Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taxes: A Valid Excuse

Today's blog post about why this is a very late blog post.  No - waittaminute - Today's - er, tonights? - blog post about major issue of chaos in the life of a professional writer.

Yeah, that sounds better. 

My accountant passed away in February, bless him.  I didn't know this until today.  :(  I found out from his sister-in-law when she returned the calls I'd been leaving on his answering machine.

H-of-A wondered why they hadn't just changed the answering machine.

In one way, that would have sterilized the news; I would have called his brother (taking over the accounts) with my condolences, said a quick prayer, and moved on to make my tax appointment. In another way, a death announcement is more powerful when delivered by another human.  And any death is powerful and deserves that kind of respect.  I'm glad I talked with the human being.

So, I have a meeting in a week and a half for taxes. 

More sobering: I need to finish my tax spread sheets.  I just heard back from one of the publications I write for because I'd found a discrepancy between my math and their 1099 information.  Situation normal for many people I write for.  Sadly.  I should have done this months ago.  Fortunately, the discrepancy was explained, my unsurprising bad, and I don't need to pray for a rush 1099 reissue. 

But Captain, I'm a writer, not a mathematician!

I did my food receipts, too, and one of my other publication clients.  I've got one easy magazine 1099 to review; the editor there is always perfectly accurate, so no worries.

I have not done: 

Mileage.  You have NO idea what a b*tch that is.  Especially since, despite my best intentions, I don't keep track of it through the year, so I have to look at all my receipts and use Google Maps to figure it all out.  That's about 5+ hours of work.

I also have not done:

Travel expenses: plane tickets, bus tickets, parking, tolls, fees, hotel rooms (usually split, so more math)

Office expenses, which is broken down further to:

Services:  Internet (70% of the bill, which is realistically what per cent of my usage is work related), cell phone (another 70%)

Other household expenses because 7% of this house is exclusively my office (7 not 70, no typo):  firewood, oil, electricity, home repairs, yard supplies (because yes, clients come here), Other Stuff (that I don't feel like looking up for a blog post)

Stuff  (By the way, this is paraphrased, not exact to the tax forms or my Spreadsheets of Doom!):  computer equipment, office furniture, postage, books (used for business; I don't have the chutzpah to declare every book I buy as a business expense.  I'd be audited faster than you can say "But, I swear, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Hunger Games are research on my craft!"), Other Stuff (that I don't feel like looking up for a blog post)

And then there's proof of paid memberships to organizations I belong to, donations I've made…

Oh!  And then I need to calculate what I've made in book sales!

You get  the idea.  So help me, God and all that is Holy, imagine if I didn't have my W2 job with taxes taken out and I had to do this quarterly!!  And actually have to make payments!  *gaspfaint! I take out as much as humanly possible from my tutoring job just so I know I'm covered - and I put at least $1000 from my return (which I've gotten each year) towards the following year.

Because I know for damn sure I don't want the government chasing my sorry arse for money!

Those of you considering freelancing, take heed.  Be diligent in paperwork and taxes!  It's taken me years to make these spreadsheets efficient, and I know I still have a ways to go. But after talking with the new accountant, I'm confident he'll be as helpful as his brother was.

Which, as much as I hate doing all this paperwork, does make me a better business person throughout the year.

At least I filed all my receipts and notes well, and I do relatively well in maintaining the income spreadsheets.  (Ok, granted, those include the motivation of git me mah money nao, bee-otch!)

And at some point, when I grow up, I'll actually maintain this throughout the year so that when I'm making enough in writing where I quit the day job - or the day job isn't making enough to cover quarterly taxes - then I won't immediately fall into a trembling fetal position at the potential of having to write a check to Uncle Sam on a quarterly basis.

So, listen up all you writers who want to make a living at writing!  Start learning how to save and organize your receipts now!  Before it's too late!  The End is Near!

And pray for an accountant who will whip you into shape while she or he saves your sorry artistic rear end.

Now, back to this scary pile of MATH I have to do… now under Deadline!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Conbust was Great!

And I'm exhausted and have work to do.

Enjoy the following pictures. :) 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Broadly Speaking: Strong Female Characters

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Welcome to the third Broadly Speaking edition of the Broad Pod. Broadly Speaking brings you interviews and insights from women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror - and all the realms in between.  Julia Rios hosts this month's episode, which is all about strong female characters.

Our guests this month are:

*Joyce Chng, whose novel about Singaporean werewolves, Wolf at the Door (written under the name J. Damask), is coming out in April through Lyrical Press.

*Kate Kaynak, author of the Ganzfield series of books about a teenage telepath, and co-editor of the upcoming Spencer Hill Press anthology, UnCONventional.

*Phoebe Wray, author of Jemma 7729, and current president of Broad Universe.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing and Tarot

I'll be presenting this workshop on Friday at 5PM at Smith College's Conbust.  Here's a taste of what I've got planned:

The Tarot deck is a tool to help people understand their relationship to the universe, the world around them.  It gives a visual presentation of our motives, goals, conflicts, actions and reactions.  This makes it an excellent tool for writing.

When I do a full Celtic Cross reading spread, I read it as a map, a lesson.  What's the point of telling someone "This is going to happen" without arming them to prepare for whatever "This" is?  For me, a full reading spread addresses a conflict of the questioner, how this conflict has come about, how the questioner perceives the conflict as compared to how it may actually be, where the actions are leading, what to do to maintain or change the result, what is motivating the questioner, and an underlying consideration the questioner probably doesn't realize is in effect.

Doing a full tarot spread for the main conflict of a novel or short story can help a writer in outlining or dealing with a sticking point.

A Secret for Anyone about Tarot

Most readers I know, and the best I've learned from, have all instilled me with one "secret" that everyone should know.  This secret is why almost all the readings I do now are from people I've read for before.

Each card's meaning comes from you.

When you look at the written or given meaning in a Tarot primer, it's based on a collective experience and wisdom.  People are drawn to different decks, which when you look at the mini-booklets, vary in card meaning, because that culture and that experience which went into the deck design speaks to them.  Tarot readers study these things, but we also know that humans and culture are ever evolving and changing, that every individual strays from the collective, and that every individual assigns meaning to symbols just a little differently.

People who define themselves as writers instinctively and inherently tap into this collective wisdom: what motivates, inspires, drives, and affects people.  We are also masters of metaphor, symbolism, and hidden meaning  Writers observe people and life, and they often notice what your regular person misses and create meaning in our minds; meaning creates story.

Therefore, a writer using the Tarot need not ever look at a Tarot book or take a divination class to utilize the deck as a tool in their writing arsenal. 

If, as a writer, you choose a deck that "speaks" to you, it's automatically aligned with your sense of the world.  The frequently used symbols will speak to you, and you'll find new ones that match you perfectly.  You'll take that collective meaning used to create the card and make it your own. 

The Knight of Wands Example (will be a handout in actual class)

And sometimes the situation will change that meaning; as a writer, you know this, too.  How many of us have had characters go and do something utterly stupid or brilliant - but entirely unexpected -  when presented with an extreme or unusual situation?  How many real people have we seen do this, too?

The Power of a Single Card

The exercise we're doing for this workshop utilizes a single card. 

A reader can answer a question with a single card.  It's a "spread" that works for a simple question or issue or as a way to start the day with a directed meditation.  For writers, it can be a great jumping block for brainstorming or working out writer's block.

This exercise forces the writer to depend on his/her subconscious and reevaluate the meaning and expectations s/he may have for the situation.

  • Pull a single card from the deck.
  • If you do read Tarot, do not try and read the card.  If you don't normally read Tarot, you're better prepared for this exercise.
  • Look at the picture and its components for one full minute.  (I'll time you here; set a timer at home.)
  • Flip the card over or return it to the deck and shuffle it in.  Resist the urge to look at it!
  • Write for two full minutes everything you remember from the picture on the card on a sheet of paper.
  • On a second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc.) piece of paper, using only what you wrote on the first paper, construct a story or path for your character to take.  (For the workshop, I'll give you 2 more minutes; at home, take as long as you want/need/can.)

Bonus Step:
  • Collaborate with one or more partners and put your stories together.  (For the workshop, I'll give you 3 minutes to do this).

I'm a big fan of collaboration because it's good for any writer to be forced from her/his head at least as an exercise.  It also prepares the writer for a relationship with an editor and offers a fresh perspective on any situation.  Even if collaboration isn't a writers regular modus operandi, it's worth trying as an exercise every once in a while.

Related Reference: Ruth & Wald Amberstone's Tarot Tips.  Exercise based on similar one for readers.


Hopefully this inspires you to explore your writing in a new direction and introduces you to a tool you'll find helpful at any stage of your writing, from brainstorming to composing to editing.  The secret to using the Tarot is to trust in your own instincts, understanding of persons and culture, and signification of meaning.  If you need a trick to keep yourself from forcing meaning upon a card, break it down to the pieces that stick out in your mind and read based on those pieces, not the card itself.  This will give you a truer reading for the situation.

To make the most of this tool, I do suggest finding a deck that features persons or personified beings (like dragons, mythical beasts, cats/cat people).  This will give you a "character" for each card.  The more vivid the pictures, also, the more you will get from each card - especially for non-readers.

* I'm also including a Tarot reference sheet and an exercise for a 3-card spread.

Found this interesting?  Let me know.  Have any tips on using the Tarot for writing?  Add to the comments.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Stalking Opp

The good, first:

Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory has won the 2011 EPIC Award for anthologies for the electronic version!  Huzzah!
Additionally, my friend, Dr. Anthony Francis, also one 2011 EPIC for the e-version of his excellent novel, Frost Moon.


The bad:

I continue to be plagued by car issues.  I spent a good part of this weekend working because of all the time I lost sitting at the repair shop.  Especially on Friday, which was an unexpected issue, so I didn't even have my netbook or my packed "office" to get anything done in my quiet corner of the repair shop.

The silver lining?  It should be fixed now, God willing, and it didn't cost me any more.  And, with great appreciation to being a freelancer, I didn't entirely lose the money I could of made if I were working a regular hourly job.  It just meant I spent a lot of a beautiful weekend inside.  On my laptop. 

There were a few breaks, though, which I needed for sanity.  But… a lot of work.  le sigh


The Stalking Opp:

I'll be at Conbust at Smith College in Northampton, MA next weekend!  J  Yay!  This is a fun little feminist convention in one of my favorite little towns out here.  I'm staying with my Mom and packing most lunches/dinners, so it's not a huge expense, either.  And I've got some great friends I see out there, too.

So, if you want to come and find me, here's my schedule:


Tarot and Writing - 5 pm - Room 204.

Description: The Tarot is a powerful tool to help individuals discover the paths of their lives, so why not harness this power to discover the paths of your characters and stories?  You need no experience in Tarot reading.  In fact, feel free to leave what you know at the door.  We'll take a fresh look at the imagery of the cards, how to listen to our own muses and Spirit, and how to turn that into a character study - and even the basis of a plot!  Paper and pens will be provided, so be ready to write.  Everyone will come away with the beginnings of a story that they are free to pursue."


Character Building 101 - 11 am - Room 106. Description: "The nice thing about fiction is that you can fill the world with fascinating people you’d like to meet. Learn to round out your characters, from Our Hero(ine) to Bar Patron #3 to the talking alligator in the swamp."
Co-panelists: George Claxton, Lynn Flewelling

Faeries - 1 pm - Room 208. Description:" From Elves to the Sidhe to the Wee Free Men, fantasy is rife with various descriptions of the Fair Folk."
Co-panelist: S.J. Tucker


Children's Fairytales - 10 am - Room 202. Description:" 'Once upon a time...' there was a panel involving brave orphans, lost princesses, evil witches, and a fuzzy talking animal. The story continues..."
Co-panelist: Jennifer Allis Provost

Broad Universe Round Robin Reading - 11 am - Room 201. Description:" Please join our lovely ladies for a round robin of reading!"
Readers: Trish Wooldridge, Jennifer Allis Provost, Connie Wilkins, Phoebe Wray

Hope to see you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 2011 Woman Power Episode of the Broad Pod! ((fiction, science fiction, romance, fantasy, feminist))

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Welcome to the 2011 March episode of the Broad Pod!  Join hostess Jean Marie Ward ( for this month's powerful collection of short readings from women writing across the realm of speculative fiction.


The Broad Pod is sponsored by Broad Universe, an international, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, honoring, and celebrating women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Find out more about our organization, including new fiction released by women, more podcasts, and information about writing and publishing for women, at our website,


March is Women’s History Month, and this month’s talented women writers spotlight many aspects of Woman Power—and powerful women:


Charged with treason, Gail Z. Martin’s ( pregnant queen Kiera must wage a war of words to save herself, her friends, and her unborn child.


In Larissa N. Niec’s ( selection, the goddess Rhianna’s high priestess embarks on a dangerous spirit quest to seek help for her dying land.


Theresa Crater ( introduces her heroine—and us—to the legendary Morgan le Fey in the land beneath the hallowed hill.


Then journey with Diane Whiteside ( to present-day Virginia, where a psychically gifted homicide detective learns just how powerful a woman working for the FBI can be.


Finally, soar into the future with Danielle Ackley-McPhail ( and a squadron of hell-raising women fighter pilots led by the infamous Scarlet Jay.


Sit back.  Enjoy.  But don’t expect to relax—not around these women.

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Posted via email from The Broad Pod posterous

Writing Style and Cooking Style

Last Friday, while I was holed up without a car and unable to post a blog post, Storyfix had a great post that sang to me as a writer - and a foodie!

A little background:

Larry Brooks, the author of the blog and the book Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing, often writes about the importance of pre-planning and organizing for a professionally successful story.  For a long time, he was pretty harsh on "organic" or "pantser" (write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants) writers.  Recently, he's gone soft - just a little - on this type of writer… which I just so happen to classify myself as.

Larry's frequent main point - which admittedly is often what causes me to skim his articles rather than read them in depth - is that a successful story requires planning, outlining, and some very specific pieces (gone on in more detail with his new book.)

His recent post had him admit he would soften his stance on it, and gave a great food analogy.  You should go read the post, definitely.  I'm just taking it a little further.

What's cooking?

Having been an at-home cook and a "foodie" before I even knew the term, I'm all for food analogies!  I was using them to critique my friends before it was considered cool. (Adjusts "hipster" glasses…)  For example, I'd say that cutting down story length was like simmering down a pan sauce: it needed to be done to heighten the flavor, consistency, and overall experience.  Left watery, it was, well, watery and not as powerful.  Simmer down that word count!

Of course, as cooks, the Husband-of-Awesome and I, rarely follow recipes.  Or, we use recipes as jumping boards.  I've included a few recipes in this blog and in newsletters… but almost all have a list of potential substitutions and alternate ingredients and at least one "eyeball" measurement.

That said, both my husband and I have been cooking long enough to know the basics of cooking.  We're constantly researching.  Research, for us, is fun.  It's everything from watching Food TV to my article writing to just following links about food.  We know what makes a good _______, what are the base ingredients that cannot be substituted or ignored, and how the finished product should taste, look, feel, sound, smell.  There's also the knowledge of what ingredients don't play well together and how cooking and mixing style can affect the final product (this latter lesson is mostly thanks to Alton Brown.)

So, even though we often "pants" our dinners ("Oh, crap, I have to cook… what's in the fridge, freezer and counter?" ), there's a certain amount of planning and structure involved below the surface. 

It's that compilation of knowledge that lets us create meals that seem entirely out-of-the-blue and pulled from our arses when, in reality, there's a lot of subconscious planning going on.  "I've got chicken thighs or tenders… I can cook tenders into a stir fry or pasta.  I am short on veggies, so we'll go with pasta… and make the sauce from leftover pumpkin… which goes with red peppers, onions, and/or spinach with…" and so on.

And the longer we cook, the more we learn, the better the planning becomes - even as it is less and less obvious.

Yum!  A story!

I've been writing stories for a good 20+ years of my life.  And yes, I have the notes and drafts to prove it.  (No, you can't read them.  Would you really want to try a recipe I "created" when I was 13???  No, no you don't.  Trust me.)

My writing has evolved much like my cooking.  Even in my teens, I was a voracious reader, reasonably intelligent and liked research; I had a decent idea of what things made me like a story and how a story developed.  Most of my work, even then, had a pretty clear structure (it read like pulp high fantasy and/or space opera) with a beginning, middle, and end.  I didn't realize there was any structure, though.  I just wanted to see what kind of adventures my characters would find while they saved the world (or galaxy) from [insert generic and minimally appropriate Big Bad Guy].

As I learned more about writing from further reading, taking classes, being active in writing groups, and just writing, I improved and had more structure.

When I said that the planning for a meal I cook becomes less and less obvious, I mean it's less obvious to a casual observer.

If I'm talking kitchen shop with you, then you can see the skeleton and structure of the things I cook.

The same goes for writing.  My current novel, Kelpie (only 3 or so more scenes to write!), is the most planned thing I've written.  However, I've only written a small percentage of the planning.  And, unless I'm talking to you about the steps and research, it's not really evident that I did a lot of planning.  (If you saw me writing at the coffeeshop, deli, or studio, you'd see metyping as if I were flying by the seat of my pants.)

While I did do a lot of planning for A Silent Starsong, which I'm shopping around now, my first draft ended up being a draft for not just the final version of Starsong, but also a whole lot of unnecessary background and a whole lot of a potential sequel.  I did a lot of writing to discover things… and then a WHOLE LOT of editing to fix it afterwards.

And I didn't realize I was doing that.

The few "discovery" scenes I've written for Kelpie are ones that I'm pretty aware are written for my own purposes and will likely get chopped or significantly cut in the next set of revisions.

Compare that to the 800 handwritten notebook pages of my first "novel" written as an adult about 10 years ago.  It's a high fantasy where group of characters have to save the world kinda piece.  If I ever decide to salvage it, it will have to be a trilogy, and it will have to be at least 90% rewritten - completely.  I did an awful lot of "discovery" writing that worked great for brainstorming characters and all the potential routes they could take to defeat their fallen god nemesis.  (Yes, it sounds very generic to me right now, too.)

As a writer, I needed to go through that experimental "organic" period of discovering what I could do.  As a home cook, I had to go through my crazy "let's see if these foods work together!" period that led to many less-than-stellar meals, if not one or two that had to be fed directly to the garbage bin.  In both cases, also, there will be foods and pieces of stories that will be created mainly for discovery purposes; because I know what I know now, some of that may even remain in a final product.  As both a writer and a cook, I have clocked in a lot of time researching, learning, and planning for final products.  In fact, the planning and research come as second nature, so it still "feels" like I'm writing or cooking by the seat of my pants. 

And I have no desire to change that; I love the adventure of it!

In my head, though, the subconscious is fiddling with structure and filling in blanks faster than I can record.  In the creation of the food or the story, though, it's the spark of imagination and creativity that drives those planning gears.

So, if you are an organic writer and/or cook by the seat of your pants, take a moment and consider:  Might there be a hint of planning below the surface based on your experience… that you don't realize is going on?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Belated Blogging

My car has gremlins.

My personal joke about these gremlins is they are all potheads because the code they throw per the "Check Engine" light is 420.

For those of you who don’t know, the 420 code is anything potentially related to the catalyst and exhaust.  Which means, potentially, a whole bunch of crap at varying degrees of wallet devastation.  At least once a year, usually around when her sticker is due, my Buick baby (ok, my mature Buick who is pushing 200,000 miles and is 10 years old), throws this code and it's something different.  This year, she threw it a second time a month after I got my sticker. 

Most of the 420 issues are not "must fix now or your life is endangered by driving this vehicle," so I do my best to work around my favorite garage's schedule.  So, for about two weeks, we played musical appointments, and then Thursday we brought her in.  I always pack Little Rosie with me so I can get work done for the several hours I'm without my car and without a ride.  Well, we'd planned ahead for a full day on Thursday, and I was going to spend it writing at my friend's studio.

Long story short, it's Monday and we're waiting for another, entirely unexpected, part to arrive before my poor engine can be reassembled. 

Even better:  The H-of-A's car also broke over the weekend. 


(H-of-A has a much easier problem than mine, a broken sway bar, that wasn't fixed at home because you need a few special tools.)

Add to that a mild stomach bug, weekend visitors, a handful of deadlines, and a few other things… and I'm terribly behind on a whole lotta stuff. 

In fact, I just remembered that I actually have this month's Broad Pod completed and ready to go by the fabulous Jean Marie Ward.  And I forgot to post it.

So, this is a brief space-holder blog for until I get home and can post the podcast.

On the other hand, my silver lining is that I've gotten a lot accomplished on Kelpie.  Waiting for repairs has some benefit.

Please wish us luck!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

But, Why?

One of the symptoms that you have a case of "great writing group," is that members will ask you questions that challenge you in a way that makes you want to address the issue.

Usually, these questions are pretty simple. 

Almost always, they are open ended.

From my Traveling Java group, Val (who's pagan column you absolutely need to read!) asked me why my protagonist, Heather, is insistent on keeping the whole kelpie issue secret from the adults in the story when, per my own copy, there are reasonable hints that said grown-ups won't necessarily think she's crazy… and might actually listen to her!

A very good question.

If you've read much children's or YA fiction, it's a fairly common trope that kids just Don't Tell Their Parents… well, much of anything.  Even when Anything is something pretty horrible, or even deadly.

Now, from the beginning of my drafting process, I knew I would address that issue anyway.

But still, why doesn't Heather chat with, say, Mr. McInnis who nailed iron crosses all around the barn after the first kelpie attack?  Obviously he knows a thing or two about fae.

Well, Mr. McInnis is a scary curmudgeon who feels she's too strong-willed for a child, especially a girl, and that she's brought on this fae curse.  Heather doesn’t quite know that much about Mr. McInnis, but like most kids, she can sense he's not particularly fond of her.  And grumpy.  And angry.  All. The. Time.

Ok, but her parents seem to be pretty open minded. 

She adores her dad and is truly guilty that she worried him so much in the first place, sneaking out with her best friend.  Dad's bipolar disorder is acting up, though, and he's worried about her older sister, Lily, who's a whole continent away with her biological mom, a woman less than esteemed among Heather's family.  Heather doesn't want to make Dad's life any more surreal or difficult.

Her mum, however, has written articles, fiction, and scripts that include magic and faerie.  When Heather's younger brother, Rowan, was scared that goblins would kidnap him (per Lily's teasing), Mum even did a spell from one of her books - and Heather swears it was more than just show.  At least talking to Mum might be a good plan, right?

But she doesn't.  And even though I'm writing in first person POV for Heather, she doesn't even bring up the idea of telling her parents the truth as an option. 

Now, I know why she's secretive, but it's not particularly easy to show.  It's doable, and something I have to go back and enhance - obviously because both Val and Marlys agreed with the need for clearer motivation - but a good part of it is who Heather is, and who influences the person she wants to be.

The primary influence on Heather's character is, despite being a Daddy's Girl, her mum, who she perceives as someone she wants to be like.  (Heather's not a teenager yet, so her parents have not quite descended to the levels of über-uncoolness.)  Heather's mum, like most of the women I know (including the character's namesake), is also not especially good at asking for help.  In fact, she has a bit of a goddess-complex; of course she can save the world!  Heather's Dad usually is the one who has to figure out if his spouse is getting in over her head.

Yeah, that's Heather's primary role model.

And then there's Heather's best friend, Prince Joseph ("Joe" to her, and her alone) who happens to be a prince, third in line to the throne of England.  His parents met while both snuck away from their families to fight in a war and, long story short, ended up saving a lot of lives.  He's got pretty big role models to follow, too.  On top of that, he's, well, a prince who's smothered with attention, so he's constantly trying to accomplish stuff on his own, without a whole flipping retinue that wants to help and protect him.

Heather, of course, thinks he's pretty cool.  She's also not much of a leader, and he is, so she tends to let him take charge… even when an idea (like trying to be heroes by finding kidnapped kids before the police do) is hers.

Now, I've always known about Heather's Mum's character flaw; I've know Heather's Mum longer than I've known Heather - character creation wise.  I didn't know about Joe's influence, though, until I really started thinking deeper about Heather's motivations (thanks to Val's question).  I'm also in the middle of writing a bunch of Heather/Joe scenes, so that part of his personality is starting to show.  I'll probably have to tease it out and reveal it even more for readers, but now that I know it's there, I have something more to work with.

Because, currently, Heather's Mum is under an especially difficult and unusual kind of stress, so she's not showing her "I can save the world!" personality so much in this book. (Sorry for the vagueness; spoiler land.)

Another of Heather's personality points, which comes from her mother (and is based on my own experience), is that you don't ever want to make someone else's life more difficult by asking for help if you could, possibly, handle something yourself.  Now, drawing the line of judgment of what one can handle by oneself is not easy as an adult, let me tell you!  It's less so for a kid; I remember that well.  So, you focus on the not wanting to make someone else's life difficult, no matter what.

I might be able to bring that out in writing more, adding more of Heather's thoughts.  The not-so-easy part is detecting how obvious or subtle those things are.  Unless you were raised in a family that valued family secrecy (which I was) and extreme independence (albeit very open, supportive parents), it's hard to break that down; it's ingrained.  But it must be done.

So, this seemingly simple question about Heather's motivations for this little secrecy detail is pretty important; it's not just a children's book trope I'm using.

And because it's so important, it's important that I bring it out more.

If you haven't got a fabulous writer's group that will ask "But, why?" for you, make sure you do for yourself.  I love Debra Dixon's book, Goal, Motivation, & Conflict; it's a great tool for doing just that.  She maps character goals in plots and subplots for major novels and movies to show authors how they can apply it to their own work.  The exercise is important at many levels, because every choice a character makes is a conflict affected by the goal and motivation. 

So, go question your character's motives!  (Trust me, you can't trust those characters on their own!  Any of them!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

What's going on THIS Manic Month

I managed to send updates to the Broad Universe web maven.  Just… not my own.

So, hopefully, most of you will catch this. :)

Conventions & Appearances

End of the Month: I'm at Conbust! 

I just got my schedule, and there will be a Writing & Tarot course on Friday, along with a Broad Universe RFR and a faerie panel and a children's fairy tales panel and… more stuff that's in my 169-email inbox.  I'll post the full schedule soon!

In the mean time, save the dates for Conbust:  March 25-27.

Also, because I'm working on it, I'll be running a party, a Rapid Fire Reading, and an info + sorta-kinda book sale table at Wiscon over Memorial Day Weekend.  And, likely, paneling my heart out. :) 

Kelpie Updates

March is also my deadline for having Kelpie done for beta readers.  The next scene is one I am just dying to write, but I've got a few more obligations to do before I can reward myself with speculative fiction noveling. 

I DID finish the scenes for each of my respective writing groups, though.  :)  I have to say, thanks to my fabulous writing groups, MAKING Kelpie beta-reader-ready will be much easier.

I <3 you guys & gals!


I'm starting a new set of mini-reviews for Worcester Magazine.  This time: Pizza joints.

I really need to add the Wii workouts back into my schedule… in addition to making use of the indoor ring where I'm now boarding Calico.  And my asthma inhaler.  [adjusts geek glasses]

Also, I have another trade food article to do.  This one is on merchandising fresh herbs in supermarkets.  :)  It sounds like fun… onto phone calls tomorrow!

And More Work

I'm still working on Big Editing Project with the NDS.  :)

Short Story Calling

I found a potential market for E-Hell.  I just need to add about 1200 more words.  Adding words… last time I did that for a market, I sold my piece.  It was "Mirror of Hearts" to Fantasy Gazetteer. 

Wish me luck!

Because I'm nice, here's that Open Call.

Also, UnCONventional, the anthology I'm editing with Kate Kaynak for Spencer Hill Press is looking for submissions through June 1st.  It's March now… so keep on sending!

Help Appreciated

I still have that other story toying in my mind for another anthology.  Someone get me a TARDIS?  I'd even go for one sans David Tennant, as he'd just be a distraction from everything I gotta do!

That said, if you're a member of Broad Universe and reading this.  I just posted for an assistant Readings & Events Coordinator.  In fact, the few of us who do a whole lot of work for the organization are getting a bit threadbare, so, if you check out our volunteer page, you would be our angels - and help other women get the publication and publicity they deserve!

Horsey News of Awesomeness

In case you missed my announcement (and somewhat snarky opinion of a certain Facebook game), I am Riding for the Ribbon with Calico! 

My goal is to raise $300 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure ® Foundation by riding my horse for some 9+ miles over Felton Field in Barre, MA.

Winning Food!

The Husband-of-Awesome won the local Chili Throwdown at our favorite Deli.  :)  I came in 2nd Place, tying with a Caribbean chili.  Voters were in a somewhat tropical mood, I guess… no surprise with the winter we've had!

Some quick corrections, my Hawaiian chili meat was all pork based, not beef.  Guess what my Foodie Friday post is going to be?  ;)  Hope you like it Hot!

More Webby Stuff

After this week, I'm thinking of leaving LiveJournal for good.  Besides the aggravating ads, I get daily spam in the archive comments.  Oh, and the formatting continues to be a *itch.

If any of you have any objections or reasons for me to stay, speak now… on LJ.  If all I've got is spam this week, I'm done.  I think there's a way to just broadcast and allow no comments… if you have advice on that, too, feel free to tell me.

I also do have a WordPress account.  The more I hear about it, the more I really want to use it.  In my "copious amounts of time," I will try to set that up to match my colors and such once more. 

If you hear screams of frustrated Internet anguish from Central, MA… yeah, that's me.

In the mean time, if you don't hear anything from me, the pile of papers on my desk has collapsed and I may be suffocating.  Send help.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Feminine Friday

It sounds awful, but cutesy awareness campaigns aggravate me - and I'm probably about to tick off some people with this post.

But breast cancer and its consequences means a lot to me - my mother is a breast cancer survivor, and we can actually make a difference with real campaigns.

A friend of mine sent this to my Facebook inbox:

We are playing a game. Someone proposed that we GIRLS do something special on to help with Breast Cancer Awareness. Last year it was about writing the color of the bra that your were wearing in your status and it left men wondering for days why the girls had random colors as their status. This year it has to do with your relationship status. You will state where you are, by... posting one of the codes below. Remember - don't reply to this message just type your 1 word response in your status box on your profile. Then cut and paste this whole message into a new message and send it along to your female friends....
Blueberry: I'm single
Pineapple its complicated
Raspberry: I'm a touch and go woman
Apple: Engaged
Cherry: In a relationship
Banana: I'm married
Avocado: I'm the "other one"
Strawberry: Cant find the right one
Lemon: Wish i was single
Grape: wants to get married.
The bra game reached TV, lets get this one to do the same, and show everyone how powerful women are

First, I'm going to ignore the obvious monogamous-marriage-centered theme here.  I may rail on that in a different post in the future, but not now.

Next, yeah, the bra game* made it to national TV, but really, did most people who saw the status updates actually GET what they were?  What, really, did it do to increase breast cancer awareness?  Oh, and - forgive the lack of a link - but there was an article about how any breast cancer survivor who had had a double mastectomy would be left out.  Kind of a problem.  (Thus, the following, "Where do I keep my purse game?"**)

Currently, and especially in October, there are pink ribbons anywhere there is stuff to be sold.  I can't go out in a week without seeing at least one bumper sticker or magnet on a car with a pink ribbon or some saying, like my absolute favorite, "Save the ta-tas."  (<=That was sarcasm. I'll leave my rant on stupid, silly names for women's body parts later.)

So, if people are not aware that breast cancer exists and is a problem, they are living under a rock. 

However, they may not know that 1 in 6 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  (Or they may; look at the statistic - you probably know at least one woman with it.)

They may also not know that health care spending cuts are making it harder for women to get mammograms.  In fact, some insurance policies don't even cover these tests if you're under 40 - or even at all!  We won't even go into school districts whose health classes refuse to teach girls how to do a self examination… or areas of the U.S. where health care professionals don't teach girls self-exams because, y'know, that's touching themselves and evil.  (Friends up on more conservative practices in the U.S., do feel free to leave more specific and accurate links.  Besides the above 1/6 and later "up to 75%" stats from the MA Komen site, most of this is from my memory and my own ongoing interest and research.)

So, rather than cryptic "vaguebooking," I'm doing something I know will make a difference - and that I love.

I'm riding Calico with my friend Kim from Hillview Stables in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure ® Ride for the Ribbon, run by the Massachusetts affiliate of the Komen foundation.  I have set a goal of $300 that I will raise - and per the MA affiliate site, up to 75% of that will go directly to MA women: education, mammograms, research.

If you want to be part of that, here's the link to my page:

Even a donation of $5 will make a difference.

I've got a few hundred friends on Facebook, more than half women.  And I challenge you to help me make my goal.  If you want to post a fruit, great, but put your money where your keyboard is.  Post your fruit and donate the equivalent of two cups of coffee to make a difference to a woman who needs a mammogram, who was never taught how to check herself, who doesn’t know her options. 

If half my Facebook friends donated just a dollar, I'd almost have my goal met today!  (Thank you, Amy, for being my first donor with your generous donation!!)

And my blog followers?  Just a dollar?  Even better, $5?

Can you do it?

Or is typing a fruit the best you can do for women suffering from breast cancer?

* The Bra Game had women posting the color of the bra they were wearing that day and nothing more.

** The Purse Game had women posting where they keep their purse, which of course, also left a vague sexual sense due to the cryptic nature:  "In the dining room."  "On the kitchen table."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And this is your [flipping late] blog for today…

… I finished another fiction scene this morning and am playing catch-up with paid writing projects, so, enjoy some cute horse pictures (courtesy of Hillview Stables) that reflect my fiction and hopefully inspire yours!

Happy March!

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