Change the Beat

In the space of a heart beat a life changes. Every day with every beat we face a potential change. We make so many decisions every minute of the day that if we stop to think about the sheer number, we might allow ourselves to be overwhelmed. 

Make a choice today to hear your heart beating. Pause from the business of being buzy and stand quietly. Feel the air on your face. Close your eyes, breath slowly. Listen.

Do you hear it? The low rhythmic thud? Do you feel it? That’s your life. You only get one on this earth. Make a change with that next beat. Decided to help someone other than yourself. Change the world by being a better neighbor, friend, spouse, parent, sibling, son, or daughter. 

Do it today. Make the next heart beat a life changer.

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NaBloPoMo Day 9 Dinner Plans

I want to be the first to confess. Developing daily NaBloPoMo content is hard. Not as difficult as getting bubble gum out of long hair, but it ranks up there with starting a fire by rubbing two wet sticks together. It’s like planning dinner.

The Man Who Earns the Paycheck frequently asks me, “What’s for dinner?” Since I’m the Chief Cook and Rabbit Feeder around the old homestead, it is a legitimate question. If he only knew how often I am tempted to say, “Who wants to know?”

Developing content is like trying to decide what to cook. First you need to know what is in the pantry. Then you need to be inspired. You may have fifty cans of tuna, but if you don’t feel like eating tuna, you’re going out to dinner. Same with content. You need ideas. I need ideas. But sometimes an idea doesn’t come together and form a cohesive thought or lend itself to coherent sentences. Then there is recipe failure, like that time I made tilapia with lemon and capers wrapped in aluminum foil. It tasted like dirt. We each took a bite and went out for Mexican food.

There are other meals that are accidents, good accidents. I have achieved miracles with fresh vegetables, olive oil, mustard, lemon juice and leftover rotisserie chicken. Sometimes I have spontaneous inspiration and start cooking as the garage door goes up in the evening. Tonight’s post was like that, a fortunate accident. Except, now I’m hungry.

(P.S. I bought a new basil plant last night.)

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Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to…Basil

Each time I bring a potted herb home, I feel I’m being watched. I’ve killed more basil plants than your average home cook. Many, many more. The SFPCB is out there and they know where I live. No one says anything when I buy rosemary, or parsley or thyme or sage. Heaven knows, I often have too much thyme on my hands. But basil…sigh.

“You buyin’ another one of them plants?” the cashier asks. The manager turns away, covers his mouth with his hand, and speaks into a cell phone.

I just smile and pay in cash. I don’t want to leave an electronic trail. Sometimes, I cross the Big Muddy and purchase my basil plants in another state. There’s a Trader Joe’s across the river and they have healthy plants. I try to hide my basil in recyclable shopping bags that are taller than the plant. But the Society has me on the Known Basil Torturers Watch List.

It started in Italy. I used lots of fresh basil, so growing my own seemed like a great idea. I bought happy little basil plants and they died, despite all the love and nurturing I gave them. After a long period of accidental basil-cide, a wonderful Italian woman suggested I was overwatering and needed to ignore my plants. I did, mostly because I couldn’t stand watching them die and I was getting an itch between my shoulder blades when I bought basil, as if I were being watched.

On my balcony, with a view of Monte Vesuvio, they flourished. I bought more plants to ignore. They were happy. I was happy. My husband was happy. The balcony no longer looked like a dead basil cemetery and our dinners benefitted from the conversion from bottled dried leaves to fresh. I served lovely green basil leaves layered between thick slices of wholesome tomato and fresh mozzarella di bufala, dripping with local olive oil, with olives and crusty fresh baked bread from the market down the road.

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We returned to the States, settled into our new home and I bought new basil plants. They died. I bought more…You see where this is going? Eventually, that itch I had in Italy returned. I knew I was being monitored. They have an international watch list. There’s no escape, once the Society has you in their sights. One morning, a knock on the door woke me. I phoned my neighbor across the street, she looked out her window and reported a dark green sedan with tinted windows was parked in front of my house. Men in sunglasses and dark green trench coats were at my front door. I hid in the closet with the phone until they left. Together my neighbor and I read the card they left. Dark green ink on crisp white card stock proclaimed, “The Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Basil is watching you. Be forewarned.”

That was several years ago. We’ve moved since then. I’ve learned my lesson and never buy basil from the same source within a six month period. I’m hoping to fool them entirely in the Spring. I’m going underground. A relative (who shall remain nameless) mailed me a package of basil seeds. I’m going to grow my own. Shh! Don’t tell the Society.

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Make Every Word Count

More than a title by Gary Provost, Make Every Word Count should be a mantra for every new writer. Just because readers are willing to read 700 page novels doesn’t mean they are willing to read 700 hundred pages of ill-written repetition. Remember learning how to write non-fiction essays in school? In the intro you told us what we were going to read, in the body, you covered your three or more points, and in your conclusion you summed it all up and told us what we read.

If you are writing fiction I beg you, please don’t repeat everything that has happened each time a character walks in a room and asks, “What’s up?” Your readers are not idiots…please don’t insult them. Especially if  “they” are me. This is why I can’t write romance. I cannot write 300 pages based on the plot that the two people in love are unable or unwilling to talk to each other. I can hold out for, at most, 20 pages before yelling, “Sit down and talk to each other. State your problems. Listen to each other.” If I yell that at my characters, just think what I say to yours!

Make every word count. Writing to a word count is challenging. It requires thought. You need as many words as it takes to tell the story. Can you make the writing tighter and show greater tension by using fewer words? I’m willing to try. Are you?

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Cats and Common Sense

Is this your cat?

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I hope it’s not. I hope you are a responsible cat owner.  This little one should be inside. There are too many dangers in our world to let your cat out alone. If you just scoffed at me and called me a cat lover –I’m not. I’m deathly allergic to the creatures, but I am compassionate and understand the danger to your much loved pet. Cats can be run over, get into fights with wild animals and other cats, be attacked by people, eaten by coyotes, and pick up diseases. They can eat and drink things that have no business being inside an animal and die as a consequence. Additionally, house cats kill millions of songbirds every year in the U.S. Why should a cat lover care? Birds eat bugs and mosquitos. Save the life a bird and you may save yourself from getting a case of West Nile Virus.

So I implore cat owners to use common sense. Even the ASPCA recommends not letting your cat out to roam alone. Cats can and should be taught to walk with you on a leash. The ASPCA website has guidelines to teach you how to break your cat into the habit. It helps control their weight, relieves their boredom, and keeps them safe. If you love your cat, be a responsible cat owner, use common sense, a leash, and keep your pet safe and healthy.

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Fall Color

Sunday morning view.

Sunday morning view.

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The vibrant color of this red maple changes hourly.

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The First Writing Book I Ever Bought

The first writing book I bought was Make Every Word Count by Gary Provost (Writer’s Digest 1980). I found it in a Coles Book Store. I don’t remember if there was an apostrophe in Coles. No matter, they were eaten up in the 1980s or 90s by another chain. The book still matters. Published by Writer’s Digest, a group I had not heard of at that time, it was magic. It was a book on WRITING and it wasn’t a text book. It talked to me like I was a real person and not a teenager with a blank book and the dream of writing a Regency Romance. I never did write that romance. I tried for years. I never finished. Things like senior prom and college got in my way.

I started writing again after college. I never finished anything. Career changes and more moves happened. I eventually joined a chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America).  I felt like a sham. Writing was the last thing I was doing. I was working two jobs so we could make the mortgage payments while I was seeking full time work. At one point I read everything I wrote, decided I was using writing in lieu of therapy and shredded it all. That was the most freeing thing I have ever done. All those partial novels, single scenes, unplanned and contrived half-written stories that nagged me to finish were gone. I gave up trying to write  romances.

Again, writing fell by the wayside while we moved. In a new location, with  a meager library, I started to write after I read everything that interested me. They had a very small Science Fiction and Fantasy collection, and fewer Horrror books. After reading one book, I remember thinking that I wished I could write as well as that author. After another book by a different author, I thought, if that writer could be published, so could I. So I thought about it. I started writing the type of story I like to read. Between doing other things, and two more moves, I kept writing. I discovered Speculative Fiction as my genre. Write what you know and I know weird.

Through the years, I bought other writing books. I discovered who those Writer’s Digest people were as well as their magazine and website. I discovered conferences, on-line workshops and blogs. The writing world, or to better name it, the literary world, is a big place. It keeps growing, with GoodReads, WordPress, Twitter and etc. But let’s not lose sight of the main thing. The story. It should be all about the story. While you tell that story, remember the late Gary Provost’s advise: “Eschew verbosity…Writing gets more interesting as it acquires precision, not length.”

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30 Days, 30 Posts: NaBloPoMo is here!

The sky was clear and the air crisp this morning. It was perfect for taking Fall color pictures.

Which brings me to today’s world building thought. Some of the best shaped trees are in cemeteries, because they have room to spread and grow. What do your planet’s cemeteries look like? Does your alien culture honor the dead in another way?

Some of today’s musing started last night while we were treating the goblins, ghouls and fairies to snacks. What holidays does your planet celebrate? Imagine explaining Halloween to an alien who doesn’t entirely understand our language. Then, thinking of holidays reminded me of calendars. How do they mark their year? Are holidays on the same date, like ours or are they lunar? Holidays cold be more flexible and be timed to a event, like the day the ice on the waterfall melts.

Tonight’s post was unplanned. I saw the NaBloPoMo post and decided to play along…Does your alien culture have peer pressure?

The WordPress.com Blog

There’s a lot of buzz each November around NaNoWriMo — you may notice some of your favorite blogs dedicating themselves to churning out 50,000 words this month.

If 50,000 words seem like 49,000 too many or you’re more interested in blogging than writing a book, NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month — might be your speed: a challenge to post once every day for the entire month of November. No theme, no word count, no rules; just you, your blog, and 30 new posts.

NaBloWhatNow?

NaBloPoMo started in 2006 in response to NaNoWriMo; not every blogger has the time or inclination to write a book, but the idea of a challenge that forces participants to stretch themselves, grow as bloggers, and be part of a supportive community is undeniably appealing. As founder Eden Kennedy, the power blogger behind fussy.org, put it:

If there’s one thing creative people…

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October Brings Change and Class

The leaves at the top of our maples are bronzing, a sure sign that October has started. By the end of the month those trees will be a vivid red against the crystal blue autumn sky. High above the patio, flying south for their long winter vacation, wild geese honk greetings.

More changes are happening in my writing life. Have you ever taken an online class? I’m taking my first, on writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. The difference in experience levels of the students is amazing, and baffling. I expected everyone to have a similar writing level. I was wrong. There are writers who have never tried to write a story and others, like me, who have finished a manuscript and are seeking an agent or publisher.

I am challenged by critiquing other students’ work. Critiques are part of the classwork. Because of the range in abilities, the shift is abrupt between reading a piece by a  beginning writer, to an experienced writer’s work, and back again.  I tend to speak my mind, so I’m practicing diplomacy as I review my colleagues. I’m learning about my own writing, not only from the critiques I receive, but by analyzing others’ work. Have you experienced anything similar?

The lessons are not hard. So far we have generated three story ideas and described our setting in a 500 word scene without letting our characters tell about the setting. This week we will describe our antagonist and protagonist, in 250 words each, and write the scene of their first encounter, in 500 words.

I didn’t expect a paradigm shift. I joined this class for my own enrichment. But I find I want to help the people in the class who aren’t as experienced, but who want to change and grow.  I’m not a teacher. I’m not an expert. Nor do I play one on TV. I am willing to share what little I have learned.

What is your experience with online writing classes? What was the greatest take away for you?

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Cogratulations O’Fallon Writers’ Guild on a Successful First Workshop!

You never know what to expect from a first time event. The Writers’ Guild of O’Fallon, Illinois, presented their first Writer’s Workshop on September 7, at Lindenwood University in Belleville. There were nearly 30 attendees, which may not sound like many, but for an inaugural event, it was a great turnout.

St. Louis radio personality and author of All I Ever Wanted; Relationships, Marriage and Family, Carol A. Daniel was the keynote speaker and also presented an afternoon session “Carol Daniel: Up Close & Personal”.

Fourteen total sessions were offered by thirteen published authors on topics from Self-Publishing to Historical Fiction Writing to Youth Fiction (presented by teen Guild member, Ryan Byrnes, author of Son of Time, Vol. 1: The Crystal Kings).

Lindenwood University’s cafeteria presented a lunch that exceeded expectations, since writers’ groups generally offer only box lunches at events.

The biggest take-away from the event? That writing that novel or short story has as many different roads as there are writers. No two will have the same experience starting or finishing a work. The reasons for writing are myriad. Some of the fears and challenges along the way are the same. Just write.

If the Guild offers the event again next year, I will most certainly attend. What do you like about conferenced and workshops?

(If you live in Southern Illinois and need encouragement to start or finish that manuscript or want to meet fellow local writers, the O’Fallon Writers’ Guild’s mission “is to support inform, elevate and promote quality writing and writers of all genres”.  See their Facebook Page for more information.)

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