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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Working Wednesday - Organization is not a '4' letter word

Writers live in their own world, gladly, but sometimes it becomes a messy place.

The temptation may be to wear ear protectors to keep all the ‘good’ stuff from falling out before its time.

Currents of conversations, snippets of scenes, puzzling plots, character quirks (heroic or hateful) -- all roll around in a writer’s head, vying for storage space.

Several years past, the organization tool: Trello came on my radar.

Whether writers are ‘pantser’ or obsessively organized, Trello can be the light at the end of the tunnel.
Think of Trello as a large message board filled with Post-it (sticky notes, if preferred) notes galore, color-coding, sharing options, drag and drop, schedule capabilities, external linking, and artwork add-ons. Trello can be a highly useful tool to organize the writer’s mind.

Trello has been my organizational hero:
1) useful whether starting at the beginning with just a nudge of an idea
2) to plotting – partial or full
3) to character analysis
4) to keeping all the details straight

After joining Trello (I have the basic version because it gets the job done for me), writers can set up one or multiple ‘Boards’. Click ‘Add a Board’.

Start simple – 1st board – Work In Progress:

a) Inside the Board, set up ‘Lists’ or columns.

b) Title the list and start adding ‘cards’ or sticky notes.
The initial information on the card could be detailed such as thesis sentence, or a tidbit, one tiny bit of crucial information. If the initial information is kept basic, then a click on the card will open an array of options.

c) Now for some fun: Under ‘Edit the description’, it’s possible to add detailed information. The sky’s the limit as to what can fill the edit the description space. From a plotting stand-point, the card may be titled: 1st External Turning Point – (Crossing The Threshold for my purposes, if you are familiar with Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero Journey’.) However, under ‘Edit the description’ there may be a bullet list, multiple descriptive sentences, or references to other corresponding cards.

Additionally, the cards allow for:
*additional members
*due date

For writers who collaborate, critique groups who work long distance, editors who require updates, adding members who can sign on through their individual Trello account and see instant data can eliminate long emails, missed deadlines, or gruesome plot holes.

‘Labels’ are a color-coded option that will allow writers:
1) To pluck a vital character trait and then weave that thread all the way through story development,
2) To layout secondary characters, their introduction, purpose, and scene schedules,
3) To initiate plot points (external & internal) and then deliver the story promise at The End.

The ‘checklist’ and ‘due date’ options are additional steps to keep projects on track.

Finally, the ‘attachment’ option is as wide-open as the Internet itself. Whatever picture, reference source, website or blog mention that is necessary to the story’s development can be linked and labeled with a few clicks.

Imagine that this becomes manageable:

As one who thinks better when the story must travel from my imagination and down through my fingertips to a keyboard – the Trello option has opened up a world of organization.

There are Trello apps; Trello inspirational ideas and a large number of professional ‘Power-Ups’ (Trello’s name) add-ons from Google Drive to Twitter to Drop Box to Mailchimp. Search under Power-Up categories to explore the large number of choices.

This NOT a paid advertisement for Trello. The good folks at this company don’t know me from their millions of other customers. This is a recommendation for folks who want to organize their lives and not suffer in the process. I’ve used Trello for over six years and while there are other choices for information management, this one works for me.

For the non-writer –

*I keep an updated list of Books on my Shelf (so I don’t ever buy the same book twice again)
*Handle Christmas lists for consecutive years (again, I don’t buy the same gift for the same person)
*List my DVDs (so the kids won’t buy me the same DVD over and over)
*Share recipes and household tips
*And of course, each of my Works In Progress and every brilliant bouncing idea.

For all these reasons and more . . . I’ve found a way to stay organized and sane at the same time. Not a bad deal.

Plotting . . . Sorting . . . Keeping up with the details – all through

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Motivational Monday - a day late

Starting out with a Smoothie

I watched Food Matters (listed under Ted Talks) on Netflix this weekend.

While I’m a Vegetarian, we do eat most of our veggies cooked – many steamed, baked or sautéed, but cooked nonetheless.

Based on information from Food Matters, and the ever-decreasing nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, we’re trying the 51/49% rule for plating purposes.

51% to be RAW – as in not cooked.

What’s the purpose?

To further eliminate junk food, to limit unhealthy carbs (I am a bread-oholic ), and to kick start my morning system with more smoothies.
My pledge was to go for a week. I’ve discovered that I can talk myself into anything for a week.

This morning’s breakfast smoothie:

(3) Strawberries (high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols; they add a bit of sweetness, and moderate the extreme green color to more of a sage green. Sounds strange, but not all of us want to drink something the color of the lawn.)

(1) Kiwi (for my 270% of Vitamin C)

(4) Apple slices (Yes, they have Vit C and potassium – although not huge amounts, but these act as a natural sweetner)

(6) Walnuts (for my healthy fat)

(10) Pumpkin seeds, raw, unsalted (for protein and Magnesium)

(5) Baby carrots (for Vitamin A)

(1) Cup spinach (it's excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, protein and choline. – Okay, so it’s just good in your diet.)

(1) Teaspoon golden flax seeds (for a boost of antioxidants)

(3) Ice cubes (cause I like it frosty)

So drop by the porch again and see how my RAW adventure is going.
~Until Next Time~

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thoughtful Thursday

It seems like such a simple word . . . but the meaning, the emotion, the grief behind the word can be heart-breaking, devastating, and life-altering.

This has been a difficult week: the tragedy in Manchester, UK has gripped headlines and the collective heart of the world.
A few hours ago, I learned that a young man who I have known for close to ten years was killed in an auto accident. Notice that I didn't say senseless; accidents are inherently senseless. But, alas, the loss is always profound.

So much death, some at a distance, some close and personal. So much life yet to live and explore for all these people.

But wasted? I think not.

Our lives change between one breath and the next.
One moment the world is balanced and 'normal'.
The next, nothing seems to fit together. As though the puzzle has been dropped to the floor and all the pieces broken and scattered.

When tragedy strikes, it's difficult to watch the normal around us. To hear laughter. To see smiles. To witness families with their scuffs of sibling interaction to the soothing touch of a mother or father. The grief comes in waves all but washing away the sand, leaving the spouse, child, brother, sister, friend wobbly and unsteady on their feet.

There is no quick fix to grief. No immediate remedy to the desolation of a loved one's sudden death.

But there can be moderation for the loss.

Have you ever watched a child play at Hopscotch? One square at a time. Dropping the rock, then hopping and moving to the next square, then the next, but always moving forward. Until they reach the end, accomplish the goal and come back to home -- exactly the same way: one square at a time.

Loss should be treated the same – one square at a time.

Every life lived is a joy. A celebration.

For those who have left this world, gone ahead, entered a better place, stood at the Gates of Heaven . . . they have left behind so much: smiles and tears, accomplishments and do-overs, serious moments and outrageous adventures, tenderness and temper.

Time is fleeting,

The blink of an eye.

The moment between breaths.

The giggle of a child, the whisper of a loved one, the caress of a lover, the smile of a stranger.

Fleeting . . . but oh-so precious.

Every life is a gift. Every life lived is worthy.

Perhaps best said in the poem The Dash.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fun Friday - Dressed to the Nines

Phraseology in our language seems for the most part to be passed down generation to generation.

Whether writing historical, present day, or futuristic getting the language 'writer-right' is crucial.

Make sure to explore the etymology of words and language before inserting into your written works, or twisting for a new/futuristic meaning.

‘Dressed to the Nines’ is an expression designed to speak to clothing expression, certainly, but more to clothing perfection. I love the 60s movies when the culture dictated gloves, hats, pressed pants, silk stockings.

From How To Marry A Millionaire.


Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's
But whatever these pictures represent to me, is that the original meaning of ‘Dressed to the Nines’?

According to: The Phrase Finder the terminology 'dressed to the nines' (loosely translated to mean dressed to perfection) more than likely originated from 'to the nines', which was a term for perfection - plain and simple. As in the Nine Muses, the Nine Worthies, or perhaps:
That was in use in the 18th century, well before 'dressed to the nines' was first used, as in this example from William Hamilton's Epistle to Ramsay, 1719:

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me,
How to the nines they did content me.

In your writing, if you wish to express the perfection of clothing, personality, structure, consider 'to the nines'.

Perchance, it's a reference to the time and effort the Ton exercised regarding their appearance before even the most casual of outings through Hyde Park{historical};

Perhaps something more modern as in a New Year's Eve celebration -

Or of a child's full dress regalia for a Christening
(complete with bonnet and gloves) {current};

Conceivably, the beauty observed inside recreated religious centers/churches where ecclesiastical splendor could be brilliantly on display (futuristic);

Finally, the phrase could be the antithesis as in 'Walmart shoppers would never be accused of dressing to the nines'.

I had to be quite selective for this last picture. Dressed to the Nines is clearly not a phrase often bandied about in Walmart.

A simple phrase, once the etymology is clear, the date origin is confirmed, and the purpose in your writing established can turn an otherwise obscure sentence or paragraph into a clear picture for your reader. See above for that confirmation.

Words paint pictures, images, emotions, dreams.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Technical Tuesday - a tasty tidbit thanks to the Iron Chef Gauntlet

The Iron Chef Gauntlet is currently running on Food Network. If in your part of the world the season finale has already aired, do NOT reveal the ending. No spoilers in the comment section, please. The series started with seven experienced, and extremely hopeful, chefs who set their sights on eliminating their fellow kitchen connoisseurs in order to face the toughest competition of all: three reigning Iron Chefs.
For most that would be enough to curdle blood, weaken knees, and reduce steel spines to a puddle of ooze. But each of the seven signed on for the heat in the kitchen and wielded their knives with enthusiasm.

This week’s episode featured a Chairman’s Challenge between three final fierce competitors. Their task: to build the perfect simple dish, with the entire pantry at their disposal, using . . . wait for it . . . only five (5) ingredients. (They were granted the concession of salt/pepper/olive oil, but those were the only staples provided.) Two of The Iron Chef contenders chose to build one simple, but complex item, while the third went a bit different route to put an entrée on the plate. In this case, SIMPLE and COMPLEX won. The full entrée with protein and sides could not contend against the perfect single dish. Simple and complex is anything but . . . well, simple.

As writers, one of our most difficult journeys is to KISS, an old sales acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. And for the purpose of this conversation, it’s about the goal of the writing. Ultimately, what do you, as the writer, expect to accomplish when you type THE END or the last period?

Short or long in length, know what the reader is to gain at the end of the experience. Then boil it down the basics and ask:
 Is the writing: Fiction or Non-fiction?
 Is the writing: Interrogative and possibly interactive?; Is the writing: Persuasive?; Is the writing Informative, possibly a teaching vessel?
 Is the reader: age group or education level relevant. If so, what?
 Is the reader: gender or nationality (as specific to the target audience)?
 Is the reader: coming to this literary work with certain expectations?

In keeping with the spirit of (5) ingredients, the answers to these five (5) questions can significantly narrow the writing field and hone the goal, allowing the writer to KISS.

As I write Romantic Suspense, based in U.S. cities, my finished products will be:
1) Fiction
2) Persuasive (I do believe in selling the concept of love), and Informative (each of my fiction endeavors teaches or explores a concept, whether hobby, career, or location).
3) Readers will be between 18 and still breathing, hopefully with breathy pants if the sexual tension is done well. Education level – because my writing is to entertain, I carefully tread the language level, but strive for the highest level of grammatical correctness.
4) Readers are generally female, with some cross culture nationality.
5) Readers expect a HEA – or Happily Ever After.

Simple, straight-forward answers that give me a definite goal to accomplish with my writing. Complex comes with all the other steps, and will be explored in future articles. Yet, even the layers of complexity must be kept simple enough to entertain, enthrall, and enrapture the reader with my characters and my writing.

Simple and Complex – the perfect recipe for delicious writing.

Drop by the porch again.

Monday, May 15, 2017

West Texas travels

My husband and I traveled into the west Texas area -- not far, by Texas standards, but a lovely distance from the commuters jamming every major thoroughfare in the Metroplex. Did you know cows are darn choosy about who stops at their fence? They don't come when called? And they're fairly skittish creatures. Meaning they don't like the sound of auto-wind on a camera. Who knew? Well, I guess the cows did. Travel out towards Weatherford -- stop at this great cafe, if you have a chance.

Oxymoron 2.1 version

Oxymoron 2.1 version

In updating my blog labels, I ran across this old blog.

Folks - it's worth revisiting.

Truisms never go out of style. So, relive the truth from 2009.

"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. I'd even like to give credit where it's due; however, this piece of wisdom belongs to the man who wrote, Why is God laughing?. Sorry, I didn't catch the gentleman's name during his Good Morning, America interview. The gentleman who did remind me quite a bit of Mahatma Gandhi, sans the big nose, spoke eloquently about the oxymora (or our common plural version - oxymorons) in our lives.

For those who need the dictionary lesson: Oxymoron
a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly."

Sometimes, an oxymoron is more than a figure of speech. Sometimes, it's life in action.

Case in point . . .

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 dog and hubby 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 polluting his lungs at a rate far faster than the fruits and veggies can save. Yep, Gardener Man was definitely a life in action 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 understand 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 be eloquently stated for our current 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, collectively speaking.

So perhaps Oxymora are a way of life.

For a 2017 update: Is your life filled with an oxymoron or two? A negative that needs to be turned into a positive? Chaos that reigns over focus of life? Are you spending money/time/energy on minutiae that you can ill afford/don't need/won't use to impress people who in the long run should never have the opportunity to 'run' your life? That's a weighty thought for Motivational Monday. Give it the serious attention that it deserves.

Do drop by the porch again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lure The Muse

Creativity is simultaneously a writer's best friend and most dreaded enemy. But why? Are we, as writers, challenged of casual creativity? Are we blind to the bare bones of original brilliance? Do we glue our eyes closed to simple genius?

Finding a writer's muse can often involve gritting teeth, severing of limbs (metaphorically, folks) or jumping off the proverbial cliff and hoping for wings of inspiration. But why must it be so difficult when often hidden wells of creativity lurk inside each of us?

What is the secret?

Lure the muse.


I have discovered that most writers have a number of passions. Seldom does our creativity sequester itself in a solitary cell. Instead, creativity bubbles in many areas of our lives.

Do you garden? Maybe your home is surrounded by flowering perfection, filled with the whispering wings of butterflies or the gentle rush of hummingbirds. Is your garden pots of brightly colored vegetables and lush succulent herbs.

Do you paint? Not necessarily easel canvases. Perhaps, the color on your brush covers bare, boring, beige walls. Perhaps, the tint of walnut, or cherry, or maple fills your brush, sponge or cloth as you breathe new life into old furniture.

Do you cook? Not Iron Chef level, but do you tease your family and friends' taste-buds? Is your house the one with simmering spaghetti sauce that the neighbors always manage to visit?

Are you more than a shower Sinatra? A musical diva - maybe not The Voice quality - but no basement Betty either. Is there music in your soul that finds expression in the piano, the flute, the tuba? Drums with a real beat?

A car/antique/art aficionado? Devotion to beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Others may not pant over a '66 Fastback Corvette, or understand the glories of abstract art . . . but that doesn't make it less a form of creativity that begs for expression.

The final solution?

Free your muse. No reigning in budding brilliance. Use those areas of creativity as the bridge to your writing muse.

Never fear folding in aspects of your creative passions into your characters. Protagonist or secondary - all can benefit from the snippets of those passionate endeavors that fill your home and your hobby time.

Want to follow a new creative dream? Let your character take the ride with you.

From photograph to pottery
From aerial skydiving to aqua-farming
From calligraphy to cave-diving
From Frisbee-golf to foreign languages

Your life is the richer for every extension of your energy and talent.

So, too, will your character benefit from the magical journey.

Free your muse and the writing will follow.

Famous Texan -- The Simple (and Complicated) Life of a Texas Titan: Ross Perot

A Texas Titan and legend has left the great state of Texas for the last time. H. Ross Perot, age 89, passed away Tuesday, July 9th, 2019. ...