NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days and I’m going to participate for the first time. Last year, the thought of being organized enough to go for the gold was just too intimidating for the introverted me. Has that changed? No, but I’m packing a secret weapon–a calendar.

That’s write (pun intended).

I have a 3 month calendar that my Panster self has used to outline my NaNoWriMo Manuscript. I never thought of myself as an outliner, but when I told a writing buddy about my system of filling in the blanks from day one (hero and heroine meet) to the HEA conclusion, she said, “What a unique way to outline.” 

I said, “WHA??? OMGosh, I’m an outliner after all!”

*Writing buddy rolls eyes dramatically*

So, armed with my secret weapon (which is filled out) I will begin An Eden Falls Noel on November 1, 2015.

Yeah, me!

Check back in next month to see how I did. I will boldly tell all.

I love Fall

I love the changing of leaves and cooler temperatures. Our pumpkin carving and chili night is a favorite.

IMG_1857

IMG_1809

IMG_2551

Soon after the first snowfall bring a love of winter.163

That love lasts until after Christmas,IMG_1067

then I want to move to Florida . . .

DSC02387

 

 

. . . and wait for Spring to arrive.

IMG_1528

I love Spring, but it’s not as predictable as the lovely days of Summer.

DSC01044

Who doesn’t love splashing in a pool in the summer?

IMG_1434

RWA 2015

I was lucky enough to attend the Romance Writers of America National Conference in New York City last week.

IMG_4271

It started off Wednesday night with authors raising money for literacy and ended with the RITA and Golden Heart Award ceremony on Saturday.

IMG_4295

It was three days packed with hundreds of authors, workshops, book signings, and very slow elevators. I met new friends, greeted old acquaintances and struggled to catch my breath after rushing between the fourth and ninth floors. The workshops I attended ranged from craft to career, marketing to publishing. Most were presented by authors willing to give of their time and talent. They shared their own ups and down, made me laugh and shed tears at their stories. All were encouraging and up lifting.IMG_4282

 

My room overlooked Times Square, a city that never sleeps.

 

There was even a play involved.IMG_4291

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference in San Diego, California, but for now, goodbye New York. I had a wonderful time.IMG_4277

I’m Holding the Cake Pan Ransom

I received this note one morning in my grandson’s backpack.IMG_7100

Aww, how cute, except my grandson is three years old and can’t write. I had every intention of making snickerdoodles and sending them home to the real Sweet Tooth, but came down with the flu and was in bed for three days.

 

The following weekend we had a family dinner. Sweet Tooth was present and took home the leftover Lemon-Blueberry cake still in the pan.

The next day I received a second note in my grandson’s backpack. This was no longer a game. My pan was being held ransom. A fun situation had turned very serious. This pan was used to create many sweet pleasures, which are very popular  family gatherings.

IMG_7102We needed proof the pan was still intact and able to perform normally and to our expectations.

IMG_7108

 

The following communication was sent.

 

 

 

The two dozen snickerdoodles were made and wrapped to Sweet Tooth’s specifications. We were ready to make the drop.IMG_7095
IMG_7109

 

 

 We spent a few terrifying hours, but the story has a happy ending. The pan made it back home safely, and unharmed. It was returned by The Kid who stole a cookie for his efforts.IMG_7096

We spotted Sweet Tooth in the shadows and were able to capture a photo for a wanted poster which has been distributed.

IMG_7103I’m sure this won’t be the last time we will have to deal with The Sweet Tooth. Maybe you have one of these lurking in your own homes. There seems to be one in every family. We recommend always keeping flour, butter and sugar handy for those just in case moments. We wish you the best.

 

Happiness is…

I’m dating myself when I admit reading Charles M. Schulze’s Happiness is a warm puppy back in the 1960s. I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot lately. I’m a pretty positive person in general and find happiness in simple things.

Happiness to me is the first day it’s finally warm enough to open the windows to allow the spring breeze admittance. Happiness is a beautiful monarch landing on the butterfly bush next to the patio. Happiness is my husband and I laughing hysterically over something that isn’t funny, but, if we don’t laugh, we may cry. Happiness is remembering to take out the trash cans before the garbage truck comes around the corner. Happiness is a new bra–that fits. Happiness is losing a pound or five. Happiness is a clean house. Happiness is rain hitting the windows. Happiness is family. Happiness is hearing a song on the radio that makes me smile (my new favorite is Tim McGraw’s Meanwhile Back at Mama’s)IMG_1760. Happiness is a hug from my grandson, Aiden.

Happiness for me now is a lot different that it was as a child. One of the happiest memories from childhood was the day I learned to ride a bike. Happiness then was camping trips, throwing rocks into a lake, tubing down the river. Happiness was all the hours I spent at the neighborhood swimming pool. Utter happiness was the first time I did a back dive that didn’t include a bellyflop.

Yesterday happiness was plotting a manuscript–a true feat for the panster in me. I have to give credit where credit is due. I attended a workshop given by Karen Docter. The W Plot—or The Other White Meat for Plotters. You can find this workshop  on her website at www.KarenDocter.com/workshop. For you pansters out there, give this workshop a try. It’s amazingly easy, takes only a few minutes to lay out and will make you happy.

Remember every day is filled with ordinary miracles. What is your idea of happiness?

Getting Ready for a Writer’s Conference

A writer’s conference can be intimidating and exhilarating at the same time. My first was in San Francisco and, boy, was I green. I registered and booked a hotel room. I was quite proud of my savvy savings (a hefty car payment) booking a room a mere two blocks from the conference hotel–little did I know it was two blocks straight uphill and if you’ve ever walked the streets of San Francisco you know what I mean by uphill. My first day, I had to stop three times to catch my breath.

Walking into the meet and greet with three hundred other writers was amazing. These were my people. We had something extraordinary in common. We were all assembled at this time and place in the hopes of achieving a dream. Most of us were first-timers, most of us were scared and most of us had major hopes of becoming published authors after a short three days of instruction.

As an introvert and it was very hard for me to say that initial hello, but it got easier. Every day I pulled myself from that cozy comfort zone and met new people. I made sure to question each person I sat next to. “What do you write?” and “Is this your first conference?” always got a conversation started.

In the workshops I took meticulous notes and sat in awe of the writers who were leading discussions.

I signed up for as many extras as possible. One was a two-page critique by editors. The first editor loved my setting and hated my hero. The second pretty much hated the whole two pages. It was a little disheartening, but what did they know? Right? They’d only read two pages. “There is no hook,” one said. Hook? What did that even mean? First lesson learned by this greenhorn.

For me the whole conference came down to the pitching session. We fiction writers were divided into three groups and put into a room with literary agents circling the circumference. We got in the line of the agent we were interested in pitching and waited our turn. We had three minutes to hook an agent. I was a nervous wreck, but I’d done my homework and had a list from one to ten. I didn’t stand in line for number one or two, but moved on to number three because there was only one person ahead of me. When I sat down, she looked me in the eye for approximately thirty seconds before scanning the room as if looking for someone more interesting. I decided that was her way of weeding us out and it worked. I considered myself weeded. I moved on to agent number two (still not my first choice) who told me I didn’t know my own book well enough, the third said, “Your book has been done a thousand times. Try something new.” The fourth agent was actually interested and so was the fifth–both asked for partials. Finally feeling a little confidence return, I sat in front of my number one choice. I opened my mouth, ready to fill her in on the baby I’d nurtured for two years, but she quickly interrupted. “Tell me about yourself.” What? I have three minutes to pitch and she wants me to talk about myself?

I came away from that speed pitching session with extremely mixed feelings, but the conference in general was an eye-opening experience.

In July I’m going to San Antonio for my fourth writer’s conference. My first night there I’m meeting fourteen writers for dinner and can’t wait to make new friends. I will pitch my new manuscript. I will attend as many workshops as possible. I will be open minded and take meticulous notes. I will meet new people and I will, again, be in awe of the authors present, especially the ones I love to read.

A Day in the Life…

I’ve been complaining (to anyone who will listen) about never having the time to write, so I thought I would keep track of my activities on a writing day to determine what is getting in the way. My day usually starts early. I’m an early riser by nature, so sleeping in for me is 6:30.

My day job is babysitting my two-year old grandson three or four days a week. We spend our time watching Disney’s Cars or Bolt (both several times a day). We go to the park and swing, or play Follow the Leader (he always gets to be the leader). He loves to water Grandma’s flowers and tomato plants (we usually end up wetter than the plants). We also read books, practice the alphabet, and sing songs. But his favorite activity is getting down on the kitchen floor to play with cars. He’s very good at giving directions such as, “Sit right here, Grandma.” Or “Go over there, Grandma.”

On my day off, (i.e. a writing day) this is an example of my schedule.

6:00 – 6:30 Check and answer email.

6:30 – 6:45 Do a little tweeting. Discover a recipe for Lemon Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Lemon Drizzle from @TheRedheadRiter. YUM! Can’t wait to try this one.

6:45 – 7:15 Check in with Facebook. Wish one friend a happy birthday and one a belated happy birthday (oops). Like a couple of comments and read a link. This leads me to Pinterest (which a time consuming black hole that I love!).

7:15 – 8:00 Time to write. Had to check a fact on the Internet, but got sidetracked by a wildfire video narrated by Tom Selleck (I’d recognize that sexy voice anywhere). I notice Nicholas Sparks has a new book coming out, which reminds me to check in with Goodreads.

8:00 – 8:15 My stomach growls – time for breakfast. I’m really into Oikos Greek Yogurt with a little Kashi GoLean Crunch sprinkled on top. I would have added fresh raspberries but they have white fuzz growing on them, so I forgo the fresh fruit. As I eat, I go over tonight’s dinner menu. Six of our eight kids will be over, along with three girlfriends, plus a sister-in-law and her husband. I still need to cook pasta for the pasta salad. It’ll take several hours to chill. I also have to crush candy bars to top the chocolate cake I made for dessert.

8:15 – 9:30 Back to writing and I actually get four pages down.

9:30 – 10:00 Clean kitchen because it’s pretty disgusting (my husband argues that it isn’t disgusting, I just have a low tolerance for dirt—does that mean I don’t have to clean?). Thirty minutes only allows for a quick once-over.

10:00 – 10:30 Clean guest bathroom because it’s even more disgusting than the kitchen. I talked to a friend yesterday and she said it didn’t actually need to be cleaned unless there is pink slime growing. There isn’t, but it hasn’t been cleaned since…If I can’t remember, it’s been too long.

10:30 – 11:30 Shower and get ready for the day. On the way back to my desk I decide I must have a piece of chocolate—or two and a diet coke. I can treat myself because of the healthy breakfast I had AND I consider it a precursor to the chocolate cake I’m serving for dessert.

11:30 – 12:00 Dust and vacuum the family room (where we all congregate).

12:00 – 4:00 Back to writing. I get eight more pages completed. Yay!

4:oo – 5:00 Whip up appetizers and add finishing touches to dinner. Set the dining room table and clean the patio table (where we congregate until the mosquitos make an appearance and then we move to the family room).

5:00 – 8:00 Loud. Crazy. Chaos!

8:00 – 8:15 House empties. (This always takes more than fifteen minutes because someone invariably forgets something and has to come back.)

8:15 – 8:20 Hubby and I look at each other and laugh because if we didn’t we’d cry.

8:20 – 9:00 While watching T.V. with the love of my life and surfing the net, I happen to see Time Magazine’s cover story,

“THE

CHILDFREE

LIFE

When having it all means not having children”

 

Childfree!

I could have spent the whole day writing if I didn’t have children. I wouldn’t have to clean the kitchen or the bathroom. I would have eaten a much larger piece of chocolate cake. I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night reciting lines from Disney’s Cars or Bolt like “There is no truck I know that can keep in Bolt and Rhino.” I wouldn’t waste hours on the phone listening to dating dramas and woes. I wouldn’t be called to unlock cars and houses when a key is left inside. I wouldn’t be proofreading a college essay and I would lose a quarter of my alpha readers! Childfree.

 

 

I’m a little disappointed to read that having eight kids has prevented me from having it all, because all this time I thought I did.

9:00 Fall into bed because my grandson will be here at 5:45 in the morning telling me, “Sit right here, Grandma.”

Hi! From Grandma and Aiden!

IMG_1363

On the Road Again…

I love road trips, to travel by car with the ability to stop when the mood hits or there is a sight to see. My husband and I decided to visit some of the states we haven’t seen before. It took us two days to travel from Denver to Detroit. Why Detroit? We were asked this more than a dozen times…The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, of course. I considered this to be my wifely sacrifice, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was not all about cars and would highly recommend it if you are at all interested in history. I have to mention Ann Arbor Michigan. What a beautiful city! We were planning some sightseeing and a nice dinner, however we arrived not only during rush hour, but just as the heavens opened in a downpour, tangling traffic to a complete (five minutes to travel a car length) snarl.

From there we traveled to St. Ignace where we caught a ferry to Mackinac Island located in Lake Huron. The entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Since 1898, cars have been prohibited on the island, except for snowmobiles in the winter. Travel on the island is by foot, horse-drawn carriages, or bicycles. If you are a fudge lover, this is the place to visit.

IMG_1523IMG_1543

Green Bay, Wisconsin was our next stop, significant to me because I’ve been a Packers fan (unless they’re playing the Broncos) forever. From there we drove through Door County, Wisconsin. I’ve wanted to visit Door County since I read LaVyrle Spencer’s Bitter Sweet. She describes the place so beautifully and it was just as I’d imagined.IMG_1604

Then we followed Lake Michigan shorelines down to Milwaukee (another beautiful city).

We spent three nights in Chicago with my husband’s family (always so welcoming and fun to visit) for a great Fourth of July celebration.

My husband’s husbandly sacrifice was to indulge his wife with several hours at the Mall of America located in Bloomington, Minnesota. While in Minneapolis, I decided we might be trying to visit as many Major League venues as possible (Detroit, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis).

The ride through North Dakota was a surprise. I expected endless grasslands, but there were fields green with corn and soybeans. I also recognized canola. Not being an expert in agriculture, I’m only mentioning the crops I recognized.

Mount Rushmore was our last stop and as beautiful as I remembered from a previous vacation.

IMG_1663

My husband and I were gone fifteen days, traveled over four thousand miles and were in the car in excess of seventy hours and I’m happy to report we are still married.

I’ve mentioned before that I get my inspiration for stories from travel and was afraid they wouldn’t come this trip. It wasn’t until we passed through the small town of Hot Springs, South Dakota that a character started talking to me. Her name is Eloise and I’m sure she’ll be making an appearance in the near future.

 

Harold John Hardy—September 6,1918 to May 25, 2013

What do you feel when you lose a parent—your last surviving parent? I’ve heard people say they feel orphaned, alone, bereaved, abandoned. As crazy as it sounds, I feel a gentle peace.

I lost my mother way too soon. She died sixteen years ago and I was too far away to get to her. I still visit her gravesite every time I go home. I always try to take the orange-yellow roses she loved so much in life. I remember her smile and her soft touch (no one has the same touch as your mother). I remember her habit of running her fingers together and her ever-present Kleenex (usually tucked up a sleeve). I miss her voice and her smell and her eyes resting on me. She was the heart of our family.

My Dad was the soul.

He was the silent partner, the provider. He lived in a house of women and being the man he was, that couldn’t have been easy. He was the gruff Army Sergeant that friends shied away from and boyfriends feared. He was completely independent until the age of 94, when, at his suggestion, we moved him into an assisted living facility (where he resided for eight months). He still drove a car and picked up dry cleaning and visited the Sizzler until two weeks ago when he fell. He always said a fall would be the end and he was right. It wasn’t hitting his head, but shattering a vertebra that caused his spiral downward. One thing led to another and he quickly declined. It was hard saying goodbye to my brusque father, but looking at his peaceful face yesterday, I know he’s already been softened.

Shortly before he passed, a little nun flitted into his hospital room like a delicate butterfly, landing here and there, touching each of us in a gentle, loving way and filling the space with her effervescence. She spoke of the angels that were present and watching over him. I felt them near. Patiently waiting. He acknowledged her visit with a brief eye flutter (the first of the day) as if accepting that it was time to go.

He is now pain-free and in the arms of the many loved ones who preceded him. I know he is in trustworthy hands and the feel of gentle peace that surrounds me is a great comfort.

 

 

Taking A Side Road

What’s a journey without a side road or wrong turn? Sometimes we see the brightest rainbow or the most breathtaking view by taking a side road. Sometimes it’s the wrong turn that makes the whole journey worthwhile. The ferry trip to Vinalhaven, Maine wasn’t planned. It was at the suggestion of complete strangers that we even went, yet it inspired a story that has been running through my mind ever since. It seems almost daily, another piece of the intricate puzzle falls into place.

View of Vinalhaven from the ferry.

View of Vinalhaven from the ferry.

In the spirit of research, I made several calls last week and spoke to four helpful Vinalhaven residents. Two worked in the Vinalhaven ferry office, another at the school, and the last in the city offices. One of the ladies in the ferry office mentioned a novel by a local Vinalhaven woman that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I still have to talk with the historical society and I still have questions for the fire department and the local deputy.

After a lot of searches I discovered a fun blog by a woman who lives on the island, a sighting blog, an article about their new ferry, and several about lobstering. I found a travel site that posted all kinds of photos. The whole idea of living on this island is fascinating to me and I wish, while I was there, I’d done more exploring.

I’d like to send out a thank you to those who so graciously took some time from their busy day to answer my questions. It was wonderful to talk to each of you.

I’ll be back with more next month, but for now here is a little excerpt from the novel in progress…

 

She towel dried her curly hair. Since leaving Daunte, she’d stopped straightening it out. She’d also cut its mid-back lengths to just past her shoulders. She’d never liked it that long and hated the time it took to straighten it the way he preferred. She slipped on a pair of jeans and a soft tee, another thing he’d turn his nose up at. He liked her dressed and made up to perfection. You never know whom you might run into, my love. You must always be ready. Well, she couldn’t imagine wearing her designer dresses into Vinalhaven for ice cream and she’d missed the feel of a well-worn pair of jeans.

She pulled open the bedroom curtains and looked out over the harbor. The water was glistening in the early morning sun. It had rained the last two days and she was happy to see the blue cloudless sky. That would be one of the many things she’d have to get used to—gray skies. South Carolina’s winters were fairly mild. She and Autumn would definitely need warmer clothes before cold weather hit the island. Autumn would see her first snowfall this coming winter.

Gretchen’s cell phone beeped with an incoming call and she knew without looking it was Daunte. She’d been rather amiss at answering his calls since they’d arrived. She snatched the phone off the dresser and headed down the stairs. She found she had better coverage in the kitchen and screened in back porch. It was Regina’s day off and Gretchen could see her crouched in her garden, harvesting something that was ready to be eaten. Gretchen felt spoiled since coming home. Every meal had included vegetables from Regina’s garden. Her favorite were tomatoes still warm from the sun.

“Hello.”

“You’re not just going to ignore my calls, mio amore.”

“Calling six times a day is a little excessive and you don’t get to call me that anymore, Daunte. Save it for Jessica.”

“You’ll always be my love. You’re the mother of my beautiful daughter.”

“What do you want so early?”

“I want to talk to that beautiful daughter. How is she?”

“She’s fine. She’s still asleep.”

“And you, mio amore? How are you adjusting to the wilds of Maine?”

“We’re both adjusting just fine to the new life you forced us into.”

“No, mia bellezza, I did not force you into isolation. I did not force you to leave Charleston.”

It was true. Daunte hadn’t wanted them to leave, but Gretchen couldn’t stay, not in the small suburb where she’d run into Daunte and his new mio amore—Except Jessica wasn’t new. Daunte had admitted to them seeing each other for over a year before Gretchen found out.

“I’ll call back when Autumn wakes up.”

“I want to come visit my babies before they start school.”

“Neither Autumn or I are your babies anymore. Your girlfriend is carrying your baby.”

“Why to you have to be so bitter?”

“Really, Daunte? Although you were still married to me, you got your mistress pregnant, while I was teaching children and your daughter was in kindergarten and you want to know why I’m bitter?”

“I’ve told you repeatedly that I’m sorry, baby.”

“Yes, and your apology makes everything all bet—” she stopped suddenly when she heard the kitchen door open. Changing her tone from shaking anger to gentle, she said, “Good morning, sweetie. Come say hello to your daddy.”

She handed the phone to her sleepy daughter and stepped out onto the dewy, grass. Regina was sitting back on her heels, hand shading her eyes as she watched. She’d love to be able to turn to her and say, Mom, please tell me how to fall out of love and stop hurting over my cheating ex-husband. But after the fights she’d over heard between her mom and dad, Regina probably wasn’t the person to ask.

She could hear Autumn’s soft voice carrying over the late summer air and was sure Daunte’s voice was just as gentle. They’d been beautiful to watch, lovely together, her dark adoring eyes and him with a smile that could melt butter. That’s what had first attracted her, his irresistible grin that spoke volumes without him uttering a word.

They met at a fundraiser for the private school she taught at. He’d singled her out and kept her busy with his questions most of the night. They’d gone out the next evening and almost every night after that. He’d taken her to Italy to meet his parents and back again for the wedding. She’d fallen in love with his close family and had been loved by them in return.

His mother still called, telling Gretchen in her broken English that Daunte was a numbskull for throwing such a happy life away. Gretchen could only agree.

“Mama, Daddy wants to talk to you.”

Gretchen put on a happy face before turning to her daughter. “Bunny, why don’t you run and say good morning to Grandma?” When Autumn was out of hearing range, she put the phone to her ear. “Yes.”

“I want to come up for the weekend.”

She lowered her voice. “If you stay in a hotel. And don’t you dare bring Jessica, Daunte.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you, mio amore—”

“And stop calling me that!”