Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Warning . . .

Hello friends and loved ones.

Sorry to have been so distant over the last two months. Holidays always get in the way of my good intentions.

However, this is a quick update on a computer viruses. I know you're thinking . . . what no Christmas Cheer, no Well Wishes for the holidays, but those should be implied by sending this virus alert.

There are multiple Trojans running around, but I just had a taste of one that snuck in from a very familiar email, no attachment, but a web address to click on in the body of the email. This was the 2nd email I'd received from this particular address. Oddly, enough the first web address had been for a Snopes.com click. (If you're not familiar with Snopes, it's the site that you can go to and . . . well, snoop around to see if all the Internet claims are true. Was there really a Boy Scout who survived 26 days in the wilderness with no supplies? Did Michael Jackson really sire another 14 children that he refused to claim? ETC . . . ETC . . . ETC. So, when the first email came in showing the Snopes.com address, I assumed it was something cute this familiar person had sent to me. Just due to time constraints, I never got around to opening it. When the 2nd email came from the same person, I ASSUMED -- uh-oh, we know that's a dangerous thing -- I assumed it was another Snopes link. Bad . . . bad assumption.

The virus starts by turning off all your Anti-Virus software. Whatever you have loaded: AVG, Avast, Microsoft . . . whatever, it goes black and cannot see the virus. The virus will also disable System Restore, and it won't allow a restart in 'Safe' mode.

There are recovery disk available. Not, the original ones that come with your computer, but special recovery disk that will turn off the virus and let you reset your computer. These are large down-loads that would obviously need to be 'down-loaded' through another computer. Remember, yours won't be working by this time.

So, what to watch for:
If you receive an email without a subject line -- delete.
If you receive an email without any text in the body, except a web address -- delete.
If you receive an email with an attachment, even if it's from someone you know, you might want to call that person first -- but you may still just want to delete it.

So, here's my Christmas Cheer -- free of virus (gotta love blogs). Happy Holidays to you all and a very Merry Christmas to each.

Weather's cooled off here in Texas, and we had enough freezes that the mosquitoes are done for the winter. Yeah! I don't need to smell like bug spray for a few months. Cooked out this past weekend: ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken -- TASTY! Enjoy your families during the joyous time and do drop by my porch again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kowboys for Kids . . . in Fort Worth, Texas

Christmas in November? Yep, it could happen. Especially, if you're a Cowboy.

Upcoming this Sunday, November 29th, 2009, Kowboys for Kids will host their 20th Annual Christmas bash to raise toys and donations for the quickly-approaching holiday season.

Kowboys For Kids

This year the event will be held at Pearl's Dance Hall & Saloon, located at 302 West Exchange Street, in the Stockyards area of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Live Music event will feature:
Carl Vaughn & Texas Country
Hill City Band
Durwood Strube
Landon Dodd
Kelly Spinks
Country Night Live
The Coachmen
Randy Brown
Riverwood Band
Jim Snider
Bob Prichard
Kristi Kaylin
Danny Edwards
Jerry Webb
And, many other great entertainers!
Quite a list of extraordinary musicians who are donating their time and talent for a great event for children.


Also, included at this event will be a Raffle for a 32" flat screen TV, a Silent Auction, a Live Auction, with loads of goodies.

Update on Pegus News


So, if you're looking for a way to kick up your heels and two-step into the holiday season, consider stopping by Pearl's between 2pm and 10pm on Sunday the 29th.

What to bring?
A $10.00 donation
or
An unwrapped gift or gift of clothing - equal to $10.00.

AND
A zest for a good time with Kowboys
.


It's lovely on the backporch this time of year. I can barely get my fierce guard dog to come inside for a bite of boiled chicken. Okay, so it doesn't sound too good to you, but to my dog -- it's heaven in a bowl. Day-time temps hover in the low 70s and the night-time is cooling off into the 50s. So that means perfect Texas weather. We may even get rid of the mosquitoes before long.
Do drop by again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quotes . . . follow the train track!

I like quotes. Concise, straight-forward (well, sometimes) nuggets of truth. But whose truth? Um . . . good question. Comes down to perception, doesn't it?

Quotes:

"If you ask a professional for advice, be smart enough to take it." Any doctor you've ever been to see.

"People don't always know what we think they know." Ken Roberts, multi-million dollar investor.

"Better to write for yourself and lose the public than write for the public and lose yourself." Cyril Connolly, journalist.


Have I had too much caffeine? Too little sleep? Been out in the Texas sun too long? Because surely those three quotes can't be related.

Consider again.

Follow my choo-choo, if you will.

Writers, published and unpublished alike, seek out publishing house editors and agents . . . rather like trains seek out tracks, or the next station, or the end of the line. There's an inevitability to our obsession to these trained professionals. They're paid a salary to review, evaluate, edit and ultimately BUY the next New York Times best seller. For those in the writing industry, it's natural to gravitate towards these professionals and to prize -- highly -- their opinions. After, attending a conference, sending queries, trapping an agent in an elevator to solicit advice -- would any writer then throw out this advice? Foolish question except . . .

There is that silly little second quote from a millionaire investor (in case, the train tracks are lost in the fog at this moment). Consider that someone, anyone who achieves that kind of money, um, yes, I mean without scamming folks out of their life savings, must know pretty important facts, right? Rising to the top without a razor-edged business acumen and a strong sense of self would be tough. But at the train station, Ken Roberts seemingly jumps in the middle of the tracks with the train barreling straight for him by suggesting that 'folks', 'learned associates', 'trusted advisers' don't necessarily know what we think, what we hope, what we need to believe they know.

Why?

Because if we run the train off the track, there is someone else to blame. That's why we need people to know 'STUFF'. Whatever that stuff may be. Whatever career advice, or writing guruness, or insider genre trend is coming around the next bend, writers really . . . really, want to believe that someone is in charge of this knowledge.

But Ken Roberts said it best, said it forcible, said it with conviction, "People don't always know what we think they know.

Still aboard my choo-choo?

Then here's the station,
and Cyril Connolly said it best: "Better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self."

Back up the caboose and read that again.

What do writers want?

To publish.

Ask any of them.

Better question: What should writers want?

To write the best words possible on page.

So . . . does that mean after seeking out the professionals' advice (critique partners, writing associates, writing organization all come under this heading) that any writer MUST take the advice.

No!

Simple enough.

No!

Remember, "People don't always know what we think they know."

Stand still and listen. I'm serious. Be still and listen. Inside, where the deepest, darkest insight lies buried in each of us, is there a voice -- tiny or loud -- crying out advice? Not arguing with every piece of constructive criticism received, or disagreeing because one's so in love with their own written words, but a real, dedicated, honest try-this-path or go-this-way or explore-this-writing type of advice?

Then pay attention.

It is better to know what is captured on the page is true to self even if the public doesn't get it . . . at least, they don't get it now.

All right, my train tracks are a bit crossed, but there is truth in these quotes.

As Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true."

That applies to writers.

For LA


Drop by my back porch again.
Until then
~Sandra

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Writing . . . Margie Lawson . . . agent appointments

Wow! It's been a busy time. For the past few weeks, I've been rushing to get projects completed for a local writing event. North Texas Romance Writers hosted their first Two-Step Conference. Margie Lawson was the guest speaker, along with Cori Devoe from 3 Seas Literary Agency and Melissa Jeglinski from The Knight Agency, who took a full-day worth of agent appointments.

Simply said, "Two-Stepping was great!"


Many of the conference attendees were experienced. Me . . . I was a virgin in the ways of Margie Lawson. Believe me, it's a total immersion in writing. The woman is high-energy and she drags her student into the thick of learning with a smile.

I understand her website is a wealth of information, and Margie mentioned she produces a monthly e-zine in which she analyzes a passage with her techniques -- a mini-lesson. On her blog, she also interviews an author of a 'writing' book each month. I can't wait to become the newest Lawson groupie.

Both my agent appointments went well -- partials to each. Disappointing news about the Romantic Suspense market, however. If you're a writer or reader of the genre, beware! New releases will be hard to find. It appears the market has been saturated and new acquisitions are few and far in between. It doesn't mean I won't sell my recently completed Trickle of Lies, it just means the sale will be sweeter when it happens.

I'll be working like a storm trooper the next two weeks in order to complete my synopsis (need a shorter version) and to revamp my work -- thanks to boot camp, Margie Lawson.

One of Margie's specific technique is called: backloading.

How it works? Look for the word that has the most impact in a sentence, especially those sentences at the end of the paragraph, page, scene, and chapter. Consider rewriting the sentence to add 'power words' AT THE END.

Here's an example:
(Before)
She swallowed once, then again. He watched the smooth movement of her throat. Pale skin covered the graceful curve of her neck. A man could get lost kissing skin like that, if he'd been inclined to speculate on such things. But he'd given up those insane notions about the same time he'd kicked his lying, conniving wife out. For good.

Using the 'backload' and 'rhetorical' and 'power word' techniques:
(After)
The woman swallowed once, then again, the dim lamp light flickering on the curve of her throat: smooth and pale and provocative. A man could get lost kissing skin that tempting. Good thing he'd given up those insane notions when he'd kicked out his wife -- the lying, conniving, two-timer.

As simple and as complicated as that.


Since my blogging is generally stream of consciousness -- I typed in What Fun! then rethought. These exercises are NOT fun. They require serious concentration, and for a newbie, like me, they take time. Why bother? Because deep edits are crucial to better writing. Better writing means more sales! That is FUN!

We're a bit hazy on the back porch today. Leaves are falling -- not that it's really cold -- but it looks like Autumn. The chill seems trapped behind the clouds, ready to sweep in and change our weather for good. Perhaps this week, I'll finally get sweaters out of storage.
Do drop by again.
Until then
~Sandra

Monday, October 26, 2009

Helpful tips for October . . .

Some are short . . . some are lengthy, but all have a little merit to a lot or a lot of merit to a few. Enjoy the tips and stop by again. More will be posted.

Financial learning starts early:
*The road to fiscal grooming begins by setting the household standard. If certain chores must be completed by the child, or certain grades are expected on report cards, then be specific. Communicate those expectations. The choice to pay an allowance for these household requirements is every family’s personal decision. But it is important for parents to contemplate ‘bonus’ payments. Surpassing normal expectations may feel wonderful, but getting rewarded for those outstanding successes is doubly sweet. Consider payment for honor roll acceptance, dean’s list recognition, district band or choir accolades, completing merit badges or serving the community. Parents should take this idea and individualize it to the child. The actual size of the monetary bonus is of less importance than the parental recognition of the accomplishment. Striving for personal excellence is a life’s goal. Getting paid for it is simply the bonus.

Great Shoe shopping deals:
Go to: Zappos for some of the best shoes deals on-line. Affordable prices for trendy shoes . . . and best bit of news – this on-line store has a great return policy. Always be sure to check the fine print before buying, but loads have bought several pairs, made their final selections, and then returned the unworn – still brand-new – pairs.

For athletic shoes, try:
Go to Eastbay. Loads of friends have used this site to buy athletic footwear at a true discount price. They carry hard to find sizes at the same price. A total bonus if you’re fitting a large foot.

Looking for Shoes at The Mall:
Check your local mall to see if they boasts The Shoe Department. This particular chain buys the overstocks from major retailers then lines their shelves with the great buys. They carry up to a men’s size 15 in dress and athletic style shoes – and there’s quite a selection as well.

Need a fast Halloween costume: (Beware – sitting is tough in this outfit)
Two boxes one large (3 foot square) and one small (1 ½ feet to 2 feet square), aluminum foil, construction paper, a gray long sleeve shirt and solid pants – that’s it, the total remedy for an emergency Halloween costume. Seal one end of each of the boxes. Leave the other end open, and cut away the excess flaps. Cover both boxes solidly in aluminum foil. On the smaller box, pick a front side then cut two openings for eyes. On the larger box (opposite sides) cut two openings for arms to fit through. Then in that sealed end of the larger box, cut a hole large enough for the head to fit through easily. Use construction paper circles, squares or rectangles to decorate the outside of ‘Robot Man’ or ‘Robot Woman’. Slide the box body of the robot in place, followed by the head box and that’s it. Recommendation: wear a turtle neck shirt (or sweater depending on how cold it is in your piece of the world) so the box opening won’t rub against the wearer’s neck. Also, to keep the head in place, consider stapling elastic or even ribbon that can be tightened under the chin once the head piece is on. This tip will allow the wearer to turn their head without fear of the costume rotating off.

Excess wine remedy:
*Martha Stewart says if there’s excess wine left, fill ice trays and freeze for adding to soups and stews at a later time.
*My favorite Maxine, says, ‘What’s excess wine?’
*While I’m totally on board with Maxine’s take, it is always possible to have little too much wine left over.
*My remedy: Pour that wine in the ice tray, but stick a Popsicle stick in there as well. I’ve discovered sweating through kid’s soccer games and that long walk home from ‘fun in the park’ is always more enjoyable with a little something on a stick.

Alright, so there’s one for the kids . . . one for shopping and one for . . . well, the good stuff in life. Being a writer, there must be one to appease the grammarian in me.
Grammar:
*Beside – means next to (Jane walked beside Jack up the hill.)
*Besides – means in addition to (Besides Jack, who could have fallen down the hill so quickly?)

Re-gifting:
*My last tip is important with the holidays looming around the corner, and that’s the subject of re-gifting. Everyone does it. Okay, some folks just bury those elephants in the back of the closet and hope they never get a wild hair to clean, but for the rest of us, re-gifting is a way of life.
*Make sure to keep attached the birthday/anniversary/Christmas card or tag to the particular gift that you can’t wait to re-gift. Why? Because when names are drawn out of the hat for the Christmas exchange, it’s just plain tacky (however much of poetic justice it would be) to give back the re-gift to the original gifter. If for no other reason than to avoid why you hated the gift in the first place, make sure the re-gift finds a new home.


Thanks for stopping by my back porch. Weather's cool . . . if the rain ever stops. Here in Texas we complain if it rains and we complain if it doesn't. However, if you hear hammering in my front yard, you'll know I've gone back to work on my ark. Hey, I was a Girl Scout, after all, and we take that 'Be Prepared' motto seriously.
Do drop by again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm finished . . . I'm finished . . . doing that happy dance!

This weekend, I typed The End on my 92,000 romantic suspense. This baby has been awhile in birthing -- frankly, if I'd carried kids as long as it took me to finish this book, there would have only been one bouncing baby in my house.

That said, this manuscript has seen me through a tough loss: my father's year-long illness and passing, which seriously made me question whether I could ever finish this book. Then came my evolving literary skills: the dawn of my true Texas voice and the huge learning curve for any serious suspense plotter -- as in I bit off more intrigue than I knew how to write at the time. Months of research and cultivating the muse finally revealed the end.

Hopefully, those challenges will make these completed words on page all the sweeter. The accomplishment certainly made me do the happy dance around my desk early Saturday morning. Yes, it really was an early start -- 5:45am and I typed the last words at 10:07am (I had a NTRWA (writer's meeting) and I wasn't going one more month without being able to list the completion of my manuscript.) All of us need deadlines!

So, now the next tasks is to meld together the working synopsis with what's actual on page, get the book into the editor--agent rotation, and start on the next manuscript.

So help a gal out, please.

Here's is the first run at the teaser for Trickle of Lies. Tell me what works, what doesn't.


Someone murdered her best friend, and attorney Kyra Malone will have justice. Unfortunately, her evidence-gathering journey to drought ravaged West Texas has netted a ‘temporarily borrowed’ sports car she can’t explain, a husband she didn’t plan on, and an unstoppable killer on her tail.

Until the red-haired stranger shows up on his front porch, County Sheriff Boston Donavan – burned by his big-city, conniving ex-wife prized two things: honesty and his small town – now, he’s caught in a Trickle of Lies not of his making and a passel of bad guys set to destroy the peace.

It's beautiful here on my back porch -- cool morning temperatures, a Grackle or two cawing in the still air, and not a mosquito in sight. It really is the small things that make me happy.

Here's wishing you a great Monday.
Do drop by the porch again,
Until then,
~Sandra

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All Things English . . .

I'm not ignoring all my blog friends, but writing to the end. Long days, and some fairly long nights have dragged (yep, that's the verb I want) my current work in progress (WIP) across the threshold of writerly 'hold' and into the close-to-finished stage. Presently, Trickle of Lies is sitting at 84K on the word count, showing a 397 on page count -- lots of dialogue in this manuscript. So, I'm close, really close. The way to finish is not go on the Internet, so I've banned myself from the fun stuff I love.

However, that said, the following "English Rules" was sent to me in an email -- yep, even those are far behind -- but as most who visit my site are lovers of the English language, I hope you'll enjoy.

There isn't anyone to give credit to this compilation of English wonder. So, if you know where it started, do make sure to comment and fill in the rest of us.

Happy Wednesday to you all.
Stop by the porch again.
Until then
~Sandra

THIS CRAZY ENGLISH LANGUAGE!


THIS TOOK A LOT OF WORK TO PUT TOGETHER!
Read all the way to the end.............................. !!!

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce .

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present .

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row .

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'
It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?
We call UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has real special meaning.
People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP..
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.
We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP !
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP .
When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP...
When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.
One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so........it is time to shut UP!
Now it's UP to you what you do with this email.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

First page

NTRWA is hosting a conference in a few months. As one of the early entrants, I've been given the opportunity to submit my first page -- for review -- to the great Maggie Lawson. She'll analyze -- probably to pieces -- the writing, then offer suggestions for making it better.

Okay, I'm a little nervous to have Maggie Lawson read anything I've penned to paper.

I'm posting it.

Tell me what you think. What works . . . what doesn't. This is actually the prologue tugged and tucked into one type-written page, so I may have deleted so much, it doesn't make sense. Let me know, please, before I'm read in front of a room full of conference goers, who collectively say, 'Huh?'

TRICKLE OF LIES


“So this is Hell,” Kyra Malone muttered to the circle of funeral vultures.

Not the literal type with flapping wings and scraggly beak – but dressed in their Polo basic black and pasted with simpering Botox smiles – the Austin elite was close enough to count for the bone-picking birds. Disgusted, Kyra turned from the flock’s annoying presence and toward the weeping pewter sky.

That one heavenward look was as close as she’d ever come to singing angels and golden streets. People who killed their best friends . . . or at least, got them killed wouldn’t be welcomed among harps and fluffy wings.

"Anna would want you to have this.”

The voice jerked Kyra back to the graveside and the older woman in front of her. Shrouded in mourning black and tears, her best friend's mother pressed a token into Kyra’s hand.

"A gift from her father. You should take it, now that she can't wear it . . . anymore."

The antique coin, surrounded by tiny diamonds, blinked up at Kyra. The cold metal seared her hand as forcefully as the suppressed tears scalded her throat. Long seconds ticked by into a harsh minute before she could force the words free.

“It's time for you to leave.” For an instant, she focused on the tiny, auburn-haired child nuzzled against the hem of her skirt. "You and Kendra must go now." The girl snuggled her delicate fingers inside Kyra's grip. It was a trusting touch. She released the child's hand -- she'd betrayed them all.

“I don’t like leaving you.” The older woman looked prepared to battle the point again. “Promise me, Kyra, not to do anything foolish. . .”

There wasn’t a need to say more. What she had planned for the men responsible would be considered rash on the best Sunday and blatant career suicide come any Monday morning. It didn’t matter. The moment Anna had been murdered they’d given her no choice. A debt was due, and she would make certain it was collected.

Bending, Kyra kissed the child then glanced between the faces of the two people she truly loved and did the only thing possible – she lied.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Texas A & M Ring Day . . . .


Texas A & M is a school known for tradition . . . lots and lots of them. My daughter, a current Ag, loves this aspect of her school. This weekend, her father and I experienced another of these traditions with her. As she is entering the final stretch towards graduation, she qualifies for her Aggie ring. Understand, this isn't just any ring. Only one manufacturer; all rings are alike (there are a few variations, but anyone who wears the ring will recognize a fellow ring-wearer); before any student can purchase a ring, the university completes a 'Ring Audit', meaning the student must qualify; rings are only presented at specific ceremonies; and there is a lot of 'Whoop' hoop-la that goes with the presentation.


My daughter wears an Aggie T-shirt that says, "From the outside looking in, it's impossible to understand. From the inside looking out, it's impossible to explain."


More than one alumni from other schools, have mocked the Aggie tradition. (My Alma Marta isn't A & M, but our house has learned to bleed Maroon over the past several years.) Gotta tell you, the T-shirt really does say it all. If you're not an Aggie, or living with one, it's impossible to understand the intense pride and dedication to tradition. However, if you are one, it's a beacon which illuminates tenacity, and determination, and celebrates accomplishments.

So to my daughter, who is all things brilliant and beautiful, I say, 'You make my heart sing. I'm so proud that you've never quit. When it has been the most difficult thing you've attempted, you've 'ponied' up and followed through. You will be successful. Those in life, gifted with your tenacity and sense of determination, always are.

Happy Ring Day, sweetheart. May this be a moment you will always remember.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another article up at Ezine Articles . . .


How fun! Another article -- Creating Extraordinary Writing from Ordinary Phrases has been accepted by Ezine Articles.

Hubby is hard at work pushing my articles out and about, so I'm really clueless as to where all my articles have spidered (technical Google term) at this point. It's possible to see my by-line on any number of Internet sites as a result of his marketing tenacity.

The article writing is part of my self-promotion plan -- building a readership from all spectrums. For those interested in submitting to Ezine just click on that link. As an article author, you are required to open an account with Ezine. No, it doesn't cost anything. Word of warning, they do send a slew of information emails. There maybe a 'disable' function for the emails. Hubby has it set to drop the emails to us, and we're learning the ins and outs of publishing articles. Helpful information is contained in the emails, so you might want to accept them for a bit and then decide. Particularly helpful are the emails regarding Titles. Maybe they are just helpful to me, as I'm title-challenged. Just ask my critique partners. Hubby is titling my articles, but we're learning together how to pack punch into a few words and increase readership -- always a valuable tool to employ.

Is Ezine just for writers?

Absolutely not.

For my teaching friends -- pearls of wisdom from this front are always useful.
My career cronies -- time management, new sales, office negotiation, all topics that could find a home on Ezine.

Bottom line is if you know 'stuff', then writing (and publishing) an article is possible.

How to can pickles that family and friends will love.
How to repair the garage door opener without paying a professional.
10 things to know before buying a MP-3 player.

All of us, with a little age to our teeth, know things. It's called LIFE. Any number of the experiences can be shared as an article.

Not great at grammar?

Then definitely keep the Ezine Information articles coming in. Each week, valuable insights on navigating grammar waters are provided.

Bonus . . . when one of your friends asked what you've been doing . . . it's lovely to say, "Oh, just getting my articles published."

Happy writing (article or not) to you all.
It's still raining on the backporch, but we're sloshing through. Even my dog, who hates the rain, has finally conceded defeat and will take a stroll through the fat drops when Mother Nature calls. As for me, I did actually find my umbrella. Yep, it even works.
Drop by the porch again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Muses . . .

On board with TWITTER. I needed to join in order to keep up with the kiddo at Texas A & M. Not specifically her, but the campus as a whole. After the Virginia Tech incident, A & M launched their Code Maroon alert program. Students, staff, employees and parents, who had emails on file, were notified of any emergency situation through text and email messages. This year A & M changed to TWITTER. Students still gets the emergency text, but parents must follow TWITTER.

So as I'm on TWITTER, if you want to follow me, just search my name, and then send a TWITTER alert to me. If you're already Tweeting, then watch for LoneStarMeander . . . yep, that's me. I'm not totally sure that short burps (and yes, that's the right word for it) about my day are exactly exciting, but I decided if I was on-board I might as well play the whole game. It is fun to keep up with some of my favorite authors (Rosemary Clements-Moore, Candy Havens, and Geralyn Dawson-- several tweet on and off during the day. It's kind of like living in their backpocket without being creepy about it.

Chapter 19 (TRICKLE OF LIES) is done and in the completed pile. I'm really pleased with the finished result. I had the basis of the chapter when I sat down yesterday, but so much needed to be filled out. The plot is turning very tight at this point so every revelation is massively important. Not to mention the internal turning points. Yes, I know that there are only 3 or so real turning points (excluding black moment) in each novel; however, there are a massive # of small internal turning points -- rising and falling points. To me as the action ratchet up another notch, then the TPs must happen quicker and with as much precision as possible. Surgical precision, if you will.


As this is more of a Sunday morning ramble, I'll digress onto my dreams last night. Lady Muse decided to visit about my completed chapter, which is totally OK, but she didn't show up as I drifted off to sleep. That lovely land where writers can still pry their eyes open and jot down the notes. Oh no, she showed up literally in my dreams, layers deep in REM sleep. Short of nightmares, I've never managed to extricate myself from REM for note-taking. I tried for 4 years in college and believe me, if I was going to master the technique it would have been then. So, I took the dog for a long walk, hoping to recapture any part of the dream. Unfortunately and fortunately, it's raining in Texas -- kinda all over the state, which is awesome considering our drought status. So despite my desire to drift along in oblivion while the doggy did her duty, I was too busy negotiating rivers of run-off and soggy shoes. Maybe I'll try a long hot shower after breakfast and see if any part of the dream comes back. Worst part -- is that the additions were really perfect. Even in sleep I can remember thinking, "That's exactly what I want to happen."

Happy Sunday all. It's cooler on the porch this morning. Perfect but for the Texas mosquitoes, which are hatching in the droves. I actually think they're feeding on my supply of OFF.
Until next time
~Sandra

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Moving to the end . . .

Over the top and goofy excited because I've actually finished a workable ending to Trickle of Lies. I've written several endings, but none have rang true . . . or more importantly, tied up every loose thread with a bow. I've invested too much time and effort at this point to not be totally in love with the end.

I've read, and I know you have as well, far too many books where it seemed the author just threw an ending on page. Okay, so it answered all the plot questions, but it was far from satisfying. How many of us started because we read a story, fell in love with the characters, and then desperately wanted a different ending? Tell the truth! Every writer has more than one book they've kept on a shelf because they yearn for a different ending. For me, there are some that I want to rewrite; others that have such a perfect ending, I long for the strength to write something so worthy.

I had an epiphany on the way to work two mornings ago. I'd already decided to just write another ending -- any ending to finish the silly thing. I wasn't pleased with the decision, but I want it done. Maybe that's what Madam Muse was waiting for: the show-up-now-declaration-or-I'll-write-something-crappy decision to kick it into high gear. So, here's to writing into a corner and then finding a way out.

By the way, the boy came up with a book jacket for me. A little tidbit to keep me motivated and moving to the end. Gotta love computers -- and those who are computer literate -- which is not me. As I'm fond of saying, I don't need to be all that smart, just surround myself with smart people.

>


Wish me luck on the way to the end.
See you around the porch soon.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Madness . . .

Another Grammar article -- Dealing with the Comma -- picked up by EzineArticles.com. Wahoo, for me. My written word floating around the web is always a good thing. Besides, I'm a little partial to getting the use of the comma corrected. Too many extraneous commas -- missing ones for that matter -- in basic writing today. A good grammar book should be a must for all. Not, just writers! I can think of few careers into today's job market where a certain amount of writing is not required. Yet, folks by the hordes throw words at a page and assume they'll stick in the proper, punctuated order. Not hardly. So, writing grammar tips on the comma was another of my simple attempts to save the English language.

I've been hard at work through the weekend discovering a lost manuscript. CHASING DESTINY as it stands is a contemporary romance. Decent plot, good characters, dynamite backstory and strong motivation, mediocre writing. CHASING DESTINY was only my second completed manuscript, so my writing level has increased significantly since then. It's good to know that the book is salvageable, if . . . and here's the biggie, I need a suspense plot woven into the story. As all my books now fall into the Romantic Suspense category, and this book shares one of the same characters from the Donavan series, it should all be shelved together. See how positive I am? One day, when all my books hit the NYT best-seller list, I want the readers to find them all together. The difficulty I'm encountering with the suspense element is that my heroine has suffered through a painful history. Not ancient history, but recent, so it becomes a matter of how much bad luck can any individual be expected to survive. Then there's the whole coincidence issue -- contrived coincidence is always the kiss of death for realism. I must find the balance between a suspense that naturally evolves around her, without seeming to dump on her head. I've finished my read through CHASING DESTINY and brainstormed several suspense twists. Now, I'll leave it alone for a little fermentation. Maybe, just maybe, like great wine, I'll have something wonderful to pour out of the bottle of my brain.

Also, been working hard and heavy on finishing TRICKLE OF LIES. It's way past time.

My critique partners, Sherry Davis, Mary Karlik, and LA Mitchell, have submitted like crazy over the past few months, totally shaming my lack of effort. They, collectively, have received a number of 'no's, but they're closer to a 'yes' simply by their efforts of continual submission. I have a great beta reader lined up for TRICKLE OF LIES as soon as I can type The End. All said, there's no reason not to plant my fanny in the chair and write.

I'll keep you posted from the back porch.
A spurt of lovely weather has sailed into Texas. Highs today in the upper 80s. That is lovely for us.
Happy Monday to you all, and drop by the porch again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Madness . . .

I'm well aware that Mondays are insane, especially if you're in the MOM,-I-CAN'T-FIND-MY-SHOES-MY-BACKPACK-MY-LUNCHBOX-MY-HEAD-BEFORE-I'M-LATE-FOR-SCHOOL group . . . however, if you can spare a little over seven minutes, I promise to make you smile.

As I've never met a mom who couldn't use more laughter in her life -- no, I'm not talking about the hysterical, I've reached the edge kinda laughter, but the real deal, hold your sides kinda laughter. That's what this clip on 'truism' will provide.

Happy Monday!



Drop by the porch again,
Until then,
~Sandra

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Procrastination is an art form . . .

How do I know? Watch a kid. They're professional stallers.

As a mom, an older mom whose kids show know better (there's the disclaimer), I've decided I shouldn't be required to answer stupid questions. After all, I got them to this age, successfully -- which means they still have all their appendages, can talk in full sentences, read full sentences, fuss with their siblings, and are intelligent enough to want a job that requires saying more than, 'Paper or plastic?'.

Stop! Don't send me hate email about how many of you worked in a supermarket. Face it. That's not a job any of US would want to repeat, nor would we want our kids stuck there.

All that said, stupid questions have been banned in my house.

Image my surprise the other day, when I was the guilty culprit of Stupid 101 and asked my kiddo why she'd procrastinated over a summer reading project until the very END of summer. She muttered around a half of dozen answers when I was suddenly hit by the figurative V8 hand and heard 'Duh!' rattle around my brain. She'd put it off because IT WAS EASIER. (Now, you understand the V8 thunk.)

Procrastination is an ART FORM because it's simply easier to put things off than do them immediately.

Does this revolutionary theory apply to kids only? If you answered, 'yes', V8 thunk yourself.

Who wants to rush into the kitchen after dinner and wash that sinkful of soaking pots and pans? Certainly not me. I've left pans soaking so long even the metal has pruned. ART FORM.

Who wants to swing into high gear and become the dusting fairy? Oh, please, if you do, email me straight away and I'll give you directions to my house. I've waited long enough to dust that my kids could use my coffee table as a chalk board (no chalk needed, just write in the dust) to figure their math problems. Not too depressing when it was simple math, but when there's enough dust for Calculus then procrastination has become an ART FORM.

If finally hit me squarely the other day when I tried to deposit a few royalty checks I'd been nesting on. My justification for bank-delay was that the checks weren't huge in monetary amount so no rush. Here's a banking tip: they really mean that whole we won't deposit a check that's more than 6 months old. And they're totally fussy about checks that were written in past years. Who knew? Oh wait, the bank said they'd supplied the answers in a pamphlet marked, 'Welcome to our bank. How to avoid extra fees, use the ATM and generally avoid doing anything stupid.' Yeah, I know I have that little treasure tucked away somewhere. I was about to read it. Really. I've only banked at this institution for twenty years -- give or take. Oops, ART FORM.

Tiny tip: the banks procrastinate, too. Deposit a check and try to get all your money at once. Ooooh no, they're waiting for funds to clear or the planets to align, whichever happens last by the way, before they'll dole out your own money. ART FORM!

All of this revelation has lead me to the conclusion that stupid questions can't be banned in my house. Inevitably, as projects follow summer, and kids procrasinate until the last minute, I'll be asking, 'Why did you wait so long?'

Psst, my kids don't know about the whole check issue. Let's just keep that on the DL (down low). It's not good for kids to know too much about their parents. It confuses them. That's my story and I sticking to it.

Happy writing every one. And if you're not writing today, 'Why did you wait so long?'

Drop by the porch again.
Until then,
~Sandra

Monday, August 17, 2009

School daze


And so the learning begins . . . again!


Time to tuck the kids back in school and move forward with the intent and determination to finish Trickle of Lies. I might love these characters, but at this point I hate the book -- just hung around too long and now it's time to cut it loose.

All that said, there was NO writing work this weekend as the fam and I spent a frantic time getting the oldest moved back to her university, up to the fourth floor and stuffed way too much stuff into way too tiny of a room.
Okay, maybe not that far up, but when I was carrying the 20th or 25th or 55th (it all blurs together) load, it certainly felt like we were bound for the heavens.


My oldest is blessed with the ability to pack -- a task she takes seriously, very seriously. As a result, nothing could be left behind. Believe me, there was nothing left to leave behind. Hubby dearest headed out to rent a trailer, absolutely certain, even she couldn't fill an enclosed trailer since she's moving away for just 9 months. My hubby dearest should never say never. 40 square feet of packed trailer followed us down the road. And believe me, my truck-driving hubby knows how to 'cube' a trailer -- that means to stuff stuff in every square inch. Of course, what goes in, must come out and in oldest daughter's case, then it must go up. Who wants to live on the bottom floor with all that high traffic noise? Um, wait a minute, I want her to live there so I don't need a chiropractor and traction to recover. If it weren't for her exceptional strong siblings, my oldest child would need professional movers because dear ole mom and dad were too tuckered out to go the distance. As I hung the two hundredth hanger (yep, clothes included) I wondered where did all this stuff come from? Why does she have two to one in the shoe department over me? I happen to love shoes, but I look like a pauper compared to her closet. My strapping son didn't need to go to the gym for a work-out -- his oldest sister was nice enough to supply that task. And my baby, who by the way stands 5'10" and truly towers over her mom, didn't need her cycling regiment for the day, either. 45 stairs X a zillion will get any body's heart a-pumping.

All said and moved in, however, we all felt her loss as we drove away from the university.

We've had a fabulous summer, hence, why my writing time has sucked. I'll be posting the cruise pics to prove it. Loads of family time does equal a crimp in the writing schedule.

So as my kids head off to school -- the boy is starting community college -- can't wait to blog about that experience, I'll be plopping my backside into the writing chair and getting busy.

Here's to surviving the 'daze' that surrounds the beginning of school and cheers to the normalcy of more writing.

Drop by the porch again. Naw, it's too hot to sit outside, still, but my A/C works great.

Until then
~ Sandra

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rosemary Clements-Moore

Here's to Absolutely Thrilling News!

Last week, Rosemary Clements-Moore won the most prestigious award, a RITA, given by romance writers from around the world. Romanace Writers of America (RWA to those who belong) selected HELL WEEK as a top finalist for the Young Adult category. This contest is judged by fellow romance writers and authors, a tough group to impress. Rosemary carried home the gold statue in honor of the accolades for her book, HELL WEEK. This is Rosemary's 2nd book in the series. Truly top honors for a great author.

Icing on the cake is that Rosemary's 3rd book, when released, wasn't even shelved by the big B & N. Yep, that's right. They, like everyone else, are cutting back and trimming corners. As a result, fewer new authors, and those who aren't 'list-best-selling' authors, are scoring actual floor space inside the brick and mortar bookstores. Being inside the industry means that we're all supposed to play nice, and while I understand cutting back -- don't we all -- as a newer author the fact that we can't command shelf space because a more established author needs 25 slots is not a happy thought.

So, here's kudos to Rosemary, who proved beyond a shadow that even if the big boys and girls in publishing aren't always willing to take a chance on the 'newbie', the reading public still is.

By the way if you want Rosemary's 3rd in the series, the one not stocked by B & N, you could order it directly from Amazon, OR head to your nearest bookstore and tell them to order your copy in. If enough readers demand to see great new authors on the shelves, book-sellers will listen.

Wow! If we could only get through to congress that easily. But that's totally another post.

If you're looking for a great summer read for yourself or your young adult reader, demand a copy of any of Rosemary's book in this series.




Happy reading.
Until I see you again at the porch.
~Sandra

Friday, July 17, 2009

What you know and how to write it in an article . . .

Article writing 101 . . . actually, it's more like pre-101, however, it's been tremendous fun sharing a number of the writing lessons I've learned. Good writing is important for everyone -- a point I'm constantly making to my kids. Whatever the career, whatever the emphasis, everyone needs to know how to communicate, and communicating through written word is crucial. Apparently, EZine magazine thinks it's important, too, because they've accepted several of my articles regarding writing.

They sent this link: ezinearticles for my Clear and Concise Writing.

For those of you who don't think you could write an article, consider all the things that you know how to do -- there will be a lot! If you can break it down into steps, then you can become an article writer.

It's hot here on the porch -- matter of fact there is no sitting on the porch until we pull out of the 100s, 17 days so far this summer. Upswing is that it's even too hot for the mosquitoes.

Until next time
~Sandra

Monday, July 6, 2009

Friends . . .

Many of you are working fast and furious for the upcoming RWA convention -- to all of you, I say 'Hats off and may this be a wonderfully successful conference.'

To my lovely critique partner, L.A. Mitchell, who is up for her second Golden Heart, may this year be truly golden and you walk away with the trophy (and more importantly, a publishing contract).

To critique partners Sherry A. Davis, (RWA National PRO Liaison and author of romantic comedy), Here Comes The Bribe, and Mary Karlik, fantasy and YA writer, may the publishing doors swing wide open for you at this conference.

Fellow critique partner, Delores, and I will be sitting this one out. However, we'd better get phone calls when all the good news starts pouring in.

Several months ago, Mary K.'s lovely daughter, Kate, married. Per typical Mary fashion she'd hired the photographer to snap pics of all the wedding antics. Here below are my lovely 'Flip-Flop' sisters, i.e. my critique partners.

It was loads of fun and some truly warm moments for old, er, mature friends to share. For those of us who write, critique partners become our sanity. With all those voices bouncing around inside our heads, it's mandatory to have voices on the outside -- voices of reason and understanding -- who keep we writers grounded.



If you're writing and you haven't found your inner circle for critiquing, I strongly urge you to seek out those who want to spend their days with fanny firmly planted to the writing chair. No one else truly understands this madness called writing.



Cheers for conference good news, and critique partners.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Potato peeling tip

4th of July is on it's way, and as my family loves a great potato salad this video was just the ticket.

Here's to being an expert at potato salad:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More Books Sold

The first half of this year has zoomed by. I can barely remember taking a deep breath from New Year's until now.

Partial because of the amount of work I'm doing outside the home, and partly because of the 'life' stuff that seems to show up on a day-to-day basis.

The writing schedule doesn't hold up as well as I'd like and following up on my previously released book seems too distant to comptemplate.

That said . . .

It was a lovely surprise to get my numbers in from The Wild Rose Press, my publisher, and see that my book, Harm's Way, is still selling. Both digital and hard copies are being purchased.

From a promotional aspect, I learned that my website is not garnering the attention that I wanted because then those hard copy sales would have come through my site, and I'd been able to autograph the copies -- always a neat thing.

All that said, it means that my book blurb and the reviews for Harm's Way are doing their jobs -- sell more copies.


So here's a cyber toast to residual sales.

And a kick in my own pants to get the next one finished.
Happy weekend to you all, and drop by my porch anytime.
~Sandra

Monday, June 8, 2009

Phones in Churches . . .

Several of you have probably seen this one, but it sums up the attitude I love about being a-born-and-bred Texan, so I hope you enjoy the read.

A man in Topeka, Kansas decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to San Francisco and started working east from there. Going to a very large church, he began taking photographs and making notes. He spotted a golden telephone on the vestibule wall and was intrigued with a sign, which read "Calls: $10,000 a minute."

Seeking out the pastor he asked about the phone and the sign. The pastor answered that this golden phone was, in fact, a direct line to Heaven and if he paid the price he could talk directly to GOD.




The man thanked the pastor and went on his way. As he continued to visit churches in Seattle, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Oklahoma City, and around the United States, he found more phones, with the same sign, and the same answer from each pastor.

Finally, he arrived in Texas, upon entering a church in Fort Worth, and, behold – he saw the usual golden telephone. But THIS time, the sign read "Calls: 35 cents." Fascinated, he asked to talk to the pastor. "Reverend," he said, "I have been in cities all across the country and in each church I have found this golden telephone and have been told it is a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to GOD, but in other churches the cost was $10,000 a minute. Your sign reads only 35 cents a call. Why?"

I love this part.............................


The pastor, smiling benignly, replied, "Son, you're in Texas now...You're in God's Country. It's a local call."



American by Birth - A Texan by the Grace of God.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Characterization . . . should be this real!

As writers, all our characters should be this alive:


She's addicting, isn't she?

We watched this video over and over in my office. Whether the viewers had kids or not, found her annoying or adorable, or even liked chatter or not; everyone was mesmerized.

When characters hit the page, writers often flatten them out -- cardboard imitations.

Watch the video again. Note each movement. Notice how she attempts to engage those around her. Take in the reaction of her father, and the voice in the background that I assume is mom.

This little girl's chatter should be burned into your mind. This is true 3-D, and as authors, each writer has the job of bring characters to life. Great published authors employ this level of development in each book. It's what keeps readers continually coming back for more.

Watch again. What mannerisms can you draw from her behavior? Her father's?

Ever been to the mall? For more than shopping? Take a seat in the food court and observe human behavior. See if you can determine who is happy, sad, angry, rushed? How did you know? What were the clues? Facial expressions? Dragging their child through the mall at break-neck speed? Set of the shoulders, mouth, jawline? Listen for voice inflections? Pick a group of teenagers, then an older married couple, or a young couple with little ones in tow. What is differences in conversation? Voice inflection? Happiness level?

These are all attributes that writers can bring to the table when serving up the perfect character.

Don't short-change the reader's hunger for meaty characters.

Remember the chatter and let your characters come to 3-D life.

Thanks for dropping by my back porch.
Until then.
~Sandra

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Upcoming Speaking Engagement

Saturday, June 20th at 10:30am, I'll be speaking at the June meeting for NTRWA (North Texas Romance Writers Association). The meeting is held at the La Hacinda in Grapevine.

This is blurb I sent for the newsletter:

I will discuss how and where to expend promotional money and effort. In addition, I will explore advertising areas from branding to blogging; from websites to words (keywords for web advertising, that is); from signings to speaking engagements and how to make the moments away from the writing add up to the most successful promotion possible.


Several months ago I discovered in talking to new members of this group that the whole concept of promotion seemed overwhelming. The wheres and whys of how to advertise 'oneself' seemed daunting. To that end, I spoke with a few on NTRWA's executive board and suggested this topic for a seminar. (I kinda thought they'd ask some of our multi-published and brilliant authors to speak on this topic). Oops, I was wrong. The powers that be asked me. I'm not multi-published unless one considers the articles I've published, and brilliant is beyond me on the best of my days, however, I do believe this is a worthy conversation for all writers so I've decided to offer my tree of knowledge, such as it is.

Luckily for me, my husband has researched loads of promotional information; I do know some additional brilliant people who are willing to share their learned expertise; and I've managed a few different endeavors for promotion. All together, I'm excited about the knowledge I've gained and the opportunity to share.

One of my critique partners has agreed to digital record the event, so hopefully I'll find a way to upload and share a few spurts of it here.

On a side note . . . who's found a way to get rid of pesky gnats? I've tried the vinegar water solution and even added a bit of dish washing soap to capture them, but the experience only met with limited success. Someone out there knows the gnat cure.
Do share!

Drop by my porch again soon. The oldest kid is moved home (back from college again) and I have great pics and funny stories to share.

Until next time
~Sandra

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cliches

As writers we're cautioned again and again to avoid cliches in our work. Something close to the kiss of death, the publishing community warns. So, I try to ignore those tasty little tidbits, and come up with my own more creative twists when a catchy phrase is needed.

However . . .

In a recent Reader's Digest issue the subject of TIME was raised, and a number of cliches were listed. My critique partner, LA Mitchell, writes fascinating stories about bending of time, slipping through time . . . well, you get the jest. So, I studied the cliches closer, thinking to send them to LA and allow her convoluted mind to ponder them. What would she do with them? Turn the trite diatribes into dialogue? Universal themes?

Then it hit me . . .

Each of these nuggets described a personality trait. As a student of human behavior (something every writer should ascribe to), I wondered how effective a cliche could be in filling out the character sketch.

For each cliche, I could name at least one person I know, say fairly well, who could tattoo these words on their foreheads as a life's motto. Don't worry. Names have been eliminated to protect, well, me, from retaliation.

Better late than never. This one definitely struck close to home for anyone who knows my family. Certain members believe, nay, cherish the opportunity to make the mantra of 'better late than never' into gospel. These are the individuals who have never been punctual, indeed, can arrive thirty minutes to an hour late and still consider themselves on time.

Sound familiar?

Now, step beyond the personal and take it to a character level. Would this particular flaw round out a formally flat or static character? Or could this trait be reminiscent for the hero or heroine? One that he/she dealt with their entire life and made certain to emulate the complete opposite behavior? Could this be a source of fun in a romantic comedy between the hero and heroine?

Is it possible to take this cliche and tweak it and actually use it as a theme? Are some things worth waiting for? Even the things that show up late? Really late? Perhaps almost beyond patience?

History repeats itself. This cliche is all to often a hard and cold fact. Ever met someone who's married more than once? More than twice? More than three times? Talk to them about their exs. Chances are there will be startling similarities. What about the person who constantly changes jobs? Always on the move, seeking greener pastures? Again, personality traits are clear with this type of behavior and this cliche.

Considering that the human body regenerates itself with new cells every seven years, perhaps it's inevitable that we can't remember all our mistakes and kill the 'bad-choice' repetition. Or perhaps, life really is a circle and we end up where we began. Whatever the fault in the gene pool, this is a wonderful opportunity for writers to exploit, and yes, that's the correct verb, in order to humanize their characters. Writers are required, should be by a univeral writing law, to use every tool at their disposal, which includes observing and then committing to page the faults and follies of the human race.

How about these cliches?
Consider these:
Let bygones be bygones
Time and tide wait for no man (or woman)
To every thing there is a season


Each cliche is more than a song verse. Even more than just a simple cliche.

By studying underlying meanings of these phrases and applying to human tendencies, characters can be enriched. Depth is what makes each of us fascinating. The same is true -- more than true -- it's mandatory for characters. Without layers, backstories, idiosyncrasies, flaws, blemishes, and assets characters are, look-out here's the 'B' word -- BORING!

More than any cliche has ever been the kiss of death, a boring character will execute a good story -- perhaps even a great story.

Could you use one of these cliches to broaden the horizons for a character? Used another familiar cliche?

Share.

Do stop by the porch anytime. I'll be here, swinging on the porch swing and studying a cliche or two.

Until then
~Sandra

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sniffing our way to good writing . . .

A few days ago, hubby dear and I were strolling the dog when the scent of potent Tar, from a nearby road project, filled the air. Tar -- is not a good smell to me; it's normally one that makes me want to hold my nose. Okay, if it's strong enough, I will hold my nose. Stinky Tar became our conversation focal point. We walk a long way, all right? My hubby shared that he loved that smell, quite a shock to me for in the 20+ years we've been enjoying wedded bliss, I was none the wiser that Tar could make him yearn.

When hubby was a youngster, dear old dad worked in the oil field as a drilling superintendent. Dad was out at the platform for long hours, but occasionally, my hubby in kid-form went along. My father-in-law was a big man, with the most enormous hands -- real workman's hands -- I'd ever seen. He was strong, and in-charge, and more than likely larger-than-life to my hubby. These were precious times, stolen away from the demands of a busy job and my hubby remembers the smell of Tar, of strong oil, which is apparently the same scent, quite fondly. In fact he loves the smell of Tar.

Here's the connection to writing:
It's not the scent of Tar or not Tar that's the question. It's the motivation behind the Tar which makes the scent important to writing, to any potential story.

A quick trip down research lane, and I discovered that our noses are capable of sniffing between 4,000 and 10,000 odor molecules. The younger the nose the more molecules it can sniff. In addition, all Olfactory Receptor Neurons are contained inside the nasal cavity, measuring an area no larger than that of a postage stamp. Pretty compact for all those different scents. Even more interesting, is that each ORN (Olfactory Receptor Neuron) works like a lock and key. Each of the millions of receptors can latch onto only a specific odor molecule. When you smell spaghetti sauce, you don't think it's scrambled eggs, or corn beef on rye because those ORN's have latched onto the specific odor molecules which tell the brain that it's spaghetti for dinner. With this explanation, it certainly enlightens as to why the sense of smell is so pure, and can be used to help deepen any writing.

So how does this help?


Sniff chlorine! Most of us immediately think -- pool. That could be a great smell for the character if summers and swimming were major family activities. However, it could be equally black if the character worked as a lifeguard until a kid in the pool drown on his/her watch. Now, that would be a smell to turn a character's world upside down in an instant.


How about asphalt? To me, it's memories of long, hot, fun-filled summer days at a major theme park. Great childhood memories. HOWEVER, consider the same theme park, but now what if the character remembers it as the last scent before overheating from a secret teenage pregnancy and passing out in front of the church youth group?


What about popcorn? A friend recently shared that she'll sit through any movie for the joy of theatre popcorn. And apparently, it's the smell she can't live without. How could a food be used to deepen writing? Folks who work in donut shops, cookie factories, even chocolate stores will attest that the smell quickly becomes something to tolerate, and not the great scent of the masses. By giving a character an abhorrence of anything sweet, backstory can be revealed. If the character worked in a chocolate factory to put a younger sibling through school while giving up that opportunity for themselves, and then the sibling throws away the education -- the smell of chocolate could well make the character sick.

Smelling is about more than mere sniffing.
Before any character loves the smell of gardenias, consider why this particular fragrance could deepen intimacy between the characters; how this one smell could turn or alter the plot; or this one scent could be used to reveal emotional character backstory.

For something contained in an area no larger than a postage stamp, the right smell can deliver great emotional punch to a manuscript.

Any smells that get your nose sniffing?

Feel free to share. And make sure to drop by my porch anytime.
~Sandra

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oxymorons

"We are a people who spend money we don't have on things we don't want to impress people we don't like."

Okay, that is a seriously great line . . . especially with the ring of truism in it.

I'd like to take credit, goodness knows, I like good writing; however, this piece of wisdom belongs to the man who wrote Why is God laughing?. Sorry, folks didn't catch his name in his interview on Good Morning, America. The gentleman who did remind me quite a bit of Mahatma Gandhi, sans the big nose, spoke eloquently about the oxymorons in our lives.

My husband, smart guy that he is, related another just a few days after I'd been turned on to this thought. While walking our dog -- sometimes it's more the dog walks us than we walk the dog -- but they were getting along down the bike trail when my hubby dearest noted a guy out tilling his garden for spring planting. The oxymoron was the hacking and coughing up one lung this old boy was doing while puffing away on a ciggy for the other lung. Even more of an oxymoron is that this guy will be planting a garden, fruits and veggies one must assume -- as in the healthy stuff -- yet he's poluting his lungs at a rate far faster than the fruits and veggies can save. Yep, Gardener Man was definitely an oxymoron.

Okay, don't get on the collective soap boxes and lecture me about smoking and the rights of smokers everywhere. I'm a reformed smoker so I get to point and laugh. However, the point is the oxymoron.

But there's more . . .

What about the folks who crave children, and then leave them to be raised by daycare and nannies? Okay, I get that sometimes both parents have to work to make all the ends meet and right now the ends might not be meeting at all. But if honesty won out, many folks could live in a smaller house, drive less expensive cars, take less grand vacations and make the budget balance on one salary.

Watch that soap box . . . I'm simply pointing out the oxymoron. If raising kids was the the most important thing, why would it be left to strangers?

That same tangent could certainly be pushed to the educational system. How can we, collectively, claim that education is the most important thing when we, collectively, don't lobby -- forget lobbying, how about storming the capitol -- and demand that teachers' salaries match the job we lay on them? Our oxymoron, collectively, is that we'll pay exorbitant prices to go watch athletes run around a field, high-powered cars drive in circles, etc. Point should be made.

So perhaps Oxymorons are a way of life.

What are some you've noticed?

Drop by the porch again
~Until later,
Sandra

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Teaching and stuff

YES, I've been MIA . . . for several months now.

Long story, and perhaps at some point I'll share it.

However, I'm back.

As I'm teaching (no this is not a story that one of my students wrote), I decided this should be a warning to all parents about taking serious interest in your kiddo's homework before it leaves the house.

Schedules are busy, time is tight, but read this lovely 3rd graders story and you'll see that as a parent, we simply can't be too busy for a little proofread.

Hope this makes you smile.
Stop by the porch again. I'm waiting for the ice to melt and a bit warmer breeze.
Until later
~Sandra

Texas sayings

~Watch your step! Cacti, tumbleweeds, and an occasional armadillo might be ahead.

~Welcome to the land of tar-bubbling summers, gas-guzzling pickup trucks, standard Stetson headgear, and mile-high hair.

~Welcome to the Lone Star State, and Romance With A Texas Twist!

Quote of the Day