Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense

Writers are just people who have a whole lot on the inside that they need to get to the outside, with pen and paper as their preferred method of transport. Same with dancers, artists, and singers - all the same urges with differing transportation. ~Graycie Harmon

Dull day yesterday. I really needed to go to the grocery store, but my Runner needs a new starter and isn't reliable enough for me to trust (DH has the part ordered and will do the work on the weekend ... it's handy having a mechanic in the house), and my DH had the bed of his truck full of stuff so I couldn't take it... so we stayed home. Milkless. Egg noodle-less. It was a tragedy.

It did give me lots of time to work, though, so that was good. I worked through some character sheets on my H/H: Zack and Sydney (which was the overwhelming favorite name). I found out that Syndey's parents are both dead, and that her mother had ovarian cancer. Syd was an only child, absorbed into Cori's family in high school. She lives in Montana now, and is a freelance writer. Zach wasn't a surprise, of course. He was the most developed (at least in my head) of Cori's brothers in "Kitchen Matches" and it's going to be fun to watch him fall. He'll fight it every step of the way.

========================




You Are Play



Compared to most people, you are very active and energetic.

You have a daring, challenging spirit. You're willing to go into something blind.



You are playful, carefree, and optimistic. You are up for trying anything.

If you dream it, you usually end up doing it. You're not one for putting your dreams on hold.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Writing and Dog Food

"People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it." - Harlan Ellison

I need to hire someone to think up clever blog titles for me. *G*

So, it's the strangest thing... I'm seeing the sequel to "Kitchen Matches" in my head, like a movie. Sometimes that happens WHILE I'm writing the scene, but this is just from my mental "what-if"ing. I guess that's good? ::scratches head::

I haven't started writing the actual story yet. I'm jotting down notes and scene ideas and names (is the heroine "Shelley" or "Sydney" ... I can't decide), and the first line that popped into my head when I first got my idea for this. I know the beginning, I know much of the middle. I know the first kiss. I know the end. This is all good, too, huh? It's just so unusual for me. I'm not sure what to do with it.

And I need a working title. I hate writing without a working title...

=====================

In dog food news, Dakota is already responding fabulously to the homemade food. Even DH noticed. She's only pooping a few times a day (instead of 8 - 10), the gas problem is gone (YAY!!), she loves the food (though I think I need to feed her more... not sure if she's begging because of the taste, or if she's begging because she's truly hungry). I fixed her a "snack" yesterday because she was so insistent about eating: plain oatmeal cooked in chicken broth with peas. She was very excited.

Today, I'll go buy a few whole chickens. It's more of a pain to debone, but I need the innards. Maybe I'll go to the natural foods store and see if they have organic chicken or beef liver. I'll compromise on the organic meat, but the innards are where all the toxins would be stored in a critter (including US), so it's more important to go organic for that.

Okay, I'll stop boring you to tears, lol.

======================




Your Name's Power is Creativity



Your name's power is that it helps you be creative.

Your name conveys both purity and skill.



People who meet you can't help but think you are charming.

You try to live your life with people you trust, surrounded by nature.



====================

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Soaking Sunday

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens

Yesterday started off overcast and cool, but around 2 pm the sun came out! Yay! DD and I tied out Dd (because she kept running off -- she's terrified of the tie out, so I hate to put her on it, but it's that or the crate because she can't be left inside unattended) and did some yard work. I raked out all of my flower gardens and DD worked on the grass.

DH and his brother and cousin came home from chopping down a tree at SILs and we then had the great Pine Tree Massacre. He hates pine trees because they are messy and they kill everything underneath them.

Today, though, it will rain. And rain. And rain. Many inches. This should get rid of what's left of the snow (YAY), but makes for a long, housebound day.

That's okay. Tomorrow is Monday... the best day of the week!

=========================

Yesterday morning, my cat would NOT let me sleep and it made me think of Simon's cat. I love Simon's cat, so had to share. I know most of you have seen it, but it's always good for a laugh.



==========================

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Making Dog Food

Food is an important part of a balanced diet. ~Fran Lebowitz

I'm sure this will get easier as time goes by, and that I won't end up spending the better part of a day on cooking Dakota's food. Today, though, I did.

It started with shopping. I went three places: Vitamin Shoppe, Petco and Sam's Club. And I came home with this:





As it turns out, I overbought by quite a bit. Hopefully the carrots and potatoes will keep until next weekend, when I'll do this all over again.

Next, we chopped and cooked.:





And cooked. And cooked. It took two hours for everything to be done. And then it had to cool. I put it in our winter refrigerator:



Finally, after another hour or two, it was time to puree and assemble.






And Dakota got a taste. She liked it... she really liked it. She followed us around for an hour afterward, hoping. She kept going back and licking her bowl. I think it was a hit.

Sadly, all that only made five days worth of food. I'm going for seven days next time. All I need to buy is meat, though. I have more than plenty of everything else.

====================

In other news, I figured out the sequel to "Kitchen Matches". I know, I know, I'm spread out all over the place in my writing, but this story suddenly hit me today while I was outside scooping poop (again). And, no, there is no poop involved. I even got the first line. And I know the heroine. And the hero -- it's Cori's eldest brother, Zack. And, it's going to be fun. And -- since I already know it's short (I'll shoot for about the same length as KM), it shouldn't take me long to write it.

We'll see.

Happy weekend!

=======================

Friday, March 27, 2009

Synopses and Home Cooking

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." - W. Somerset Maugham

I have a writing friend who just completed her first story that she plans to submit. She emailed me with a cry for help last night -- she is working on her first query and synopsis.

BLECH. YUCK. ICK.

I emailed her back with a pile of URLs telling how to write them, sent her a couple of mine (which are NOT perfect at all, but at least she's familiar with the stories and can see how the synopsis worked around the actual full length piece) and then told her that writing a query/synopsis would be the hardest thing (writing-wise) that she'd ever do.

I read back on the agent queries I sent out on "One Love for Liv" and, ugh. They are not good. Despite the feeling that I still can't write a query/synopsis to save my life, I guess I am getting a little better with practice.

In any case -- anyone out there have hints or ideas to make the torture a little easier? I'm sure my friend would appreciate it, and I KNOW I would.

==============================

Well, the dog food saga with Dakota continues. I've decided to go home made and will start this weekend. She's actually gaining weight on the Evo (which shocked me -- she's always been so skinny!) despite feeding her less and her fur feels coarse. Also, for some reason that food makes me feel a little out of control.

I found a couple fabulous books that really talk about keeping your pet healthy from the inside out and feeding them right (as well as making certain the meals are balanced). I thought I'd share in case anyone else might be interested.

The first is called "The Whole Pet Diet" and is for cats and dogs. What I liked about this book is that the author addresses all parts of an animals life and actually sets up an eight week schedule to ease you into learning a holistic approach to caring for your pet. This person also started a company -- Halo Pets -- that sells the same foods she gives recipes for in the book (in case you don't want to make them yourself). Additionally, she has kibble for those times when making food is difficult or impractical (for instance, folks who have cats and go away for the weekend will usually just leave food down -- can't do that with homemade as it will spoil). What I really appreciate about this author is this: she doesn't have some secret supplement you have to buy in order to use his book. She actually gives you the recipes. BUT, you can also buy them if it's easier. Even if you don't want to feed home made food to your critters, you might give this book a read.

The second book is a cookbook, but also contains a nutrition guide to assist you in making absolutely sure your pet's meals are balanced. It is "Better Food for Dogs", and I'll be basing most of my meals for Dakota from this. I'm also going to start making my own wet food for the cat (she takes glucosomine daily that I mix in wet food). The cat is on organic food, so I worry less about her kibble. I can afford it for her as she only eats 1/3 c of food a day.

So, the journey begins this weekend. Cuz, yanno, I didn't already have enough to do.

======================




You Are The Brain



You're the type of person who's always on, always churning.

You are alert and quick to react. You like to stay busy.



You are responsible but also demanding. You take up a lot of energy.

You are someone of deep mystery. There's a lot below the surface that's hard to figure out.



Okay... Yeah...

===================

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Forgot: New Contest!!

I completely spaced it... I did finally get a new contest up. You have ALL KINDS of choices!!

Go to my contest page to see what books I'm giving away this month.

=======================

The Aftermath...

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?" ~William A. Ward

First off... thanks to everyone for your comments from Tuesday. The hugs were awesome and appreciated!

Charity... I have high hopes as to what you're sending (I hope, I hope).

Darcy (who is not Charity, no matter what Blogger thinks!): Sorry I stressed you out!

Groovy: I still think the ER response was a bit of overkill (we ended up with four engines, 3 Fire SUVs and 4 cop cars from two towns). We're a little town and I honestly think there really isn't that much excitement going on, so when something happens, it's a bit like a party.

To the rest of you: MWAH! I'm WAY behind on my blog reading... but I'll get back to it soon.

Here's a little bit of what's been going on.

First off, when making cookies as a gift -- do NOT use a new, untried recipe. I did, and ended up with a terrible mess. I ended up going to the store bakery and buying some because I was so demoralized.

Second, it's amazing at the difference between contractors. We've been getting estimates for repair the past two days and WOW! From a guy who didn't even look at stuff, just wrote it up for what "probably" needed doing, to a guy who took an hour peering up the chimney, climbing around on the roof, and answering the gazillion questions my husband peppered him with.

Third, dogs like to eat creosote. Blech. The fireman had dumped the contents of the wood stove and all the gunk that had fallen out of the chimney onto a pile of snow in the lawn. Dakota decided that it was all for her to play in. So, yesterday, I shoveled it all up and dumped it WAY back in the woods in a pile of branches. Hopefully, no other critters get into it. My thought is that wild animals are too busy surviving to play in the mess. And, one good rainstorm, and it'll be gone.

Fourth, it's ABSOLUTELY AMAZING how quickly a chimney catches on fire. In only a few seconds, the entire thing was aflame. WOW. But we apparently have one of the best built chimneys the fire department (and the contractors) have ever seen, and had it not been so well built, the house probably would have gone up. Evidently, the original contractor not only did everything within code, but actually went a few steps further to make it even more safe. We're actually trying to find out who it was and thank him as well. People so seldom get thanked for doing their jobs (humans are more likely to complain than to thank, IMHO), so we want to do what we can.

========================




You Are an Acai Berry



You are an intense, fascinating person with a very strong personality.

You don't shy away from controversy, and you're incredibly independent.



You are cultured, knowledgeable, and worldly. You have a deep understanding of things.

You are lively and healthy. You believe your body is a temple, and you treat it as such.



Cultured? No... and I do have the occasional french fry, but try to eat well. Otherwise, okay, maybe.

================================

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What, When, Where, Why, How with Carol McPhee

Welcome to my latest victim... er... guest -- Carol McPhee!

What is your favorite song?

My favourite song would have to be anything sung by Kenny Rogers. I used this to my advantage when I wrote A Spirited Liaison. The novel tells the story of a romance novelist who marches to the beat of her own drummer. In her search to learn about her mother's past, Erin Parker researches the family history and learns of the existance of a privateer ancestor named Captain Ben Murphy... a Kenny Rogers lookalike. His interfering presence plays havoc with Erin's life through his encouragement of a romance with CEO Lance Dalton, who is on her don't want to know list.

When did you have your first story or book published?

Something About That Lady was my first book published, through Wings ePress in 2004. A couple of years later, I retrieved the rights and it was released through Champagne Books in 2008. By having it contracted again I was able to correct something that bothered me and eliminate the overabundance of adjectives.

My first story written was None So Blind, which became the fifth of my novels to be published. Rescued and repelled by a less than heaven "scent" hero, blind Kate McTavish rallies and responds to her tragic situation with strength and courage she didn’t know she possessed.

Where do you do your best writing?

I do my best writing wherever I am at 4a.m. That can be in my computer room at home, in a motel, or in a tent.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

The chicken crossed the road to meet the hot chick he saw strutting on the other side. Her eye contact with him suggested curiosity about his nature and offered an alure he couldn't refuse. LOL.

How many days a week do you work?

I work everyday on something involved with my writing whether it is answering e-mails, promoting my work, or critiquing writers who in turn critique my work-in-progress. Above all, I write something fresh each day, no matter how short, to keep me in tune with my characters.

My latest work, A Structured Affair, is set for a February 2009 release from Champagne Books. Due to a badgering stream of biased newspaper articles, Stephen Morgan is convicted by the court of public opinion for his wife’s murder. Psychologist Dr. Catherine Malloy intends to do all she can to save his young daughter from another parental loss. In so doing, she discovers her attraction to the father is the real challenge she must overcome.

Carol lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with Karl, her husband of over forty-five years. With their four children grown and flown, there is time to enjoy researching locations that will give authenticity to her stories. As soon as she finishes one story, another is burning in the back of her mind, its characters prodding her to let them out.

Please visit Carol’s website

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times...

One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind. ~Malayan Proverb

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls. ~David Thomas


You ever have one of those days that really just sucks? Where nothing goes right and you keep thinking: it can't get any worse?

I'm here to to tell you that it can. OTOH, if you look closely enough, you can often find the good inside.

Yesterday was a really awful day. But my family and I were truly blessed.

Those of you on Facebook already know what the worst part was. Here's the story behind it.

Sunday, we'd let the fire go out. We were pretty much out of wood to burn -- left with only pieces that were too big to fit and needed splitting. DH didn't want to do that, and rumor has it that it IS spring, so we figured we'd just heat with oil from now on.

Monday morning was the coldest morning we've had in I don't know how long. Frigid temps, extremely high winds... brrr... DD asked if I would PLEASE build a fire, because she was cold (we get spoiled--the stove keeps it in the mid-to-high 70s during the winter, and I won't run the oil heat that warm). So... I went out, chopped wood and built a fire. Around lunch time, after eating, we ran errands and were gone for about two hours. And, yes, we left the stove burning.

We got home, she went upstairs to do school, I called my mom (who ended with, "I hope things get better." in a moment of irony) and then worked for a bit. At 4:00, the fire had burned down, so I loaded up the stove with wood, and then sat on the floor in front of it with Dakota. A moment later I heard a crackling sound, a "whoosh!!" and then roaring in my chimney. Outside, there was so much smoke, I couldn't even see my lawn. I yelled at DD to grab the dog and get outside. Next thing I knew, my neighbor is beating on my door, his phone in hand.

"Your chimney is on fire! I've already called the fire department."

Thank God (and truthfully, God was hanging out with my family yesterday... just saying) he did. I knew something was wrong, but my brain hadn't put all the pieces together yet. I would probably have called my DH first.

"Honey, there's a roaring in the chimney and smoke pouring out. Should I worry?"

I don't panic under pressure. Can you tell?

And, actually, I did call DH to tell him that we had a chimney fire.

"Hi. Hey, the chimney's on fire. But don't worry, the fire dept's on their way."

Next thing I knew, my SIL is tearing down the road in her truck. She jumps out, brandishing two home fire extinguishers.

"DH called and said for me to grab them and head over. Do you know how to use them?"

I opted to wait for the fire dept, though I did dump two pitchers of water over the fire in the stove, and shut it down. Then I threw my laptop and purse into the truck, just in case. I have my priorities.

A fire SUV showed up and the guy came inside to assess the damage. Behind him were two fire engines and two cop cars (why cop cars? I'm still stymied). Then another fire engine and another SUV and a third cop car.

I let them do their thing and stood outside watching flames shooting out of my chimney. And, yes, I wanted to take pictures. But my camera was dead. Sorry. It was pretty spectacular.

Dd's friend, Bugsy's, mom came running down the road. She saw me, grabbed me and squeezed.

"I saw the engines, looked outside and saw smoke pouring off your roof!"

And, no, the house wasn't on fire, but the wind was whipping all the smoke out of the chimney, and it did look like it was on fire.

She took DD and Dd home with her. DD was shaking and her teeth were chattering and she was a wreck. Never to let a homeschooling moment pass, I said:

"That's from the adrenaline. Remember in science when they talked about it and said it helped us be strong in dangerous situations -- fight or flight?"

Yep, that's really what I did.

In any case, after 90 mins or so, they had the fire under control. Thankfully, they didn't have to shoot water down the chimney. They dropped some kind of "bomb" down a few times (stunk to high heaven), and used retardant, which they actually shot up from the bottom.

The took off our mantle and cut a hole in the wall to check if everything was out. They have these nifty thermal cameras to check for hot spots in the wall, but we were clear. They had closed all the doors in the house (bless them!!) so only the downstairs and the stairs were a mess from the powder and ash.

Yes, we had MASSIVE creosote buildup. Ironically, the fire chief thinks it's because of the work we had done on our chimney this year. We had it cleaned and capped, and he said the cap was far too short and inhibited the draft. We've never had a creosote problem before.

Clean up was fun. Ha. But the firemen were unbelievably considerate. They took my pictures off the wall and moved them, and the covered what the could with tarps. It could have been far worse.

Well... actually, had it happened when I was out on errands, it could have burned the house down.

So see... blessed. Truly. Everything just fell into place. Me being home. My neighbor driving by. The fire dept being so close (and available). The firemen being so thoughtful. The only structural damage was to the chimney itself (and a little to the wall, but that's easy to fix.

And, hey -- looks like DH will finally get that log mantle he's been wanting!!

A picture of the aftermath (when I was able to charge my camera) -- do you see? They didn't even break my frog!! I love the firemen. I am baking cookies today and bringing them by. Awesome guys.



And that was my day. How was yours?

=============================

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Morning Meme and More

All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than animals that know nothing. ~ Maurice Maeterlinck



1. If a new medicine were developed that would cure cancer but caused a fatal reaction in one percent of those who took it, would you want it to be released to the public? Why or why not? Do you think we’re close to curing cancer? Have you ever lost someone to cancer? If so, please write a short tribute to that person.

Let's see... speaking as a person who lost her father to cancer, and whose mother is a cancer survivor... Yes. I would say release the cure. So many cancers are terminal (Dad had lung cancer, and was given NO chance at survival. Mom had breast cancer, and had surgery but no chemo and came through like a champ. Does Bailey count? She had bone cancer.) and I really think people should be given a choice of treatments. For someone like Dad, who was terminal anyway, what would he have lost by taking a drug that might kill him?

Are we close to curing cancer? I doubt it. I'd like to think so, but honestly, I don't think treatments have changed all that much in the last 20 - 30 years. We don't understand the disease and really don't even know what causes it (except in the case of lung cancer... and even then, some folks who have never smoked and weren't exposed to much second-hand smoke, will get it). Our bodies are funny things. Dr. Marianne thinks a lot of it has to do with chemicals that we pump into our bodies... but that's just me.

A short tribute to someone... gah. I can't -- it tears me up. Dad has been gone for seventeen years and there are times I can't stand how much I miss him. I wish he was here to see his granddaughter (who keeps a picture of him on her dresser). I wish he'd been around to give me away at my wedding and dance with me after I was married. Most of all, though, I wish I'd spent more time with him when he was alive. I was pretty young then (he died when I was in my very early 20s) and thought there was always tomorrow. There isn't. His death taught me a very hard lesson: there's not always time to tell people you love them, or give them a hug, or laugh with them. I think this is why it's so hard for me to be far away from my mom now... what if today is the last day I have with her, and I'm not with her? What if today I opt to NOT call her, and this is the last day I'd have that chance? Life is never quite long enough.

And, now I'm crying anyway. Dang it.


2. You discover your wonderful one-year-old child is, because of a mix-up at the hospital, not yours. Would you want to exchange the child to try to correct the mistake? Why or why not?

It would tear my heart out, but yeah I'd exchange the child. I'd hope that both families could keep in touch, but even if we didn't the fact remains -- the correct child should go to the correct family, and better at one y.o. than at five or ten.

3. Do you think that the world will be a better or a worse place 100 years from now? Explain your answer, please.

If the world is around 100 years from now? I have no idea. I don't believe that, overall, the world is a better place NOW than it was 100 years ago. Medical advances aside, we are just as cruel and heartless as we were then (if not more so), and now we have the power to hurt even more people. I'm a firm believe that inanimate things tend to be amplifiers (my DH will say things like "money is evil" -- I disagree. I think money makes you more of whatever you are: if you're a generous person, you'll become more generous. If you're a arrogant, controlling person you'll become more arrogant and controlling... because money gives you the freedom to be "more".), so advances like the internet have given people the chance to be both better and worse.

I'm not a Pollyanna. I'm more Chicken Little. Sorry.

4. How many pictures do you have on your living room walls? And what are they? (paintings, photographs, sketches, abstract, family, etc). Feel like taking us on a tour of your home? If so, post your video or photos!

Downstairs I have eleven pictures, and it's hard to choose which room is the "living room" honestly. We'll exclude the three in the dining room, leaving eight. Four are nicely framed oil paintings -- two autumn country scenes and two winter country scenes.

Of the four remaining: one is an landscape (woodsy) oil painting done by my MIL and given to DH and I on our fifth anniversary, one is a picture of my mom and her sisters when then were very small, one is a southwestern picture drawn by my SIL and one is a "Home Sweet Home" cross stitch done by me.

==========================

So, yesterday began as a lovely, sunny, and warm (for here) day. I walked the dog early... before DD and DH woke, and was cool but not cold. I couldn't wait for it to warm up more so I could work outside.

I took Dakota and DD for a nice long walk around 10:30 and it started getting cold. Windy. Overcast.

We got home, had lunch and then -- while we were doing dishes -- it STARTED SNOWING. Big, fat, fluffy flakes. It only lasted about 30 mins, and the ground is thawing, so it didn't stick but GAH. And after the storm, the frigid winds really kicked up, so no working outside yesterday, dang it.

I'm so ready for warm weather. We're hoping official ice out will be mid-April. I always guess April 24th (DD's birthday). Last year it was April 23rd. So close... but DH is getting really, really antsy.

Next weekend, he'll be taking down more trees. Our new neighbor has given us permission to cut down all the pines trees between our properties. DH hates pine trees with an all consuming passion, so there will be a bloody massacre in six days.

==========================



You Were an Active Kid



When you were a kid, you were happy as long you didn't have to sit still.

You were very hyper, and it was hard for you to sit through class or finish your homework.



It's likely that you were a natural athlete and a natural entertainer. You loved to play outside with your friends.

You were an outgoing, popular kid. Put you in a sports game or a school play, and you really shined.



Hmmm... yes and no. I am NOT hyper, exactly. Active, yes. I was an athlete (basketball, volleyball and--briefly--cross country track), and I was in drama (even got "best actress" in my senior year, lol). And, though I wasn't in the popular clique, I really did know lots of people and pretty much got along with everyone from the cheerleaders to the geeks.

===============================

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sleeping and the CVoD

I'm not asleep... but that doesn't mean I'm awake. ~Author Unknown

Sundays are the only day I can actually sleep in. It's the only day during the week I don't upload new pages on the LASR/WC site. As a result, I tend to force myself to stay in a reclining position as long as I can.

This morning I finally got up around 6:15 a.m. -- and I am paying for it. I have a headache, I'm groggy, and I really just don't feel right. I need to remind myself to NOT sleep in any more. Blech.

=========================

UPDATE: The Cunning Voles of Doom

Two nights ago, DH saw a vole running down our front walkway and diving under the steps. This is SO bad for a number a reasons. 1. This means they ARE living out front -- and the gardens on either side of the steps are full of nummies for them (LOTS of bulbs, seedum, etc.) 2. DH threw all the little bits of concrete (from the steps he destroyed last year in the great "replace the door" fiasco) underneath the new steps, so there is absolutely no possible way, short of pulling out all the bits, to find the vole hole. This means I can't use the carbon monoxide bomb (or even poison... though that is an absolute last resort that I'm still not sure I'm going to resort to -- I'm giving serious thought to digging up my gardens and planting grass). So, I'm going to have to try live trapping the buggers, and we know how well THAT worked last year.

**sigh**

How can something so small be such an incredible nuisance?

========================

Daisy Dexter Dobbs has some great advice for aspiring authors. Even published authors can get a nice kick in the pants from it. I highly recommend reading it (I will add a quick disclaimer: she writes erotic romance, so her covers are a big suggestive--though not any more than most romance covers nowadays):

An Addiction that Doesn’t Cause Liver Failure: Advice for Aspiring Writers

=========================




You Are Riding Boots



You are very sophisticated. You have refined tastes, and you don't fall for cheesy trends.

You are naturally chic and stylish. You can pull together a great look in no time flat.



You don't need a lot of flash or bling in your life. You prefer the glamour of the understated.

You treasure wisdom. You are attracted to ideas and things that have stood the test of time.



Surprisingly, that's mostly correct (sans the "You are sophisticated" part)...

=================

Saturday, March 21, 2009

SPRING!!!

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn. ~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!" ~Robin Williams


I'm so glad winter is over, one quote wasn't enough!!

So... spring is here and it's time for winter cleanup. It was actually quite cool yesterday, but today is supposed to be 50 and sunny! I did a LOT of pooper scooping again yesterday (how does one smallish dog make so much poop?), I rejoiced that my former neighbor and his two chows were gone as I cleaned up the area of lawn nearest his house (for the last time!!! Every pile I scooped, I said, "Never again." -- it's the little things that bring us joy).

I raked the grass -- it's nearly as smooth as glass from the weight of the snow. It looks much happier now and ready to green up.

All my crocus are coming up yellow which is a bummer. I don't love yellow flowers much anyway, AND I bought a bag of "mixed". Only about 10 have bloomed so far, so maybe I'll get some pink and purple ones soon?

I lost the tops of several rhododendrons, but the plants themselves are still alive, so they'll come back (though they probably won't bloom this year, darn it -- since they create the buds for spring in the previous fall).

And -- WOW!!!! -- branches are everywhere!! Birch trees (and pines, but we don't have any on our property. My DH has a personal vendetta against pine trees) were especially hard hit in the ice storm. We lost a couple out back completely, and the ones who lived look like spears with little nubs sticking out. Will be interesting to see how they do.

DH proved it was spring by whipping out the chainsaw. Oh, yes he did! And, down came those broken birch trees. Vroom, vroom... I swear he grunts like Tim "the Toolman" Taylor when he's out with his "toys".

I hear rumors that the bears are waking up as well, which is a little early for them. I don't usually start bringing in my feeders at night until the end of April, but am considering doing it now.

The chipmunks are awake and tormenting Dakota, we somehow picked up one big, fat gray squirrel at the feeders (we usually only have red squirrels), the birds are singing up the sun in the morning (I hear my cardinal pair even now -- I wish they would visit in the sunlight, and not just at dawn and dusk), I'm keeping an eye on the tree where a bird make her nest last year. I sure hope she does it again!

And, in no time at all (end of May), Pillar Place will once again open for business (and I can take out that silly Swallowtail Pupa that's been in my basement since AUGUST and put it outside to hatch). Ahhh... the circle of life. We won't discuss the voles... grr...

How did you celebrate spring?

======================



You Are Blooming Flowers



You are an optimistic person by nature. In even the darkest times, you are hopeful about the future.

You feel truly blessed in life and can sometimes be overwhelmed with emotions.



You have an artist's eye. You are always looking for beauty in the mundane.

You have a good sense of aesthetics, especially when it comes to shapes and color.



Well... not really. But the picture is pretty!!

=============================

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Won the Battle, but Lost the War

War does not determine who is right - only who is left. ~ Bertrand Russell

THEY'RE B-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-C-K.....

Who?

The Cunning Voles of Doom.

Yep, that's right. They weren't gone, they just relocated. To the other side of my house...

So, while I was rejoicing that my old "vole garden" was coming up -- no damage to the bulbs and plants, YAY -- they were happily chomping on everything under the sun...er, snow... over on the opposite side.

Yesterday, the snow finally melted significantly on that side of the house. Today, I went to pooper scoop and saw this:



What? You don't see the significance? What about this?



Yep... VOLE TRAILS.

And, if you look closely, you'll see that they went into this garden:



The garden where I planted LOTS of new bulbs in the fall... none of which have come up. Vole Salad? Mostly likely.

It also got into a side garden and ate the roots off ALL my ground cover that was finally beginning to cascade over the landscaping bricks. It's still cascading, but it's DEAD. *&^%$ Voles.

This. Is. War.

=========================




Your Fashion Style is Classic



You like what's stood the test of time...

Simple, well styled clothes that don't scream trendy

You stay updated and modern, but your clothes stay in style for a while

You wouldn't be caught in animal prints, fake fur, or super bright colors



Yep... that's about right -- if jeans and T-shirts are classic.

=====================

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pet Peeve #2

The world may be full of fourth-rate writers, but it's also full of fourth-rate readers. - Stan Barstow

Okay... next reading/writing pet peeve: POV breaks, or "head-hopping".

People always throw La Nora out when this comes up, so we'll just get her out of the way right now: love her or hate her, Nora Roberts IS who she is, and can write whatever she wants. Until other authors are as big as Nora, they should (IMHO) play by the POV rule.

I lurked on a group with many editors discussing this very issue once. It was about 50/50 as to whether they'd let authors head hop or not. And, things were typically ambiguous or random, stuff like, "If the POV swaps are smooth, it's okay." or "If it only happens once in a scene, it's okay." Of course, there were some who put their foot down and said: NO HEAD-HOPPING. They were my heroes.

Fact is, IMHO again, POV switches are never smooth. I always notice them. Some bug me less than others, but they don't slip under my POV purist radar.

Additionally, I think that head-hopping is just lazy on the author's part. Sometimes, it's HARD to get something across when you only stay in one character's head in a scene. It's also the reason that choosing your POV character is so important, and why when I'm struggling with a scene, I'll sometimes try to write it from the other character's POV to see if it works better.

And, no matter the argument, I firmly believe that people who DON'T care about POV switches also won't care if an author is a POV purist. BUT -- and this is important!! -- people like me who don't particularly like head-hopping? They're NOT going to like your work if you jump around POVs willy-nilly. They may have bought your work once, but they won't again. What's more, you won't get positive word-of-mouth from them.

I don't know about you, but I prefer to annoy the fewest number of people possible with my writing. I know not everyone will like what I do, but I can make an effort not to push hot buttons that I can avoid.

What do YOU think?

=======================

I have FOUR crocus that should bloom today -- and if the rain holds off this morning, I'll post pictures. Those of you down south are probably snickering at my excitement. After all, YOUR crocus bloomed two months ago. You're probably planting your veggie gardens.

=======================

Gratuitous pet picture -- because Breeann is seldom so undignified. She's only started doing this lately:



I think Dakota is rubbing off on her:



=========================

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What, Where, When, Why and How with Alisha Rai

Welcome today to erotic romance author Alisha Rai (who has a startlingly familar--yet different--cover, but we won't talk about that...*G*):

What do you do to unwind?

READ. Seriously, can any author answer differently? I love to read. Can't keep myself from it. I just love e-books, since it makes reading so much easier and more accessible. I don't have to go to the library or bookstore, just click, click, nom, nom.

Little known fact: I'm quite the knitter. It's my ultimate relaxing activity, since I can't stand to watch TV or movies with my hands idle. I started knitting when I was eleven, and since then, I've given away a countless number of scarves, throws, cushion covers, and sweaters to people who may or may not have actually wanted them. I'd totally lose a dance-off, but knit-off? Bring it.

When do you submit your writing the very first time?

Two years ago, I vowed to turn my writing into more than just a hobby. I joined a critique group and a year ago, I submitted a few stories to a couple of open calls from e-pubs. Got rejected. I took some time, regrouped, identified a few things I had done wrong, and started writing Glutton for Pleasure.

The hardest part about writing is actually finishing the story. I had a ton of roadblocks with Glutton. Business worries, family sickness, and then, a truly catastrophic experience: I left my laptop open at my mother's house and walked away. When I came back, my novel was open on the screen.

Do you have any idea how weird it is to have parents who come from a sexually conservative culture and know that your mom has read a menage story that you are in the process of writing? You can call me juvenile, I don't care. We so do not have that mother-daughter relationship where we can talk about sex, let alone kinky stuff. I think once we may have had a conversation about kissing, and we both just about died from awkwardness. The trauma of knowing that her eyes had touched this story could have killed me right there, but after a couple of weeks of avoiding my characters, I managed to get back to work and finish it.

After a great deal of revising and self-doubt, I submitted to Samhain. I didn't think I would get a response for a few months, since I submitted to the slush pile, no publishing credits to my name. I underestimated my editor--two weeks later, I had a request for a full. The next week, I had a contract in my hands. I was beyond thrilled. Happy dance time.

Where did you attend high school?

Ninth Grade - Fargo, ND
Tenth Grade and Twelfth Grade - Buffalo, NY
Eleventh Grade - Sarasota, FL
Yeah, my family moved around a lot :). I've lived in about seventeen states and three countries. Imagine how complicated my college apps were.

Why do dogs turn around twice before the lie down?

To make sure their tails are still attached. Don't you grope your butt before you sit down? Maybe it's just me.

How many times do you have chocolate in any form during the week?

Oh, wow. I love chocolate like a fat kid loves...chocolate. Plus, I'm a florist, so when I'm at work, chocolate is dangerously accessible. Since I have a body type that is predisposed to, ahem, curviness, I try to be good and not eat more than one serving at a time. Note the key word: try. Doesn't mean I always succeed.
When I was in England, I just about lived on those super sweet Cadbury bars. If American chocolate tasted like that, all bets would be off. Oh British people, how I envy you.

Alisha Rai has been enthralled with romance novels since she smuggled her first tattered Harlequin home from the library at the age of thirteen. A mild-mannered florist by day, she pens sexy, emotional contemporaries and paranormals by night.

After a lifetime spent bouncing around the States, she is content to call sunny South Florida home for now. When she’s not reading or working, Alisha loves to hang out with her close-knit family. She happily lives in a chaotic house filled with clutter, laughter, good food, boisterous kids, and very loud relatives.

Alisha loves to hear from her readers! You can e-mail her at alishawrites@gmail.com or visit her on the web at
http://www.alisharai.com .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pet Peeves

"Start early and work hard. A writer's apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he's almost ready to begin. That takes a while." - David Eddings

I was editing a first draft for a friend the past few days, and was reminded of some pet peeves I have. I also just read a comment on another blog and auto-edited it in my head for the same reason.

One of my biggest pet peeves? Repeated words. Drives me wonky. And once I've noticed a particular word being used several times, at that point I'll see it EVERY SINGLE TIME it's used, even if it's pages and pages since the last time. It's especially bad when it's a pretty unusual word. If you describe your heroine as "effervescent", you can't keep saying that! Or, if you always add a particular adjective to anything: the brown couch. They sat on the brown couch. Walked around the brown couch. ARGH! I know it's brown, don't beat me over the head with it.

IMHO, it's particularly difficult not to repeat words in any sort of a clinch. I mean, if a H/H are kissing, only a few body parts are being used. And if you don't want to just say, "They kissed." (and who does?), it's hard to not use the words "lips" or "mouth" over and over.

The fact is, though, as a writer it's your job to use words skillfully. And, I like the challenge of it. I repeat words in my first drafts, too. You just need to get the scenes down. But, when I go back to fix the mess, they need to get edited out. And the challenge becomes: How can I rewrite the sentence, how can I turn the words around, or whatever to make this a great sentence that not only makes sense but doesn't beat the reader over the head.

Not always an easy task.

Thursday: POV pet peeve. (Are you bored yet?)

What about YOU? What are some writing pet peeves you have when you're reading something? Or, for the writers, what is a bad habit you know you have, but can't seem to break (at least in the first draft)?

==========================

It was sunny but cold yesterday. Not much snow melted (darn it), but there is rain forecast for tonight and Thursday. Provided it is really RAIN, the snow will melt significantly and usher in Mud Season. The joys of LOTS of water on still mostly frozen ground. Blech.

==========================




You Are Mayonnaise



You tend to be a very quiet, introverted person.

You're happy to sit back and let stronger personalities shine.

You value loyalty and harmony. You try to bring people together.



Your taste in food leans toward simple comfort foods.

You love holiday meals as well as old school favorites like mac and cheese.

You get along with mustard and ketchup personalities. You have an unlikely alliance with hot sauce personalities.



The first part? Not at all... but the second is pretty close!

==========================

Monday, March 16, 2009

And the Winner Is....

My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather. ~Loire Hartwould

I ran all last months comments through Random.org and the winner of this month's contest is: LYNN REYNOLDS!!!

Lynn, email me at authormariannearkins AT gmail DOT com and tell me which prize you'd like to win from this page here.

Thanks to everyone for commenting... a new contest will start later today, when I've had a chance to peruse recently read stories and decide which one I want to share with someone.

========================

This weekend was absolutely lovely. Warm! Okay, warm for NH -- in the 40s. Sunny! The snow is melting like crazy -- almost my entire front lawn is exposed. Of course, we get brutal, full sun all day long there. My crocus are coming up like CRAZY. I'd forgotten how many bulbs I planted last fall -- I hope they all bloom at the same time. It'll be amazing. There must be 150 little plants all over the place.

Even better? The birds are beginning to sing up the sun. I LOVE that! It's such a happy way to start the day -- just as the sun begins to lighten the sky, the air fills with song. Yep... spring and summer are the best times of year.

I took LONG walks both days. One was 90 mins, the other an hour and my legs HURT today. I am so out of shape. It's so easy to turn into a blob in the winter. There's something about sunshine that begs you to go outside and DO something. Snow and clouds? Not so much.

I've finally talked DH into getting a treadmill for all of us (including Dakota!), but now I have to do my research and get the best bang for the buck. I'm looking for something with a wide enough track I'm not going to fall off with a misstep, something that inclines safely and will take a 200+ lb man running on it. I'd prefer something that folded, but that's optional. And I don't want something that's going to break down after a year. Anyone out there have any suggestions? I could use your help.

==========================

I was going to do a test I found on a quiz site -- but I had some reservations as to its accuracy. The title? TEST HOW HIGH YOU'RE IQ IS.

So instead I give you:




You Are Fairly Skeptical



You're not the type of person who will fall for anything...

But you do keep your mind open to all sorts of possibilities.

You figure that anything could be true. After all, the world is a strange place.

However, you're going to need some convincing before you can believe in aliens or reincarnation!



Yep.. that's about right.

========================

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about dog food....

... but were afraid to ask!

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~Gilda Radner

Do you ever notice that when you're focused on something, it's all you want to talk about? As though nothing else in the world exists for ANYONE except that thing?

That's me and dog food. So be prepared... I'm talking about it again, and hopefully I'll have it out of my system now.

I've been researching it for so many days, and reading books (two I can recommend: Food Pets Die For and Protect Your Pet -- check them out from your library and prepare to have your eyes opened), surfing the 'net. I even joined a Yahoo group on raw feeding, as I was considering that as an option for Dakota.

Yesterday, I decided to give it one more chance. I went to the food store, list in hand (I want: all these things ... I do NOT want: all these things) and started attacking the bags of food. I'd already narrowed my choices down to a few brands based on http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/ , but wanted to really read more.

The thing is: I'm VERY tempted by a raw food diet for Dakota. I think both humans and pets can benefit from one .... but I have to admit to being squeamish about feeding her raw chicken and meat. Fact is, if I could afford organic, I'd be all over it. But conventionally raised animals are unbelievably unhealthy and bad to eat, even cooked, so the thought of giving her an antibiotic laden, salmonella (or ecoli) carrying, growth hormone bringing RAW piece of meat was a deal breaker.

(As an aside... the reason I seldom eat meat isn't because I'm a card-carrying vegetarian. I LOVE meat. I do... but between the unbelievable cruelty of the conventional farming business and the chemicals they pump into the critters, I just prefer not to eat it unless it's organic. Now... moving on...)

So, I finally opted to buy a bag of EVO Brand beef. They consider themselves an alternative to a raw food diet -- the food is "gently cooked" at lower temps (which attracted me), they use human grade ingredients (so... no rendered companion pets or road kill... yes, really), and they are grain free (which was top of my list of "wants"). Additionally, the beef flavor contains no chicken fat, which can contribute to "bloat" in dogs -- and Dakota's breed is particularly susceptible to bloat.

Because it IS grain free, I feed her significantly less (almost HALF what she's eating now), so although on the face of it, the food seems expensive ($2.45/lb), usagewise, it's actually cheaper than what I currently use.

Also, I have every intention of supplementing her diet with healthy table scraps (all the evidence I've read indicates that feeding your dog only one thing -- their kibble, for instance -- isn't healthy) or mix her up a bit of homemade dog food now and then.

Assuming her tummy likes Evo.

==========================




You Are a Bay



You are a blissful, peaceful person. Some might call you spiritual.

You are easy-going and tranquil. You take solace in life's sweet moments.



You are sentimental and open-hearted. You love many people, places, and things.

You try to live an enlightened life. You are benevolent, noble, and intuitive.



Wait... wait... ME blissful and peaceful? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.........

=======================

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring has started ... uh... Springing

If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom. ~Audra Foveo

The snow is melting from my yard... I know not to get too excited, because we've been known to get some of our worst storms in March and April... but... but... I SEE GREEN GROWING THINGS.

My crocus are going great guns as are other bulbs that I don't know what they are (until they bloom). The good news is that my "vole" garden didn't sprout any voles this year. All the bulbs I planted are coming up!!

Today is supposed to be quite nice: sunny and in the 40s (and yes, that's warm -- you people with 70 degree weather can just hush and let me live in my bubble). So, I'll be outside doing what I do in the spring: Scooping poop.

Ahhh... the romantic life.

==============================

Speaking of poop (ha!), Dakota is beginning to not tolerate her food. She's finally on the Nutro 100% and is showing signs that it doesn't agree with her. I flat out refuse to feed her the stuff from the vet forever (corn meal, chicken by-product meal and cellulose???? PLEASE), so I think I'm going to give making her dog food a try. I did it for Bailey for six months or so. It's kind of a pain, but if it doesn't give her gas and the runs, it's worth it.

So, now I just need to find out where I can buy bone meal...or maybe I'll just use calcium carbonate...

Incidentally, if you're interested in finding out more about YOUR dog food, check out the website Dog Food Analysis. They review dog foods, and are unbiased (by brand, but not about quality), and will tell you exactly WHAT is in your food and WHY it's good or bad, and then give a rating from 0 - 6 as to whether it's worth feeding to your pet.

The diet from the vet is rated "ZERO" and the reason why is here.

===============================

I started reading a new book this week and it's great so far!! Jill Shalvis, where have you been all my life? I've seen your name, I just haven't picked up any of your books, and that was obviously a mistake on my part.

Any of you read Jill Shalvis? Can you recommend books by her?

================================



You Are Dare



You are outrageous, adventurous, and wild. You live to have fun.
You are all about taking risks and pushing limits. You love the rush of doing something forbidden.

Like most daring people, you are highly intelligent and creative. That's why you get bored so easily.
You need a lot of stimulation and novelty in your life. You aren't satisfied with the mundane.



Hmmm... yes and no....

========================

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.” - Francis Bacon

Does it seem like we're having a lot of these this year? Haven't we already had two (and only three months into 2009!). Turns out we're going to have THREE of them this year, which appears to be pretty unusual.

According to Wikipedia: Friday the 13th is the thirteenth day in a month that falls on Friday, which superstition holds that it is a day of good or bad luck. In the Gregorian calendar, this day occurs at least once a year.

So, there's no getting away from them, is there?

Are you afraid of Friday the 13th (the day, not the movie)?

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia,[1][2] a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή) (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς) (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía (φοβία) (meaning fear). This is a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a simple phobia (fear) of the number thirteen, and is also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia. The term triskaidekaphobia was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.

Evidentally, there are many folks with this phobia! Who knew?

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.

Want to know more? Try How Stuff Works (they have articles on Murphy's Law, too).

============================

So, are you superstitious? I have to admit, I tend to hedge my bets. I don't walk under ladders, and I've been known to toss salt over my shoulder. But, for the most part I don't really believe in them.

You?

============================




You Are a Carrot Cake Cupcake



You are a complex person. You have many interesting layers to your personality, though others might not know it.
You are drawn to a cross section of people. You friends play different roles in your life.

You are like a cupcake because you are are deceptively simple. There's actually a lot to you!
There are many ingredients in your life, and you only want them in proper amounts. Being you is a delicate art.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Anyone Up For A Free Book?

Of COURSE you are and I can't believe I nearly forgot to say something about this!!!

Kimber Chin -- whose book I WAS going to give away this month in my contest has beat me to the punch!

Her book Invisible is being offered up as a free download from her publisher Champagne Books to celebrate eBook Week! Woo HOO!!

SO, if you're interested (and don't miss this chance -- Kimber is an awesome author) you can get it here: eBookGuru.org or you can go throughKimber's Site

And, because Kimber is already giving this away, I'm going to offer her first book, "Breach of Trust" as my contest prize instead.

BTW, in case you DIDN'T know, it's "Read and eBook Week" (nearly over). Go here to see more folks who are giving away free stuff.

Wanted: The End

"A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."- Thomas Mann

I've been really frustrated lately with my inability to actually complete something I've written. It's partly due to the fact that my writing time isn't quite as abundant as it used to be, partly because I'm working on several projects, and partly because ON those projects, I'm working toward a specific word count -- longer than usual for me.

I told a friend yesterday that writing short is easy. The first 30,000 words? No problem. But after that, it's tough. For whatever reason, I don't always have enough story for more. I think I do have enough story for my fantasy, especially with the changes I need to make, so the only issue with that is just getting the words down. Geoff will have enough story, too, once I start writing in the heroine's POV (duh).

Still, I want something DONE.

So, I challenged myself to a writing contest. A short story of at least 7500 words by Friday morning. And, then another one of at least the same length by the end of the weekend.

They may be garbage, but my psyche needs to see "the end".

============================

Dakota did amazing in agility last night. She got over all her fears without telling me. Ran the entire course off leash (except for the weave poles -- they were new, and she didn't know what to do with them). She did the frame, the see-saw... everything!! Not even any hesitation. Amazing. I was utterly shocked. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be moving into the advanced class when this one is over. Wow. She really loves agility. It's incredible.

There is one other couple in class with a Golden Retriever mix who has always been the best dog in class -- and now, she isn't. Last night, the handler grinned at me and then turned to her dog and said, "Now, you need to pay attention and do as well as--" (finger jab toward Dd) "show-off over there."

We have a good class of folks, and I really like them so would be sad to go away into another class, but I think it would be good for Dakota. Next stop: AKC Agility Championships!

LOL...

============================




You Are the Artist



You are unique and inspired. You aren't happy unless you are making art of some sort.

Almost anything can be a catalyst for your creativity. You find the whole world stimulating.

You have beautiful visions, and you're good at expressing them. You like people to see what you see.

You also have an inventor's spirit. You're always thinking up new ideas and concepts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What, When, Where, Why, How with Judah Raine

Today we are visiting with the very clever Judah Raine!

What comes first – the plot or the characters?

I don't believe you can separate the two! You can have the best plot in the world, but if the characters are shallow or ineffectual and can't sustain it or make it believable, then it's going to go up like the proverbial lead balloon. The opposite also applies, of course. The most wonderful characters can't carry a pathetic or non-existent story line (and it's rather a waste of a great character!) Having said that, though, I think that plot does, to a certain degree, define the characters in that certain "types" may work better than others, but it's important not to have these cast in stone. I much prefer characters who are flexible and fluid, and who can add value to be plot through their interactions and responses to different situations. I like to let my characters respond naturally, and then shape the plot accordingly. It's a fine line between letting them "run the show" and being so rigid that they come across contrived or the plot loses impetus. Part of the fun of writing is finding that balance between the two. Sometimes I will start with the characters and work the story line in such a way to build them, and other times I search for the right characters for a particular plot. That's the fun of it (and the headache, sometimes!)

When you were young, what did you do?

I was a farm girl, so much of my life was spent "tomboying" it around the farm, my little bare feet soaking up the passion that suffuses the African soil! And I read - anything and everything I could lay my hands on. I've been writing since forever, too - I think I was born with a pen in one hand and a book in the other! In between, because life in the stix could be quite lonely, I had this huge imaginary universe filled with people and places and creatures... in my world anything was possible, everything was believable, and I never ever tired of "visiting" there. (It's fertile ground for an author, and a wonderful resource for ideas and characters and storylines....)

Where on your body would you get (or do you already have) a tattoo?

I don't have one and for whatever reason never got the "yen" to get one either so this is definitely a "fun" question! I think, though, that I'd want it really classy and something gorgeous. Maybe a butterfly, because I love the concept of metamorphosis, and spreading your wings and becoming something beautiful... As for where... maybe the shoulder, because that doesn't seem to be the first place to succumb to the inevitable effects of gravity! The foot is another good one - nothing quite so appealing as a nicely turned foot with a little decoration - or maybe the ankle. I'm one of the fortunate ones to have slim ankles (lol). I think if you're going to have one it does need to be shown off (like great jewellery), so places like the butt or the boob, unless you spend a lot of the time with most of it showing seems like a bit of a waste....

Why did the suicide king feel there was nothing left to live for?

The King of Hearts watched from an upper window as his queen slipped from the aging castle into the gathering darkness. He knew where Judith was going. It wasn't the first time she crept out to meet her lover, nor would it be the last.. What he didn't know was where her eye had fallen this time. He'd summoned the knave yet again, set him the task of following and watching, set him to spy on his wayward mistress in the hopes that he could reveal the identity of the latest lovelorn swain. Even then it seemed a worthless thing. Judith was known to be fey and fickle, for her eye to wander as soon as the heart was won. She was known as queen of hearts for good reason. And she was queen of his heart, though theirs was an arranged marriage, ordained by the heavenly ones. He had loved her from the beginning, and thought that she had loved him. Perhaps she had. It was a long time ago, and the King couldn't be sure. He liked to believe that she had. But the heavenly ones had dealt him an unkind hand, had bound him to one who was beyond binding, who's heart was as changeable as the seasons. She seemed to move through his life, beyond his heart, shedding the joy of spring and the fruitfulness of summer on all those fortunate ones. But on him was only winter. The king grasped the dagger that lay on the window-sill. He watched and he waited, and patience rewarded his questing gaze. There, dimly shrouded in the pale light of the wayward moon, Judith emerged, tousled and clinging to the arm of her new love. The knave paused, looked up to the window. The king's grip tightened on the cold, hard hilt of the dagger...

How would you survive a nuclear attack?

Head for the hills! Or the mountains to be exact. Deep in the Drakensberg, where the caves wind inward to the heart of towering peaks, and the air is thin and cold. Where secret chasms delve a path to the mountain's core, and time and the world are lost along the way. I would shelter there, taking refuge in the silence and the ancient places, deep in the embrace of stone and rock where the secret springs are birthed and the silence is deep and strong. I would wait, wrapped in the memory of those who had gone before and strong in the hope of those still to come. I would rest, secure in the knowledge that nothing could reach that sacred haven, and draw strength from the primeval eternity of towering peaks that stretch beyond the reach of man. And then, when the mountains whispered that all was safe, I would emerge and begin the work of living.


Westville is a leafy suburb on the outskirts of Durban where my daughter and I share a house on a riverbank slap-bang in the middle of suburbia. We also share it with "our zoo"—a German Shepherd Doberman, one of her offspring from a gorgeous German Shepherd Timber Wolf, and a Great Dane masquerading as a miniature Maltese Poodle. We also have two cats, both of which have personality issues. But that's another long story.

I have a degree in Communications and English, with some Education and Psychology thrown in for fun. The need to earn a living has taken me from managing my husband's plumbing business through an animal science laboratory (who put me there and what were they thinking?) and conferencing, and finally into the property industry. But my nature is essentially creative, and I have tried pretty much everything there is to try in the "arts and crafts" genre.

Beading is a passion, especially on wedding gowns, which I design and make in my "spare time". I am also a guitarist and vocalist, and I am experimenting with combining my love for words with my love for music and writing some of my own songs. As a widow (my husband passed away eleven years ago from bone cancer) and with my daughter now "all grown up", I am finally able to focus on doing what I love best—writing! It was a passion discovered years and years and years ago growing up on the farm. Through the years it's been my friend, my therapy, my way of self-discovery, and sometimes the only lifeline to sanity!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So... It Snowed

Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, "I'm going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough. I am going to snow anyway." - Maya Angelou

This was the view from my back door yesterday afternoon.


We got about 8" of the heaviest, wettest snow ever... Blech. DH had already "summerized" the snow-blower, so it was out of commission, and since he had to leave for work when the worst of it was falling, guess who got to scoop all that heavy, wet snow?

Yep. Me.

But, it was all good because DD made me a snow frog:


Isn't he CUTE?

And, it's going to warm up into the mid-forties all week, so this is going to melt. Still, that isn't the point. Note to God: NO MORE SNOW! ((please?))

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Got my fantasy back from Judy. I guess she liked it ... there were no raves in the email (Note to J: Where are the raves? LOL), but she did find a few very weak points in the plot that, if they aren't shored up nice and tight, the entire premise won't hold water. So... I have my work cut out for me. Have I mentioned how much I hate editing? Why can't I just write the first draft and let someone else take care of all the problems?

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You Are FAQ



For you, the internet is like your personal library. And you know more facts than fifty normal humans.

Your brain is basically lot a computer at this point. You have a lot of information stored up there.

You spend hours looking up obscure information and learning things. If you have question, you always Google it.

You can't help but be a bit of a know-it-all. You can answer everyone's frequently asked questions.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Weather and Writing

"Sit down to write what you have thought, and not to think about what you shall write." - William Cobbett

Was going to do the Monday Morning Meme, but one of the questions got me all fired up politically that I decided I'd better not. LOL...

It was supposed to snow last night. So far... no white stuff. But, it might be lurking. Waiting. Lulling me into a false sense of security. So, I'm not letting down my guard.

However, if none of the white stuff falls, I'll be heading outdoors to start the great spring clean-up of doggie doo. I try to pooper scoop during the winter, but it's just not possible to get it all. And because of the overwhelming amount of excrement left from the winter potty breaks, I try to do it slowly... taking each patch of grass as the snow melts. Otherwise, I might break down and cry.

On the "good news, spring might actually be coming" front: my crocus are beginning to stick their little green heads out of the dirt (I splurged this past fall and bought a bunch of large crocus bulbs -- I had a lot of bulb replacing to do after the attack from the Cunning Voles of Doom), and my chives and 'mums and seedum is all beginning to grow. Just a smidge... but, for someone (like me!) who is utterly fed up with winter, it's enough to make my heart sing for joy.

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Yesterday, I sent the first 26,000 words of my fantasy to Judy to peruse. She's a big fantasy fan, so I wanted to see if it passed the "big fantasy fan" test. And, as I took a look through the story, I fell in love all over again. I also had a great idea hit me upside the head on how to... well... I can't say, cuz it would give away a HUGE plot point in the story. Still, it was something that was bothering me, and now it's not.

On yet another writing front: the novel that wouldn't go away ("The Possibility of Forever" formerly "Camilla's Critters") also gave me a jab and told me how to fix one problem as well. That story has been frustrating me for a couple of reasons, and I've got one figured out now. Yay.

The subconscious is an amazing thing.

Also, "A Jewel for Geoff" has been a bit dead in the water. I wasn't happy with it, and couldn't figure out why until I realized two things: I'm not in the least bit attracted to Geoff (and if I don't fall in love with my hero, I can't realistically have my heroine do so, IMHO) and I haven't written anything in the heroine's POV. So... I've decided that my cover artist for "Liv" got it wrong, and I'm redesigning Geoff's looks (he's going to be bigger, stronger, better than before... though still blond) and I'm going to start letting the reader get to know my heroine, Emmy, better.

And, GAH, I just looked outside. It's snowing. SEE... I knew it was going to wait until I'd let down my guard a bit!!! BAD SNOW.

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You Are Stable and Cheerful



When You Are Comfortable:



You are a hard worker. You need security and stability in your life, even if that means putting in long hours.

People see you as solid and dependable. You are always able to see the good in situations. Other find this comforting.



When You Are At Your Best:



You are quite quirky, and you enjoy doing things your own way. You are optimistic, and you've always got a good idea brewing.

People find you to be positive and uplifting. You make people feel good about themselves.



When You Are in a Social Setting:



You are philosophical and opinionated. You have quite a few pet causes, and you're always adopting a new one.

People see you as clever and smart. You now a lot, and you love to talk about a variety of subjects.



Me? Opinionated? Quirky? Nah.......

Okay, I admit, this quiz actually came pretty close to nailing my personality. How weird is that?

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Don't You Hate When This Happens?

"Don't judge a book by its cover”. - American Proverb


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It was a gorgeous day yesterday -- right around 50 degrees and gloriously sunny. I walked with the dog, took her to play with the neighbors and dreamed about the day when the snow would melt for good and I could plant...

We won't talk about the 3" of snow coming on Monday. Nope. Not going to say a word about it.

:::zips lips:::

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Yes, I got my soy milk! I am sitting, sipping yummy coffee even as we speak.

Any big plans for Sunday?

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Coffee, Soy Milk and JaNoWriMo

It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. I bet this kind of thing does not happen to heroin addicts. I bet that when serious heroin addicts go to purchase their heroin, they do not tolerate waiting in line while some dilettante in front of them orders a hazelnut smack-a-cino with cinnamon sprinkles. ~Dave Barry

Today, I awoke and stumbled downstairs for coffee ... only to discover a horrifying fact: I am OUT OF CHOCOLATE SOY MILK.

Some people use cream. Some use regular milk. I use chocolate soy milk in my coffee, and nothing else quite does it for me.

I was devastated.

So, here I sit, drinking coffee with plain milk and a touch of hot cocoa powder and grimacing and feeling terribly off-kilter.

So... instead of a post here, I'll simply direct to you today's post at JaNoWriMo. If you click on the first link, it'll take you to my post only. The second, and you can see what everyone over there is up to.

Today's "to-do list":

Go to store for soy milk.

Everything else is negotiable.

Happy Saturday! Don't forget to turn the clocks ahead tonight (unless you're in one of the two places who don't observe this silliness)!

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RE: Yesterday's post -- make belive, people, make believe! Y'all were so serious... goodness. Only a few folks really got into the swing of things. IRL, I would probably donate the book to a UBS or the library, too. BUT... after having read a really rotten story, I'd surely think of ways to dispatch it first.

I like Brandy's idea of using it in the litter box, and Invoker wanting to have a book BBQ on the author's lawn. Kim was good, too: take the book camping for use as a fire starter AND potty paper! Well done folks... *G*

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You Are Vanilla



You are a delightful, friendly person. You are optimistic about life and people.

You are enthusiastic and energetic. You enjoy everything you do.

You are cooperative and flexible. You get along with people from many walks of life.

You're not a show off. Instead, you're more likely to help other people shine.



HAHAHAHAHAHA... no

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