing is just something that I do. Of course, writing for publication is a whole 'nother ball of wax.

When is it time to give up? A year? Five years? Ten? Never?

What do you do when you get discouraged? How do you keep your head high? How do you get past the rejections and discouragement and the knowledge of the overwhelming odds against you? What do you do?

I'd like to hear about it. Maybe Allie would, too. Let us know.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Temper, Temper?

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect! ~ Owens Lee Pomeroy

I discovered this morning that the funniest thing about having short, curly hair is what it looks like in the morning. And, no, I'm not taking a picture.

I'm working on building a new webpage from scratch. Many, many moons ago I ran a commercial website -- built by me (and hubby, but mostly me) from the ground up. But it's been so long I can't remember how to use FrontPage. So, I checked out a two ton book about the subject from the library. It's an adventure. It's also cutting in to my writing time in a dramatic way. Wish I could find some really proficient kid who wouldn't charge an arm and a leg to at least get the skeleton done for me. It's coming back a little at a time, but it's slow. Ugh.

And to think that I have an idea for a novel where the heroine is a website designer. Oh well, nothing like real life experience, right?

One of my writing friends, Charity, has been taking a class and posted about annoying the facilitator. One of the things he mentioned to her was that making suggestions to a writer is very, very touchy...

Do you think writers are touchier than "normal" people (although how someone who doesn't have stories in their heads can be considered normal, I have no idea)? Are we, as a rule, more tempermental? Is it artists of all sorts that tend to be more tempermental?

To be honest, I have found Charity to be quite level-headed and calm when it comes to most situations, so was surprised to find her accused of temperment.

I know, when I ask for feedback and get my stuff shredded, I have to step back for a minute (what do you mean my baby isn't beautiful?), but when I take a breath and look again, I can see that the comments were offered without malice and with the hope that they really help make my work the best it can be. Sure, I can have a flash of "temperment" but I try to keep it in my office.

Still, I wonder how many of you out there that write (or paint or act) have a tendency to be over-emotional? Just a little informal poll...

Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Locks of Love

We did it!

DD before:

DD after:

Me before:

Me after (please ignore the wrinkles and lack of makeup):

So... DH says I look "weird" and that I've looked the same for so long, he doesn't know what to say. This means that we women shouldn't keep the same hair for twelve years... LOL...

I like it. If I can work with it, I'm keeping it.

See, I did something nice and it worked out for me, too. DD OTOH is not so thrilled, but wanted to do a good thing.


You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I'm getting my hair cut today. And not just any cut... I'm donating to Locks of Love, so it's all going, or at least that's what it feels like!

Many moons ago, Mary wrote about her son donating his hair and I'd never heard of it before. But I immediately decided that it was a good cause and started to let my hair grow out (it was about shoulder length). My hair grows s-l-o-w, so it's taken a while, but I decided that I have 10" I can give now without having to shave my head.

The coolest thing is that my DD is going to give, too. She has really, really long hair that is her pride and joy, but told me that she feels bad for the children out there who don't have any hair and that hers will grow back. Not bad for a seven year-old and I'm proud of her (and I owe Rascal Flatts for making their song and video "Skin" and helping her to understand)

I've found, though, in talking to people about this organization that it's easier for folks to throw money at something than to give up something like their hair. My SIL was going to do this, but decided two things: It was a pain to let her hair grow out, and she just didn't want to have her hair that short. So she got it trimmed and moved on.

I'm not saying that Locks of Love can't use money (though she didn't send them any, either), I'm just saying that it's interesting what people cling to. It's given me some insight into general character and I'm considering using it in a book (of course).

It is hard. I'm sick thinking about losing so much hair, but I have A LOT (my hair is ridiculously thick) and I can't give much money, so I try to give what I can. I might just let it grow out for another year or so and do it again. We'll see.

In the meantime, my hair appointment is for four o'clock today. GULP. If I remember to grab my camera, I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Because I Love Free Books....

A gambler is nothing but a man who makes his living out of hope. ~ William Bolitho

So, YAY for me... I won the September giveaway at Allie Boniface's website.

And just to spread the wealth, I thought I'd give you a listing of some writers who give away cool stuff, both freebies and contests.

Allie, of course. And she also has a fun blog.

Brenda Joyce is giving away a trip to Ireland.

Nora Roberts has two short stories on her site, plus she'll be giving away calendars and magnets around the first of the year.

The list to beat all lists of author contests is Writerspace. Geez, I could spend an hour here.

Several months ago, I won the filled bookbag from Dianna Love Snell - full of autographed books, bath bubbles and chocolate. Yum.

The best part is that I have discovered some great new authors this way. I read everything I win and, particularly with Dianna's bag, I found some new romantic suspense authors that I really enjoyed (Catherine Mann being one, and no she doesn't have a contest).

Oh... did I happen to mention that I have a giveaway on my own website? Yup... for October, I'm giving away a new copy of "The Courage To Write" by Ralph Keyes.

So, there you have it. And since it's the beginning of October, it's my time to get back over to Writerspace and enter some contests. My autographed bookshelf hasn't had any additions for a few months.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday's Second Post

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. - Thomas Alva Edison

I hadn't planned on writing anything much today -- I was a little on the discouraged side yesterday, and didn't feel like being discouraging again.


I remembered the Womans World story, the one that came so very close to being published, a story that I really liked and had started to rework so that it was deeper and more involved than a mere 1100 words would allow. I'd forgotten about it in my attempt to write a holiday short story, a story (as it turns out) that I don't love.

That's just stupid. I shouldn't be killing myself to write something I don't love. Technically, it's finished, but I don't like it the way it is. It needs a lot of work, and I'm not willing to do that just now. This way, I have a whole 'nother year to fix it.

I opened up my document on that other story, read it through and realized how much I like it. And, really, it doesn't need that much work. I have a twenty minute period of time that I can actually write now (I'd summarized it in one line for the WW story) and I can go a little deeper with the emotions that are swirling about in our heroine's body, but otherwise, I think the story is strong and the characters are interesting.

Who could ask for more?

I'm also doing more preplotting work for my NaNo story, and trying to get to know the characters without actually writing about them. I guess all I needed was an A-Team marathon (I watched THREE yesterday... man, I love that show) and a decent nights sleep to feel a little better.


I closed up my house last night. That's the first time all my windows have been closed in about four months. I hate that. If I had my way, I'd live on a screen porch. I love fresh air, and I think one of the things that bugs me most about living NH is that the cold weather lasts for a majority of the year. When you have more closed window days than open window days, you're living in the wrong part of the country.

It's going to rain all day... that makes it a good day for baking. I'm thinking I'll make some cheddar/garlic rolls and some herb bread. Then maybe some cookies and more muffins for breakfasts (they freeze nicely). That will help the daughter not get so bored and keep me busy as well. I do love to bake, and don't have many days where I can spend all day cooking.

Anyone want to come by and help eat it all?

Who I Am

If You Were Born in January You Are:

Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people's flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking andproductive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very Stubborn and money cautious.

What does your birth month reveal about you?

This is about 80% correct. Wanna try and guess which is wrong and which is right?

You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming.
People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Comforting AND overwhelming? Huh... odd...

If You Were Born in 2893...

Your Name Would Be: Galt Aki

And You Would Be: A Feared Warrior

Now this is a great way to get your pen name. I am Aki, Galt Aki... are you afraid?

And lastly, everyone should know this about themselves, don't you think?

You May Be a Bit Antisocial...

Antisocial? That may be a bit of an understatement.
You think rules are meant to be broken - and with gusto!
Having no fear, you don't even think about consequences.
But people love you anyway... you've got a boatload of charm.