Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Redwood's Medical Edge

Instead of writing your character in a corner, have you ever written her into an ER or doctor's office scene. Then, you can't figure out what to do next. Those pesky details.

I ran across a blog that can help — Redwood's Medical Edge - Medical Fact For Your Fiction. The blog written by Jordyn Redwood offers a variety of medical information for your fiction. There is a disclaimer that this is not medical advice.
Jordyn's Twitter bio goes like this:
Suspense writer and pediatric emergency nurse. I run a medical blog for historical and contemporary writers.
Her blog's bio explains her medical credentials. She's an RN. Her novel Lilly's Ashes will be published in spring 2012. She's working on a sequel.
This blog is designed to help both historical and contemporary authors learn methods to write medically accurate fiction. I'll field medical questions, analyze medical scenes, and post on topics that can increase the tension and conflict in any story.
She had guests on her blog to discuss medical issues and will answer medical questions on her blog.
Some recent posts:
I first discovered Jordyn's blog from her post over at the WordServe Water Cooler. Her post talked about Brand Basics. I've been hooked ever since I clicked over to her blog.

If you aren't looking for medical information, take a look at Jordyn's blog anyway. She's a great example of a writer creating a niche blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where do you write?

When we moved in our home a year ago, I fought with the movers. They told me my desk was not intended to be on the second floor. They argued it could not be moved upstairs. They did not want to do it.

I argued, because I needed the first floor bedroom for guests and parents, who can't easily navigate stairs. I needed the office/spare bedroom to be near my then six-month-old son's room. This way, I didn't have to use monitors as I would be steps away — not a staircase away.

I won the argument with the movers, but somehow my engagement ring went missing that day. Oh, I digress.

Today, my son is 10 months older. He's walking, exploring, grabbing and growing. He's a lot of fun, but the office arrangement is getting cramped and disheveled.

I essentially share the office with him. All my office supplies and desk materials are either stacked around or piled into one desk drawer or piled on the bed. Yesterday, I tried to sneak in a few words while he was awake. I turned around to find him wiggling under the daybed. He was in search of a box of office supplies that I had hidden away from him weeks ago. He has lots of toys in the office, but he's always looking for something new.

With each new growth spurt, I'm reorganizing a little bit. This week, I have had a cold. I've felt worn down and unproductive. He's discovered how to get into my last desk drawer.

During today's nap, I'm dropping my writing plans and figuring out a new organization plan for the bare essentials. I need less clutter around the computer to think and to write.

It's a balancing act to share the office with my son. There's never a dull moment, which doesn't always help my focus, but it adds to the fun factor in my life.

Where do you write? How do you balance writing with your children or other family situations?

Monday, September 26, 2011

I am reading

I am reading The Descendants today by Kaui Hart Hemmings. I heard about the novel, because NPR did a report about the upcoming movie version. When I heard some of the descriptions:  "sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey," I had to read it.

The book is about a Hawaiian family dealing with the aftermaths of a boating accident that leaves the wife, a fashion model, in a coma. The book is written in present tense and from the point of view of the husband. He's trying to wrangle a 10-year-old wild child daughter, a 17-year-old daughter recovering from drugs and the reality that his wife was having an affair.

The husband, a descendant of Hawaiian royalty and missionaries, handles this while trying to make a decision about what to do with a family trust of land and to follow his wife's wish to be disconnected from life support, if in a persistent vegetative state.

I wanted to read Hemmings book, because my memoir deals with a weighty medical condition. In fact, it depresses some people. So, I'm always searching to see how others present medical situations.

So, I'm reading a dose of fictional dramedy to see if I can learn something.

Do you ever look to fiction for inspiration for a nonfiction project or to nonfiction for a fiction project?

Here's the movie trailer too. George Clooney plays the hapless husband.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday: LolliPop's Cottage

If you want to write, I think you need to read books.

I'm always looking for a source to find interesting children's books. One source is Maeve Frazier over at LolliPop's Cottage.

Maeve is a children's writer, who shares her journey on her nicely named blog. Read her bio to learn how she came up with that title.

Maeve is like many of us — writing, blogging and reading.

She has questions like  Is it Ready for Submission? 

She shares quotes for inspiration.

On her homepage, look at the story Mom Said She Would Be There on the left-hand column. This personal story is about her mother and a lovely tribute.

And, my all time favorite — she shares books. Maeve writes a wonderful series called Books with Cookies and Milk. She reviews a book and shares a cookie recipe that goes nicely with the book (and milk, of course).

When she featured The Clearing by Anne Riley, she provided a Rocky Road Cookie-Bars recipe. I made them and loved them. My chocolate loving tummy enjoyed the fudge-like creation. The recipe makes so many I shared them with guests, a woman in the neighborhood and a SCWBI meet and greet.

I made these from Lollipop's Cottage Books with Cookies and Milk (15) series.
The series offers picture, middle grades and young adult books. As I wrote this, the series has 39 entries. Take a look in her blog archive for her recommendations and recipes.

Oh and Maeve didn't let Hurricane Irene knock her out either. She blogged when she had a chance post-disaster to say she was Still in the Dark!

If you are looking for a dose of inspiration, for a book or a cookie recipe, stop by Lollipop's Cottage. Don't forget the milk.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What do you think about the Facebook changes?

I haven't been exploring Facebook all day. I promise.

I finished a small writing project, so I've been MIA here and around the blogosphere.

I popped over to Facebook a few times. The drama was enough to make me turn away. Tons of negative comments appeared in my newsfeed. I guess I can be happy they weren't directed toward a political candidate.

No matter what Facebook does to its site, I promise we will be OK.

It made me wonder how flexible we all are. We claim to enjoy Social Media, but geez — there was a lot of hate for today's changes.

What do you think — can you adjust to the Facebook changes or do you just hate them?

Monday, September 19, 2011

PB critique: No conflict, no story

Revisions are under way again via my scribbles.
Before I escaped to the Black Hills of South Dakota last week, I received a book editor's feedback on my picture book manuscript.

The editor's critique was part of a picture book retreat I attended in July through the SCBWI's Rocky Mountain Chapter. The picture book tract was under the direction of rhyme master Linda Ashman. For a newbie like me, the weekend workshop offered instruction, direction and inspiration.

I opted for a distance critique after the retreat, so I could polish up the story using the information I learned in the sessions. I tinkered with my 409-word manuscript. I shared the process here.

I received a four-plus page "critique notes and talking points" and thought I would share some of them here. Since I don't know the etiquette on using the editor's name, I'll fall back on my journalism motto: "When in doubt, leave it out."

  • Unusual imagery and character choice — a tumbleweed
  • Desert/western settings are always popular
Needs improvement: 
  • Rhythm and rhyme scheme need polishing
  • Clarify setting 
  • More tension in the story
  • Character development
She points out specific areas to improve the story such as:
  • Weaving the dog into the story more.
  • "Assigning a few very carefully chosen, telling actions or words to each character can go a long way toward conveying depth of character and a multifaceted personality." 
  • Discussing the use of a tumbleweed as a character and that these fantastical elements "must still behave according to an internal logic within the story that's firmly and clearly established in order to be believable."
  • On the rhyme point — "we usually recommend that writers avoid trying to write in rhyme unless they are professional poets."
  • She suggested I write in straight prose in simple sentences and focus on plot, setting and characterization.
  • On marketability, she mentioned stories with a western theme do well, but "in today's difficult market, this manuscript faces some challenges."

The editor's reality check on publishing mingled in with the other notes:
Generally, when presented a choice between two very similar books, one by a new, unknown author and one by a "big name" author with a proven sales record, book buyers will go with the known quantity, regardless of the quality of the writing of the newcomer. This is especially true in today's weak economy, unfortunately.
I'm calling this my "It's the story Stacy (I'll use my name instead of saying stupid)" moment. What do I do next? I'm revisiting my original story notes and looking at ones I made last week. I will refocus and revised my manuscript for the local SCWBI picture book critique group in October.

The editor said everything in the nicest possible way, but I understood the message: Without a better conflict, my story won't cut it.

Have you received a critique on a recent writing project — Did it make you change your writing or evaluate your work differently?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday: @kathytemean

Want to learn more about writing for children? Go to the Writing and Illustrating blog by Kathy Temean. She provides information about the business of writing, craft and publication sources.

Every week, I find several must read posts.
  • Road to Publication — Baby Steps. Here she has examples for both writers and illustrators. I appreciate her point about goals. 
  • No Response Editors and Agents. She shows an agent or editor how to set up an easy email rejection. Agent Jill Corcoran responds in the comments.
  • Acquisitions and After. In general, this outlines what can happen at a publishing house when an editor wants your book. 
  • Illustrator Saturday — Is a standing feature I find both informative and fun. The series helps me understand the illustrator part of the process. Last week featured Ariane Elsammak
After reading the About page, I'm not sure how Temean has time for all of this blogging. She is a regional advisor in New Jersey for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). She has a web design and marketing company. At her website, she shares her work as an author and illustrator.

Temean can be found on Twitter @kathytemean

Whether you follow every blog post or search it for a specific topic, I think children's writers and illustrators will find it helpful. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jumbled words: Do they change history?

I love historical quotes.

Here's a clip that contains audio of my favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King. 

My favorite part is "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve."

A few weeks ago, a controversy flared up over King's words. A memorial to the American civil rights leader includes an abbreviated inscription. Poet and Author Maya Angelou criticized the action. The current inscription reads:
"I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness."
It's not a direct quote. It's been altered to fit the memorial. 

His real comment: 
"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."
According to this ABC News report, the MLK memorial is not alone with changing quotes from the men being recognized. Similar changes have been made to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln Memorials as well as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's monument.

Angelou complained that leaving the "if" off the quote that it makes King "look like an arrogant twit." 

I believe the quote should be removed. If there isn't enough room for the whole quote, then leave it off. 
I feel like the memorial creators are taking a rule from Thomas Edison's playbook. A fun quote attributed to him:  "Hell there are no rules here — we're trying to accomplish something."

What do you think:  Is it fair to change Dr. King's words? Do you care if people change your written or spoken words.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh Pup: A late writing challenge

The first challenge in the Writers' Platform Building Campaign rocked. Every entry I read hooked me and most left me wanting to turn the page.

The challenge: Write a short story/flash fiction in 200 words or less. Begin with "The door swung open ...." An optional challenge added using the words "the door swung shut" at the end. I think most people did this. An extra challenge — make it 200 words exactly.

The entries closed on Sept. 9, but the Linky List remains for all to see those who participated. When I wrote this post, there were 379 entries.

One night this week, I judged a few entries for the first round of the challenge. I panicked on the first three entries. The word count was too high, but the writers specifically noted their story contained 200 words. The Word Count Tool was offered as an easy way to verify the number, but I couldn't use it. Every entry was over the word count using this counter, so I relied on Word.

This made me wonder if my recent entry into the  Esquire and Aspen Writers' Foundation Short Short Fiction Contest was really 78 words.

Instead of losing sleep over something I could not change, I wrote a story. Then, I changed the story and wrote a second one a few days later.

The moral: I can change (revise) my story, but I can't change the word counting tools available through word processing software or an Internet based tool.

Here's my story. It's 200 words or at least that's what Word is telling me.

And, I believe my meter is off or at least that's what my ear is telling me.

Oh Pup

The door swung open
With a blast of cold air.
The rain followed to dampen
Baby’s rocking chair.

Mom tried to clean it up,
But couldn’t see without her glasses
As they were eaten by the new Pup,
Who will soon be in training classes.

Pup ran down the hall
Until he tumbled into Dad’s feet.
He turned to catch a ball,
And dropped it for a treat.

“No snacks for you,” Mom said.
She grabbed a towel
And snapped it at Pup’s head,
Which caused him to howl.

The treat was for Baby,
Who crawled into Mom’s lap
Where he sat and said “Maybe.”
Which made Mom clap.

Dad looked in disbelief           
As Baby said his first word.
Mom yelled “Good grief!”
As Pup tried to catch the Bird.

“Can’t get me,” Bird shrieked.
Pup hit the metal with a paw.
The cage fell and Mom freaked.
Bird clutched to Dad’s head with a claw.

Dad yelped in pain.
Baby crawled to a chair.
Mom chased Pup in vain.
Bird flew up in the air.

Mom asked for a truce.
Dad called Pup a mutt.
Baby waved at Bird on the loose.
Pup escaped as the door swung shut.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years later: 9/11

Ten years ago, I watched smoke billow out of the first World Trade Center tower. I watched a second plane strike the second tower.

The smoke. The confusion. The unknown.

Then, the Pentagon.

Later, Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field.

I was in a hospital room with my late husband. A few days before the terrorist attacks, we discovered the quarter-sized aneurysm in his head. Our options were limited.

Our personal confusion morphed into a larger issue —the nation's grief.

I could link to a million sites to share details of that day:
  • The brave men and women who died.
  • The heart wrenching calls to loved ones.
  • The chilling recordings from the hijacked airplanes that capture pleas from passengers and lies from the terrorists.
I'm not linking anywhere. I'm here in my thoughts.

I'm thinking about how that day changed the U.S., the world and my life. I'm praying we remain vigilant to the dangers around us.

How did 9/11 change you or your community?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Wiggio

Want to work in a group over the Internet, but don't know how?

Wiggio may be your answer.

The site bills itself as "the easiest free way to work in groups."

I've found that to be true through my use of the site with other writers. I discovered the site following an online writer's class.

Wiggio allows you to:
  • Upload and manage files in a shared folder. 
  • Allows you to send email, text and voice messages
  • Created to-do lists and assign tasks
  • Manage a shared calendar
  • Host virtual meetings, conference calls and a chat room.
I use the program to keep in touch with classmates from a memoir course and a writer's retreat program. Wiggio allows membership in multiple groups, which is helpful if you are a member of more than one critique group. 

In the past,  members have set up an online chat allowing writers to exchange ideas, information and updates on his or her work. 

If you don't meet in person with your critique partners, how do you exchange information? Do you have a  special site to communicate?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Social hour: 10 random things about me

I'm in the middle of the Writers' Platform Building Campaign. I noticed on elizabethannewrites, Miss Marple's Musings, Paradoxy and Jessica's blogs they shared random details about themselves. I enjoyed reading theirs and decided to play along with Jessica's idea.

If you read my about me, you'll learn a few pertinent and odd facts. I shared my issues with vampires when I accepted a Stylish Award in July. I won't rehash those.

So, here are a few random facts about me:

1. I check email first thing in the morning. I shouldn't, but I do. If I don't stop this soon, I plan to make it a 2012 goal to quit.
I helped register people before I ran the Rotary Hill Run 5k back in 2005.

2. I  love the Rotary Club's motto:  Service Above Self. And, the four-way test— Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? I was a member for several years, but no longer participate.

3. I used to run. I want to work it back into my schedule. Preparing for a race always helped me train. Once, I was the last person in a race and followed by an ambulance escort as I crossed the finish line.
My car slid backwards down my driveway with me behind the steering wheel. 

4. I have issues with snow. Mother nature was kind to me last winter in Colorado. I grew up in Georgia and am skittish about driving on snow covered roads.

5. I am LIT — that's Lutheran in Training. I coined that for myself, but everyone else at church considers me Lutheran. I grew up Baptist.
Monkey cupcakes? I chose the vanilla wafer version for my son's birthday. I eat my experiments.

6. I love to bake and eat what I make.
I had a difficult time taking the first step.

7. Once, I jumped off a platform used by paratroopers at Fort Bragg, N.C. Not very graceful, but I did it.
I can't remember if I was supposed to do this or not. I survived.

8. It was easier going into a burning building with firefighters for a training exercise than stepping off the jump platform.

9. I am both an Apple and a PC.

10. I moved into a hotel with a six-week-old baby, Hubby and two dogs with the anticipation that we would find a house quickly. The universe had a different plan. We lived in cramped quarters for four months.

A key ingredient of every random fact — I've written about every one of them via a blog post or a newspaper column. Well, No. 5 is fresh material for another day or a new publication.

Do you have a non-writing experience that has shaped your work or become part of it?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day.

I wanted to participate in Cynthia of Random Thoughts' Labor Day Blog Fest, but forgot to sign up. She encouraged people to participate, so here I go.

Cynthia asked us to post a picture of the U.S. Flag:

My State Flag:
I don't live in Texas anymore, but I love this flag. I live in Colorado. The flag looks like a copyright symbol.

And, a list of five U.S. Historical sites I've visited:

1. I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site one year while home from colledge for the MLK holiday. The site includes the Ebenezer Church and the King Center

2. Hubby and I visited Fort Davis Texas. The old frontier post "is one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars' frontier military post in the Southwest." You can find info here on the site.

3. On my first trip to Texas, (before Hubby was Hubby) we visited the Alamo. It's on the National Historic Landmarks Program. San Antonio's modern skyline can be distracting, but the gravity of the fight that took place there is felt. We also visited John Wayne's Alamo movie set since we lived 30 minutes away.
It looks small compared to the modern buildings.

4. I visited Fort Pulaski National Monument in Savannah, Ga. while in high school. According to the site, the brick fort was a turning point in military history. The brick fort was no match for Union rifled cannons.

5. I first visited Mount Rushmore — a national memorial — in 2007. I later visited in 2008 after my wedding in nearby Custer. We'll take our son for his first visit this month.

Mount Rushmore is awesome.
Hope you have a fun Labor Day. The United States Department of Labor's site says the day "constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

So, what historic sites have you visited or you would like to visit?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Birthday Pie

Hubby's Birthday Pie
I survived. I made Hubby's birthday pie on Wednesday. He liked it, too. 

He wasn't impressed by my technique. I thought the patchwork, rustic look for the pie crust would make it more "flaky." He questioned whether the apples would be cooked, because it didn't look properly sealed. I considered those open spaces "vents."

Hubby believes pie crusts should be homemade. I believe you can buy a perfectly tasty and looking crust at the store. 

Before I put away the recipe book, I realized I had failed one key step in the pie crust process. Roll it out on wax paper. I rolled it out on a fancy French mat Hubby bought for all of his bread creations. I pieced strips of thin crust together. The wax paper is easier, because you just flip the crust into the pie pan in one large piece.

I hope I remember this lesson next year, because I'm sure he'll want Birthday Pie again. 

While I'm grateful he liked the pie, the situation made me realize it's a lot easier to edit words together than a pie crust.

What are you Thankful for this Thursday?