Friday, June 24, 2011

Falling Forward: Denzel Washington

I am an alumnae of The University of Pennsylvania, a fact of which I expect they will one day be proud to admit. My daughter recently graduated from Villanova University, a fact of which we are proud to proclaim from the highest treetop, much to her embarrassment.

I was preparing a post on how graduation parties are like novel writing when I became aware the Denzel Washington was the commencement speaker this year at my Alma Mater.  I pulled up the YouTube of his speech and watched it.  I attach it here because it inspired me as a writer and I hope it will inspire you.  As you experience rejections, bad reviews or endless questions from family and friends about when you are going to publish that book, take his word to heart. Denzel also quoted Nelson Mandela. This may become a sign over my desk:

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
Nelson Mandela 

Please click the link below, watch and be inspired.  Share your comments, feelings, thought below.

Commencement 2011 Univ of Penn

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ogham Court Excerpt 1: What has Nora Gotten Into?

Welcome to my current project.  I've spoken about it with you in earlier posts and thought it was time I shared some of it with you.  It is still in first draft stage.  I am also trying first person for the first time.  Nora, Aine and Devlin are minor characters in Dark Dealing. But Nora stared to pester me for more page time.  

So tell me what you think. Does first person work?  Do you get a sense of Nora? Do you want to know more? 

Ogham Court Opening

        “I’m so sorry for your loss, Nora.  I know I will miss her terribly. So gifted, so important to the community.”  Another face to try to remember, another hand to hold.  The line seemed to never end.  People I’d never met and only a few familiar faces moved around the pub, eating, chatting, and drinking.  It was a busy Tuesday night at the Salmon Run Inn on Ogham Court. Aine’s memorial service was good for business. I spotted that man and woman I’d met here six months ago after a real wake.  Thankfully, they’d reintroduced themselves.  Liam, he was from Ireland and Micaela, she was from Boston or New York, I wasn’t sure.  Most everyone stopped to speak to them.  
            Dozens of people had stopped to offer me their condolences and assistance.  I would never recall all the names, but I wouldn’t need to, they were Aunt Aine’s friends.  After tonight, I would be on my way back from this hidden alley in Tribeca to Manayunk and unemployment.
            A face, clean shaven, a gray suit speckled with September raindrops emerged through the crowd.
            “Ms. Brooks, I am sorry to disturb you at this time but I was concerned I would miss you. I’m Michael O’Halloran.  I was your aunt’s attorney. I represent her estate.”
            “What can I do for you?”  From across the room, I could see the bartender and owner, Devlin Shea, eye the lawyer.
            “I was hoping that you could stay for a few more days.  There are certain matters pertaining to Aine’s estate that I need to go over with you.  If you have other pressing obligations, we could speak by phone and arrange a better time to meet.” His voice was cultured and gaze direct behind the gold rimmed glasses. Aunt Aine did not get him out of the Yellow Pages.
            Aunt Aine seemed to have no other relatives, although there had been rumors of a husband once.  Despite being my aunt on my father’s side, she had been kind and generous.  I suppose I could stick around and help clean out her apartment and settle things.  It’s not like I had a job or a life to get back to.
            “Not a problem, Mr. O’Halloran.  My time is yours.”
            I lingered until everyone had left except Devlin Shea.  I supposed he wanted to lock up and go home, but the dark shop and apartment that waited across the street was a bleak prospect. My parents hadn’t been able to make it in for the funeral; not even Aine’s death could get them in the same room.  The usual excuses: hard to get away from work- my father’s excuse; money tight- Mom’s excuse.  Like I didn’t get the money thing.  At least they have jobs.
            Devlin came out from behind the bar and pulled up a chair beside me, two glasses and a botlle of whiskey in hand. “A toast to Aine.”
            I had never drunk straight liquor of any kind before I came to New York.  It had been Cosmos and Long Island Ice Teas in fancy bars in old Philadelphia.  So I wasn’t a slacker, but on my last trip Aine and Devlin had insisted I acquaint myself with the uisce beatha. I still couldn’t pronounce the Irish and trust me it sounds nothing like it looks.  As near as I could tell it translated to holy water.  It had grown on me and tonight I could use a wee-bit, strictly for medicinal purposes. I remembered part of old toast one of Uncle Harry’s precinct buddies.
            “I don’t know the whole thing, but I know the it ends – and may you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”
            “A goal for all of us.  To Aine.”  Devlin clinked his glass against mine.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

29 Ways to Stay Creative

Today is Writer Wednesday on Twitter. In case you do't now what that is, it is a chance to give a shout-out to some of the creative and hardworking writers in your Twitter community. So today I wanted to share a post a came across that I enjoyed and took from it inspiration and practical advice.  It is all over the Internet but mine comes from the site of Huub Koch.  I liked it so much I asked him if I could in turn share it here.  So whatever you are creating, whether it is a novel, a poem, a painting, a business, a family or all of the above, I hope the list below helps when the energy level is low.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick Walking Update

Day 5-16 to go

Added some running to part of the 3.5 mile route.  So far I have cut 9 minutes off my time.  Have also done a BME outline for Ogham.  I've added characters not seen in the my unpublished (with good reason) short story.  One of them, Padraig, is intriguing me.  He is turning into a pile of contradictions and that's always fun.  As I was running a backstory scene for Nora popped into my head. Scene will not appear directly in story but will come up in her present, perhaps in a conversation with her mother. It exemplifies Nora's relationship with her Mom.

So how is every one else doing.  Have you started the 21 day walk to change?

More tomorrow, including a great post from another blogger that I have permission to share.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Walking my Way to Ogham Court

Today was my third consecutive of getting my 3.5 mile walk in.  My thighs and butt are tight and not in a good way right now.  But, I keep going.  I read a small book called Change Almost Anything in 21 days several years ago.  There were several things I liked about it.  Most importantly was the “almost”. It grounded the book in a kind of reality that some things might be a little more complicated and take longer, for example, extracting yourself from an abusive relationship.  It did revolve around affirmations which have for some a flaky connotation.  Okay for that group, let’s call it neurolinguistic programming or neuro-linguistic depending on the site.  Apparently, other research seems to back up the fact that 21, and here’s the key, CONSECUTIVE days are required to begin making a new good habit or breaking a bad habit.   Call them what you want, affirmations work!   Make them positive.  In the statement, I  will not eat junk food, your brain hears only the “eat junk food” part.  A better alternative might be “I eat healthy foods.” And no, you don’t have to stand in front of the mirror like a Saturday Night Live sketch.  I would recommend reciting them or writing them at least 10 times every morning, or evening if you are a vampire, before you get out of bed

So three down, eighteen to go.

For writers, it is about developing the habit of writing. You don’t have to work on your manuscript every day, it could be your blog or a short story or the outline of another novel or a journal of childhood memories, but write everyday for 21 days.  Sorry I don’t think grocery or to-do lists count.

I think that whether it is exercise or writing or not smoking, the body develops a kind of muscle memory.  It expects to follow a pattern of motions or, in the case of quitting smoking, to forget the pattern.

So I have two affirmations going: I write everyday and I exercise everyday.

Walking has been the helpful to me both physically, psychologically (stress) and creatively.  When I set out on my walks over the last few days, I have set a goal of thinking about my novella project, Ogham Court, at the forefront of my mind.  It is not the only thing that is on my mind, but I want it at the top of the list.  Ogham Court began as a short story with three primary characters, so when I decided to expand it I knew I needed to enlarge the world and populate it with more characters. I don’t know that there will be as many vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters as there are in Dark Dealings, but given that Devlin, my main male protagonist has a secret past that involves Liam from Dark Dealings there may be secrets he hasn’t told me yet.  Then there is Maggie and her brother Padraig.  Padraig on today’s walk began to reveal himself as more than just the helpful younger brother.

So my 18 remaining days in 21 day quest to get back on track ends July 1.  What 21 day change will you commit to on this blog site?  Say it “outloud” so that others know.  It is too easy to cheat if it’s just in your head.  Then check in every couple of days.

Here’s the kicker, if you miss a day, you have to reset the clock and start the 21 day count all over again.  So hang in there! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why the Vampires Won't Talk to Me

So my last post was about my list.  I’m good at lists as you might have surmised.  What I’m not so good at is making me a priority.  When I went back to my last post, I realized that the whole diet, exercise, reading part was almost an aside.  At the same time, I was internally lamenting my lack of progress on my writing projects.  Dark Dealings is nearly complete; feedback from betas is starting to come in.  That will give me some editorial work to do, but I need to get the creative side going.  My vampires are not talking to me right now.  Neither are the Druids and shapeshifters.

Being just a little over-analytical (ya think), I rewound the mental video to the early stages of Dark Dealings to look for the things I did differently.  Some interesting things emerged from this.  I did a lot of my first draft writing in quiet places, like my home office or the back room on the first floor, with only some music in the background (NO TV).  I took exercise seriously by hitting the gym or walking five or six days a week (I was 15 pounds lighter).  And I stayed off Facebook—I since built a Twitter platform and this blog, too.  Last night I set up my Facebook author page.  It’s definitely a work in progress.

I know that the last point is important to publishing and selling Dark Dealings and my future works.  I am told Urban Fantasy, vampires, werewolves is a crowded field.  Not so much for the modern Druids that populate my real world universe.  To make my only slightly romantic novel a success I need to work hard at the platform thing.   I can’t change that part of process.

BUT, for my writing and my health I need to work my own personal magic on myself.  The exercise worked off the stress of the day job and other stuff and the quiet space opened me up to the voices in my head so my characters could have their say.  So today, during my lunch break, I’m going to sit with my DayTimer and schedule time for me.

How about you, what do you do for you and what are the benefits you get from it?  Have you sraed from those habits the way I have?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Life is A List

So this blog will probably sound like my life right now—stream of consciousness.  I started making a list of things to do.  I like lists.  I figured I’d begin with large categories and then break it down to specific tasks within those categories (anal, huh.)

So I started with: family, work (as in day job), writing and publishing. 

So under family, I have more chores, you know the fun stuff like laundry, and the biggie, my daughter’s graduation party.  The party is three weeks away and, well, sooooooo not ready. I think my hubby needs to be on the list as I have to be reminded to give him some TLC. Lets not forget the kids, the father and assorted aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws.  I think I still have friends.

Work, well that stinks and I really need to actively look for another option.  I know the job market is tough but no one should dislike going to work every day and not try to change their circumstances. So job hunting should be on the list.

Writing: I have Dark Dealings out to my beta readers and am starting to get comments back.  I will need to review those comments and make corrections and changes, as needed.

I have found that my fledgling blog site gets better traffic if I post three times a week .  Daily would require giving up certain activities like bathing-bad idea.

I have three projects in various stages.  I also would like to try my hand at short stories that could be publishable and erotica (under another name) because it would be fun.

I must also continue to refine my writing skills, because I am anal (see above) and expect nothing less than the best from myself.

Publishing:  First of all, I continue to be on the fence about traditional publishing and indie/self publishing.  I over-analyze a lot of things (see this post), so not only do I weigh the pros and cons of each, but I also question my own motivations (control freak, impatient).  At some point soon, I know I need to fish or cut bait.

Regardless of which route I choose, I have to “build my platform” that means finding ways to reach out to future readers and introduce them to me and my work.  It also means attending conferences and getting involved in writers groups, which also falls under the writing category as refining.

And I need to start working out again and lose 15 pounds and read the pile of books in my office and on my Kindle.

Most of all I need to make a plan to stop making myself crazy or at least give up sleep.

So how’s your day going?

Hometown Challenge #2 Reports from Peculiar

If you have visited Peculiar and have a report for us, please post it on your blog/website and leave the link in the comments section below.

I'll be back tonight with some other random thoughts, my favorite kind these days.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dark Dealings Excerpt #3

We pick up where the last excerpt ended.  If you missed those, you can find the links to them the right of this post.

            The men called out to Reece, but there was no answer.  They retraced their steps but couldn’t pick up Reece’s trail.  Micaela needed to get past what Adam saw and to Reece’s vision. She would not leave another child fatherless.  How could she find Reece without touching him?  Then, in Adam’s memory, a gift from the gods, Adam found Reece’s rifle at the edge of the path and picked it up.  The same rifle he’d used since he was a teenager.  The stock of the gun was infused with Reece’s sweat, his skin cells, and his energy.  Micaela followed the energy into Reece’s mind.  Chaotic images flooded her.  The part of her that was separate and logical hoped Adam couldn’t see what she saw.
             The hand clamped over her mouth was barely human and covered with hair or fur that scratched her face.  No, not hers… Reece’s mouth.  She struggled to keep her mind apart from Reece’s.  She sensed danger if she was sucked in too far.  Reece fought back against the beast until it dropped him to the ground.  A blow to his head left Reece/Micaela dazed.  The creature dragged him into the forest, threw him over its shoulder or, maybe its back, Micaela wasn’t sure, it didn't feel like it walked upright.  The image was lost.  Reece had blacked out.
            Every nerve in her body strained to regain the thread of contact.  If she didn’t, Reece was lost.  I don’t know how to do this, I’m not strong enough, she cried out to the darkness in her mind.
            Voices, chanting seeped into her from beyond the blackness.  Barely audible at first, they grew louder.  She heard the crackling of a fire.  Una whispered through her mind, “We are here. We will help you until you can make the journey alone.”
            A new image appeared.  Adam was gone, the others were gone.  She stood alone outside Joshua’s Cave.  They had played as children in this cave tucked into the side of a ravine.  As she walked in, a low moan reached her ears.  She knew she hadn’t left the porch, yet she felt the mat of pine needles under her bare feet.  Where had she lost her shoes? She reached out to touch the damp moss covered rock, her hand passed through it.
            Another moan.  She couldn’t see more than a few inches ahead.  In the darkness she'd never find Reece or know if the beast was still here.  She held her hand out again in what she knew was a futile grope in the dark.  This time a small glowing orb formed in her palm. She curled her fingers around the edges of the softball size object.  It was bright but cool to the touch.  It allowed her to see several yards out.  In the light, she saw Reece naked and propped against the rough cave wall; his head lolled to one side.  His torn and bloody clothes scattered around the cave.  She could smell the air; it reeked of blood and beneath it the musky scent of sex.  A new vision of what had already occurred materialized before her.  A vision within a vision.  Whatever it was stalked into the cave with the unconscious Reece. The beast was definitely female, but more wolf than human.  Unable to stop what she saw, Micaela screamed in frustration.
            The beast stripped away Reece’s clothes inflicting the first set of wounds.  Reece jolted from unconsciousness and he tried to scramble away.  (Omitted adult content)  It made a sound that was a cross between a hum and a growl.  It sounded like a chant.  Reece’s eyes glazed over and he stopped struggling.  Had the beast somehow gained control of his mind?  (Omitted adult content) Micaela watched helplessly.  Tears streamed down her cheeks. 
             Reece regained awareness. His face twisted in horror and rage as he swung at the she-wolf.   She lunged at him again, this time clamping her jaw into his shoulder.  He brought his knees to the creature’s abdomen and kicked up with his two feet to gain leverage.  She lost her
grip and staggered back.  She howled, a furious sound, and slashed at him tearing into his chest and flinging him against the cave wall.  Without a further glance at him, the creature turned and left the cave.  The air shimmered and Micaela was back in her original vision of Reece dying in the cave.
            Reece’s eyes fluttered open.  “Micaela?”
            “You can see me?” If he could, there was hope.  She smiled at him.
            “I never thought you’d be the last face I saw.”  Reece’s skin was pale, almost translucent.   
            “You are not dying.”  She hoped she sounded optimistic.  Two of his ribs jutted out from under the torn chest muscle.
            “Could have fooled me.”  He coughed out a laugh.  Blood sprayed from his lips as he struggled for air.
            “Hang on, please.”
            “Don’t tell Peggy what the she-wolf did to me.  Peg doesn’t understand the power your totem animal can have over you.  How it can make you do things.”  Reece squeezed his eyes shut.
            “I won’t.  I know how hard these things are to explain.”  She tried to reach out and take his hand, but like the wall her hand passed through his.
            His voice was a broken whisper. “I know you two aren’t close anymore, but promise me you will tell Peg, she’s the only one I ever loved.”
            “Tell her yourself.   No child should grow up without a parent.”
            “Child?  Peggy’s pregnant?”  A red-tinged tear trickled down Reece’s cheek.
            “Yes. Hang on, I’m going for help.”
            “I’ll try to be here when you get back.”  His head slumped forward.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hometown Challenge #2 Good Morning From....

Good Morning from Peculiar, our second Hometown Challenge. Yes, I changed the name. As I said in the beginning, this is new to me and will be evolving.  The challenge was inspired by the idea that setting is crucial to the plot.  Think Mayberry or, for SciFi channel fans, think Eureka.

Here's how it works. You have from now until 5 pm.Tuesday June 7  to come up with a short-short (500 words) that takes place here in Peculiar.  As I sit sipping my venti triple shot latte on a bench along the main thoroughfare, there is a lot to see.  But I’m not telling.

I know the name sounds like a soft pitch and on the surface it is.  But the goal here is to stretch and be creative.

You could win the following cool badge (I created it so, at least, I think it’s cool):

So here’s the schedule

                Post your submission to your website/blog by 5pm on Tuesday

                Leave the link on the comments to this blog.

                Readers:  Beginning at 5pm on Tuesday, visit the contributing sites and enjoy what I am sure will be some great reads. Also follow these bloggers. Then come back here and in the post that will open on Tuesday vote for your favorite.  I’m still working on the voting details.  This is not American Idol, please don’t try to stack the deck. It is not encouraging to all if the voting is perceived as rigged.

                Check back next Friday to see who the winner is and what our next town is!

I'll be posting another excerpt from Dark Dealings this Sunday, hope you enjoy it.  If you missed the first 2, they are listed to the right under "Places To Visit"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guest blogging

It still amazes me that other writers would want me to be a guest on their sites.  I am honored and humbled that Karen S. Elliott, a wonderful writer, editor and Writer Unboxed friend, is featuring me and my approach to building and maintaining characters on her her blog.  Please stop over, say hi, leave a comment and follow her
at Karen S. Elliott's Blog

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for my continued quest for stories from unusually named towns around the United States and the World.

I will also be posting another excerpt from Dark Dealings this Sunday!