Monday, February 28, 2011

My Grandfather was a Soldier in WWI

Last US Veteran of WWI Dies in W. VA at Age 110

When I saw this headline on my home page this morning, I knew I had to repost the link for my readers.

My grandfather was also a soldier in WWI. Roy George Gifford, born February 22, 1897 and died April 7, 1966.

My grandfather lost his eye in an accident while working at a factory in Illinois. The accident left him disabled to the point of not being able to work in that type of job any longer. He did various other things to bring in income. I remember riding in his big station wagon when he delivered bleach. After finishing the route, he'd take me to a little diner for a strawberry malted milk. His pet name for me was "kidlet."

My grandfather taught me to ride a bicycle, and he cooked the best potato soup in the world.

Sometimes I reminisce by going back through pictures and wish I had been as diligent of preserving history as my mother and grandmother were. This year I plan to surprise my children with a CD filled with pictures of their grandparents and great grandparents...a historical biography in pictures.

Time passes so quickly and sometimes we are either too busy or too young to capture the moments that mean little to us, yet will mean so much to future generations.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Looking Back to 1950 Something

This is a picture of my Aunt Peach (Rosetta) and my Uncle Nort (Norton). Aren't they cute? My gaze fell upon this picture while I was sitting at my desk this morning and it brought back some wonderful memories.

I'd moved from my grandparents home in northern Illinois to live with my mother and her new husband in southern Illinois. Suddenly, I had a huge family. Right up the street, about a country block, lived my Aunt Peach and Uncle Nort. They had a television, something I'd never seen before. On Saturday evenings, we'd walk to their house and sit in the living room to watch the Ed Sullivan show. My cousin would make home made potato chips. Wow, watching dancing cigarette boxes was really something!

On afternoons after school, I'd walk to my aunt's house and we'd sit and talk until Howdy Doody came on. Then, she'd watch the antics of Buffalo Bob, Clarabelle the clown, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, Howdy Doody and all the Peanut Gallery.

As I grew older, the adult women would include me in their quilting sessions set up in my Aunt's basement. I learned to sew even stitches through the layers of beautiful hand made quilts. I remember lots of laughter and a feeling of togetherness.

Sometimes on weekends, many would gather in my Aunt's kitchen and we'd play cards. Fun games like "I Doubt It" that even the kids could join in on.

I miss those days in many ways. Life was harder, but simple, and families and friends made it very rich.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Warning - Deep Thoughts Provoked This Blog

Years ago (not telling how many), I was a big fan of books portraying the lives of our American Indian tribes. The authors had the skills to project me into the scenes where buffalo were hunted for survival. Life was hard work. Yet they lived by a strong code of ethics and had a deep faith.

This morning I read an article by Shannon Dininny of the Associated Press with the headline Oregon Tribes Pursue First Bison Hunt in Century. My heart cheered along with Jim Marsh and his relatives when Francis, his son, brought down a huge bull. I wish I could have been there. I'm sure I would have had tears running down my face instead of just blinking them back as I am now.

I do appreciate all the wonderful advances of technology, but fear for our future generations who have become so dependent on them. What would happen to our civilization if we lost electricity, telephones, electronic devices, automobiles...all things dependent on the technology so carefully developed over the years?

I just finished the Restoration series by Teri Blackstock, which addresses this very issue. I highly recommend these books to anyone who is as interested as me in "what if."

We live in a very spoiled and rich environment where we "take care of number one" first. I often think that I am only one day away from having to live in a cardboard box and forage through garbage cans for food. It could happen to me, it could happen to my next door neighbor. I like to think I'm a sharing kind of person, but would I be willing to do so if I, too, lost everything? And, worst of all, would I have the skills to survive?

Before we took over this rich land, our ancestors respected the earth, gave thanks for the food provided, and took care of their community. Have we really progressed and made things better with our technology, or have we created a land of robots existing in a cocoon where we hide in our homes dependent on technology we have no control over while we think we have it made? Are we really rich?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Defeating Procrastination

Motivation is a requirement to keep you focused on achieving anything you'd like to do. Sometimes motivation slacks and you find yourself procrastinating. You have a bad day so you tell yourself you'll get back on track tomorrow. Tomorrow keeps moving farther out and soon you lose all motivation. Then doubt and depression settle in. This is true for every aspect of life, but especially true for writing.

When I joined Weight Watchers I looked at where I was and where I wanted to be. The numbers were so far apart, that I nearly gave up before I started. However, WW suggests setting a 5% of your current weight as your first goal. So, now I'm looking at an achievable goal. I'm motivated as I draw closer and closer to the first success platform.

The same thing is true of writing. When you look at needing to write 300 to 400 words and you are on page one, the end seems so very far away. Many writers balk at setting goals. Life gets in the way and nothing gets written for a day, or more. Now, the writer feels "behind". Then it becomes easier to miss another day. Doubt and depression settles in. This, my friends, is a death knoll. I know. I've been there.

So, how does a writer establish attainable goals to keep them on track? The easiest way is to establish a goal to write "something" every single day. Even on a "bad" day, you should be able to write one sentence. Establishing a routine of writing every single day leads to producing more pages. Some days you'll do a lot more than others. Some days you may only write one sentence. But, as long as you've written something, then you are still on goal. Each word leads to a sentence. Each sentence to a paragraph. Each paragraph to a page.

Allowing yourself the flexibility of not being focused on producing a "set" number of words or pages will put you on the path to consistent writing. This is the key to success.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Wish I Could Write That!!!

Forget the critics on the police procedure stuff when it comes to Castle. Who cares? As a writer, I am only interested in the characters. And last night, when Castle and Beckett were in the isolation chamber due to supposed exposure to radiation, the expressions said it all. Castle wanted to confess his true feelings for Beckett. He was ready, his eyes, his expression showed that he planned to do it...and then they were rudely interrupted...well, to tell them they were not going to die. And the look on Castle's face then, the disappointment, the frustration, wow.
I sure wish I could write that. I'm going to study the DVR until I learn to capture that "look" in words.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What This Author is Doing Today

Monday. It's raining. Need I say more?

Almost time for Dr. Oz. Love that show.

On the agenda for today: laundry, writing (chapter 5), 30 minutes on treadmill, grocery shopping.

And that's the true picture of a writer's life. No bon-bons, no pool parties, no maids.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guilt-Free Promo for Published and Pre-Published Authors

I love online writing courses. I've taken many of them, especially when I first began to write and wanted to learn more about craft. My dear friend, and fellow author, Marcia James, is a promotional guru. She has put together a fantastic online course which is made up of lectures by many published authors...including me. Check out the info below if you want to take a fabulous Self-Promotion course.


SELF-PROMOTION: Does the very term make you cringe? Do you suffer from "Not-Doing-Enough-Self-Promotion" guilt? Do you think self-promotion is something you'll have time to learn AFTER getting The Call? Here’s THE online workshop for you:

March 7th - 20th: "GUILT-FREE PROMOTION: Picking the Right PR Options for You"

PR consultant and author Marcia James will present this two-week online workshop, with guest lectures written by a slate of promotion-savvy authors and industry insiders. Participants will be given the tips and the tools to pick the best PR options for them and their books. The lectures include:

Promoting Yourself Before "The Call" by Beth Morrow (multi-published article writer)

Web Site Design by Karen McCullough (Karen's Web Works)

Online & Print Press Kits by Patricia Sargeant (Kensington/Berkley)

Book Videos by Michael Matthews (Michael Matthews Productions)

Co-Promotion by Duffy Brown (Berkley Prime Crime)

Group Blogs by Donna MacMeans (Berkley)

Author Promotion Sites by DeNita Tuttle (

Print Advertising by Janice Maynard (NAL, Kensington & Silhouette)

Public Speaking by Karen Harper (MIRA, Penguin USA & NAL)

Networking/Power-Schmoozing by Susan Gee Heino (Berkley)

Social Media Sites by Kathy Kulig (Ellora's Cave)

Author Newsletters by Kay Stockham (Harlequin Superromance/Berkley)

Readers' Loops by Carol Ann Erhardt (Wild Rose Press)

Podcasts by Melissa Alvarez w/a Ariana Dupre (Llewellyn Publications/Cerridwen Press)

Workshop participants will learn about author branding, create tag lines, and identify elements within their work that lend themselves to niche marketing. In addition to the guest-lectures, Marcia will discuss cross-promotion, print and trinket PR materials, author interviews, and more. And all participants will receive Marcia’s 330-page Promotion Options file.

"It's the best online class I've done (and I've done classes with really big names). Every lecture was jam-packed with relevant, useful information and presented clearly. Marcia made a point of responding to each and every participant's posts...and her responses usually had even MORE ideas and links for creative approaches to promotion. If you get a chance to take one of these classes, jump on it." -- Keri Stevens, author of STONE KISSED from Carina Press

The workshop is hosted by Savvy Authors. Cost is $25 for those who sign up for Savvy Authors' FREE Basic Membership; $15 for Savvy Authors' Premium members. See for registration.

Learn to love (okay, LIKE) self-promotion. ;-) And banish the guilt of not doing enough PR. Join us online March 7th - 20th! See you there!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's All About the Characters

While my friends are enjoying the hard core CSI and police shows, I'm enjoying Harry's Law and Castle. Both offer great characters, and humor along with a little suspense. Mostly I'm drawn to the characters and their interactions with each other. These characters have flaws, and draw empathy and the "rooting" for the underdog.

I suppose the reason I enjoy these "lighter" drama shows is because I'm more of a character driven writer than a plot driven writer. While plot is extremely important, and I try to pick a suspenseful plot, I more enjoy the developing of the characters. It's the interaction of the characters, their growth and change that leave me with the satisfaction of having written a good story.

The last episode of Harry's Law was really good. It revealed more in depth what drives these characters, what makes them who they are. Even laughable Tommy Jefferson has an element that you just have to love. Are there any other fans of Harry's Law out there? Why do you like it?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Mood" Writing

Just looked at the clock and realized the morning is nearly gone! I've managed to take a shower and shampoo my hair. Since it's getting longer I usually let it partially air dry before attacking it with a hot air curling brush. Um, well, it's going to be a bad hair day. I look a bit like a clown with fuzzy hair. I doubt my curling brush will even go through this mop.

I still need to hop on the treadmill to get my morning exercise in before it's time to do the afternoon exercise. Yeah, it's not shaping up to be a good day. I'm thinking about putting it off and doing a full hour later this afternoon after I cram my hair under a ball cap.

Top that off with the dark, dreary skies and no sign of sunshine. Yuck! My mood is not the greatest. I think I'll pull up my book and write a dismal scene. It's the only good thing I can think to salvage out of this day. I call it "mood" writing.

Curtains opened, fingers on keyboard, go!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sweetest Valentine

I have the sweetest husband. Since he isn't able to get out on his own to go to stores, nor has the weather been conducive to his coming with me when I go, I knew he didn't have a valentine for me. So, rather than make him feel bad, I didn't get one for him. I just gave him a hug and kiss and wished him a Happy Valentine's Day.
Then I left for my morning of volunteering at the church welcome desk.
When I came home at noon, I was so hungry. I began assembling the items needed for my sandwich. I rustled through the refrigerator several times, and then hubby asked me what I was doing. I told him I was making my sandwich. He said, I forgot to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. I grinned and said Happy Valentine's Day to you, too.
"Did you look on the front of the refrigerator?" he asked.
"Well, I left something there for you."

This is the sweetest valentine I've ever received and I'll cherish it forever!  I am so blessed to have a husband who loves me so much and is a true romantic soul.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Building Layers to Enhance Characters

I've been working on characterization to understand the motivations behind my characters. After doing so, I've developed a short paragraph around my heroine's journey.

The heroine in my upcoming release hasn't had a happy childhood. Raised in a series of foster homes, she begins to foster her own false beliefs that she will never be good enough to be loved. Her life becomes one of running away from problems, rather than facing adversity. Friends? Not really. Just acquaintances she keeps distanced from her heart. When she's involved in a terrible tragedy, guilt piles another level of protection around her. Once again she runs away and lands straight into the arms of a man who has an open and caring heart. Stranded in a small town where love is given unconditionally, she begins to hope for things she's never dared to dream. As the layers of her heart slowly peel away, she experiences the joy of being loved.Then her past roars into her new life and she regresses to flight mode. But, when a little girl becomes the target of her nemesis, she realizes she must stand and fight. For the first time in her life, someone else means more to her than running away.

I'd strongly suggest to every other pantser like me that you take time to develop your heroine's/hero's story. What makes her who she is? What has shaped her growing up years? When I first began writing I sketched out details like what color of eyes, hair, stature, mother and father, other family, favorite color, hobbies, etc. I'm not saying these aren't important, but those things weren't enough to really understand my characters. I bumbled along, learning as I wrote, and found the "dreaded middle" a horrible thing to encounter. Many times I remain stuck, trying to add "things" to move the story along. Eventually I'd get there, but along the way I lost a lot of sleep. Character templates that ask questions just don't do it for me.

I've tried, but what I come up with is superficial. If those work for you, hurray! You don't need to use my method. Well, not my method, but that of author Rachel Ballon in BREATHING LIFE INTO YOUR CHARACTERS. This book is an invaluable tool to me. For the very first time, I'm getting to know my characters intimately. This makes my writing richer and I'm hoping makes my characters jump off the page.

What tools do you use in your writing endeavors?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Shhhhh! Silence, Please!

Writing is a solitary profession.

My hubby, for instance, could not be a writer. He would wither and die. He is a people person, requiring someone to talk to at all times. He thrives on conversation. He surrounds himself with loud television voices or radio stations when he is left alone while I write. He carries on conversations with the cats. When I emerge from my writing cave, he begins reading me columns from the newspaper, telling me what he's just seen on television, or asking me questions about what I'm planning to prepare for dinner. He needs that stimulation.

As a writer, I, too, need the stimulation of other people...but not while I'm writing. I am easily distracted, and when distracted, my thought process is broken. That causes frustration, and when I get back to writing, my mood is not right.

Some writers like to listen to music while they write, choosing mood music for the scenes they are writing. I've tried it, but I wind up humming or singing along. Not a good thing to keep me focused. I do have CDs which are supposed to tap into the creative brain...not sure if they do that, but they create a "white noise" when I'm writing, which is not intrusive, but helps to cover the sound of creaking floor boards and slamming doors.

I create best in a quiet vacuum where I can become a part of the story I'm writing and be the characters. I view the scene in my mind as it unfolds, much like watching a movie. My fingers are typing, but my mind is showing my fingers what to do.

So, dear readers, I'm moving back into my cave. Have a wonderful day and I'll see you along the road of life at a later time. Shhhh! Silence, please.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bigger and Better? NOT!!!

Once again, I'm experiencing doubts that new technology is "better."  The DVR box installed by our cable company about two months ago has a bad recording disk. What?? Already???

At least our cable company is customer friendly and responsive. A tech is coming today to install a new one. I hope it also fixes the problem that yesterday morning we discovered the HD channels had stopped working on most all of the channels, except for one or two. Now, what's with that? The box and television in our family room works fine.

Digital television isn't the greatest. Sure, when it works, the picture is wonderful. But what about all the times the pictures do an instant freeze and pixelate?

Sometimes bigger and better is simply more expensive, but not really "better." I suppose that's an age-old lament that my great-grandparents also chanted.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Cat and the Q-Tip

My cat, Wilbur, has a fetish for Q-tips. I'm very careful to hide used ones in the bottom of the trash can beneath other debris, but he's like a bloodhound and can sniff them out of all my hiding places.

I use the Q-tips to clear makeup "goofs", especially around my eyes. Wilbur sits and stares at me, watching every move with intensity, and patiently waiting to see what I'm going to do with the treasure next. Distracting a cat with a purpose is impossible.

Yesterday, while applying makeup, I heard a noise...a rustling noise. I stopped and listened intently. The house was quiet, very quiet. The sound reminded me of the time I stayed in a cabin in Tennessee and a field mouse had found my stash of muffins. How could I have a mouse? Outside I have thirteen feral cats and inside I have three cats. No mouse would survive an attempt to break in.

I went back to applying the makeup. The noise started once again. Was it coming from the linen closet beside me where I keep all my makeup, hair, and beauty supplies? The door was cracked open. I grabbed the handle and yanked the door open!

And, there on the third shelf, where the Q-tips are housed, I found Wilbur hunkered down trying to make himself invisible with a Q-tip in his mouth!

I'm doomed.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Happy Birthday, Groundhogs, and Weight Watchers

Today is a special day. It's my baby's birthday! I won't tell you how old she is today, but I will say she's a beautiful woman, and a mother of four beautiful children.

How did it get to be February 3rd? Seems like last week I was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and feeling depressed about the long winter months ahead. Now, it's one day after the groundhog didn't see his shadow, foretelling an early spring. Somehow, I don't quite believe in that fairy tale!

I confessed last week on Facebook that I'd joined Weight Watchers online program. After praying and asking God to help me lose the weight, He guided me to the program. I'm finding it easy to follow, and realize that tracking food and exercising are the keys to success. I'm eating better, having the will power to avoid all the fattening things I used to enjoy, and enjoying walking on my treadmill. I've lost six pounds in the first two weeks. What I especially enjoy is eating foods I like. I don't feel like I'm on a diet, and I don't get hungry.

Today is laundry day, and in my spare time I'm continuing to develop the back stories for the characters in my novel. The ice is gone, the wind is gone, all that's left is cold weather. I can handle that since it's only going to be a few weeks until spring...if I believe the groundhog.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Th-th-that's ICE!!!

I stepped out the front door this morning, bundled in my long heavy coat and boots, to a solid skating rink. I slid my feet very slowly in order to make my way down the sidewalk, between the car and truck and along the carport to the back yard in order to feed the feral cats. I thought I had closed the gate yesterday, but God must have been watching out for me. The gate stood open. If it had been closed, no way could I have opened it. The latch was completely iced shut. One of the slipperiest places was on the gravel under the water faucet. But, I managed to give food and water to the poor animals, who are smart enough to stay in the sheltered area under the deck. The worst of the storm is coming tomorrow, bringing the snow, lots of snow, moving toward us from the Texas area. Texas? They never get snow! Well, rarely.

It appears the parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks and county/rural roads are the worst. I'm just grateful I don't have to go out today. I'd have to chisel my car out of about a 1/4 inch of ice!  Truly, I'd much rather deal with snow than ice.

But, this is Ohio, where the weather changes constantly. Later today we are supposed to get extremely heavy rain. Lots and lots of rain. That should take care of the ice...well, I'm hoping! Then, tomorrow we are supposed to get hit with snow, lots and lots of snow.

I'm going to sit and enjoy the change of weather from the warmth and safety of my home!